It took me a while to come around to fermented vegetables. The only one I was familiar with was the jarred sauerkraut that my roommate used in a crock pot, cooked with sausages all day.
And it stunk. The whole house, all three floors, and all five bedrooms just plain old stunk. I didn’t much care for the taste of it either – slimy and tangy all at the same time, nothing like the homemade sauerkraut we have grown to make and love.
When I learned about the difference between that bottled sauerkraut and the real stuff I gave it a shot. The first batch I made had way too much salt in it and I thought sauerkraut tasted like salty cabbage. I ate it, but didn’t love it.
Then I tried cortido – a Latin American sauerkraut filled with the bold flavors of Mexican oregano, onion, garlic, and chili flakes. It is sauerkraut kicked up a few notches and it sold me on fermented vegetables forever.
The combination of flavors doesn’t have to be exact, nor does it have to be in perfect proportion. The main point of cortido, to me, is to take sauerkraut and add a whole lot of Mexican-type flavors. In particular, I find that the oregano really gives it a unique flavor and aroma, so don’t leave it out!
Recipe note: This is just our favorite and most common combination of ingredients for cortido. Feel free to add or subtract ingredients as desired.
- 2 heads of cabbage, cut into quarters and sliced thin
- 2 large carrots, diced small or shredded
- 1 large onion, halved and sliced thinly
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 2-3 teaspoons Mexican oregano (or other oregano)
- about 3 1/2 tablespoons sea salt, or more to taste
- 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes, more or less to taste
- Combine all ingredients in a large non-reactive vessel. Combine well using your hands or a large wooden spoon. Use a potato masher or wooden mallet to smash all ingredients together for 5-10 minutes, in order to release juices and break down vegetable fibers.
- Taste, and this is critical. It should taste mildly salty, but not overpoweringly salty. If it is bland, add more salt. Once it tastes salty enough, adjust spice to your taste. More red pepper flakes can be added for additional kick.
- Now you need to decide if you will ferment in the vessel you mixed it in, or in mason jars. If fermenting in the vessel you mixed it in, you need to weight it down with a plate that fits just inside the size of the vessel. You then need to weight this plate down using weights or other heavy objects. The main goal is to weight the vegetables down enough to allow the brine to remain above the vegetables, so keep adding weights until this is achieved. Once weighted down below the brine, cover the whole lot with a kitchen towel to keep fruit flies and bugs out.
- If using mason jars, transfer all vegetables to jars, and evenly distribute liquid to jars. Use a wooden spoon or your hand to push vegetables down until liquid remains above vegetables. Screw lid on and place in a room temperature location.
- Culture for 3-12 days, depending on temperature and bubbly activity, until vegetables are limp and bubbles are appearing. If any film or scum rises to the top just scrape it off the top and discard.
- Once cultured, transfer to cold storage. If you fermented it in the large vessel you can move it to jars at this point, pushing vegetables below level of the brine. Cold storage can be a cool basement, cool cellar, or refrigerator. In a refrigerator it will keep for 6 months or more. In a basement or cellar, it should keep for 3 – 6 months, depending on temperature.