¡Feliz Cinco de Mayo! On this May 5th I find myself reminiscing a bit…
I spent almost three years of my life living in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. While living there my absolute favorite food was pupusas. They’re not hard to love, considering they are pretty much like the corn tortilla version of pizza (which I am rather obsessed with).
It’s a simple idea, you take a ball of masa dough, make a hole in the center and stick in a lump of cheese, or meat, or veggies, or a mixture of those, pat it flat, fry it up with a decent amount of grease, and serve it with a variety of spicy cabbage slaws and krauts.
I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but the main type of kraut used on top of pupusas is called curtido, which is pretty much just a broad term for pickle.
I have played around with various non-fermented versions of curtido over the years but it wasn’t until I won a copy of Fermented Vegetables by Kirsten and Christopher Shockey (available also in Canada) that it finally hit me what was missing from my version—mine wasn’t fermented!
The recipe is very simple, just cabbage, carrots, onion, garlic, and chile pepper flakes, and oregano and cumin. You can take the curtido in different directions by tweaking the ratios, making it hotter or milder, more herbs or less, more of one vegetable or less, and so on. I was running out of carrots the day I made mine so I think I’ll use more next time, partly because it will add more color to the final product.
The recipe is adapted from Fermented Vegetables, and if your library doesn’t have this book I highly recommend getting yourself a copy (or asking them to get it!). I’m so happy to have won a copy because I love the book and have read through pretty much the whole thing! Now I see before me a summer full of fermenting….
It will be a week or two before it’s fully fermented, but making it now will help connect you to the spirit of Cinco de Mayo, which is ¡perfecto! Once it is ready make your favorite tacos, burritos, or even try making pupusas, and then be sure to put tons of curtido on top.
- ½ large cabbage, sliced in small thin pieces
- 1-2 carrots, julienned (sliced in small match sticks)
- 1 onion (use red if you have it for the color), sliced thinly
- 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tsp. dried oregano
- 1-2 tsp. red chili pepper flakes
- Pinch of cumin
- 2 tsp. salt
- In a large bowl mix all the ingredients together and “massage” the vegetables with your hands. Cover the bowl and leave it alone for 45 minutes.
- Transfer this mixture to a crock or large glass jar and use your fists or a blunt object (called a tamper) to push everything down into the jar. The goal is to push hard enough for the vegetables to release their juices (which will form the brine) and to eliminate air pockets.
- Once you’ve pressed sufficiently to create enough brine to cover the vegetables add an extra leaf of cabbage to cover everything (this is called a follower). Then place a large ziplock bag on top of the vegetables and fill it with water to act as a weight to hold the veggies submerged under the brine.
- Every day check to make sure everything is submerged. Take the ziplock out if necessary to push the veggies back down below the brine. Start testing the flavor after 4-5 days and once it tastes nice and sour you can transfer it to smaller jars and refrigerate. It will keep for a long time in the fridge, but it likely won’t last that long because it’s so good!