Food

Curry-Spiced Fermented Cauliflower

A delicious pickle with vibrant taste, texture and look-at-me colour.

A delicious pickle with vibrant taste, texture and look-at-me colour

(Photography by Leila Ashtari )

Lacto-fermentation can be easily applied to cauliflower with great success. This show-stopping pickle uses toasted spices and fresh chilies to give it a kick, and turmeric to create a vivid colour.  

Curry-spiced Fermented Cauliflower

See this Easy, Homemade Sauerkraut recipe for in-depth instructions on this process of lacto-fermenting. 

Ingredients

  • ¾ tsp cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp coriander seeds
  • ¼ tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 large head white cauliflower (around 800g - 900g)
  • 1 fresh jalapeno or serrano chili (deseeded, if you would like less spice), thinly sliced
  • 1 small carrot, trimmed, peeled and cut into thin matchsticks
  • 3 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 ½ tsp grated fresh turmeric or 1 tsp dried turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tbsp fine sea salt (not iodized salt or pickling salt)

Preparation

Note: Although this recipe doesn’t involve a canning process, cleanliness of ingredients, tools and hands at every stage is extremely important for making pickles that are safe to eat. 

Toast the cumin, coriander and mustard seeds in a small skillet until fragrant, then set aside to cool.

Wash and dry the head of cauliflower. Discard the stem. Break the head into large florets and slice them very thinly, with a knife or mandoline (safety note: always use the guard when cutting on a mandoline). Add the cauliflower and any small pieces that have broken away to a large clean bowl.

Add the chili, carrot, scallions, lime juice, turmeric, ginger and the toasted spices to the cauliflower. Toss well to combine. Add 1 teaspoon of salt, toss well to combine. Work the mixture with clean hands for a few minutes, massaging and squeezing. Taste, add more salt if needed, and massage more, and repeat until the cauliflower tastes salty, but not too salty. The saltiness won’t diminish much in the final pickle, so do not salt to the point that you wouldn’t want to eat it. 

Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and let sit for one half hour or so. Check cauliflower mixture which should look wet, and you should see brine pooling in the bottom of the bowl. If it’s still too dry, work the mixture some more with clean hands, add a touch more salt, cover again and let sit for another 15 - 30 minutes. 

Add the mixture to a clean, 1-litre glass canning jar, packing it down tightly and forcing the brine up and over to cover it. Pack up to around the shoulder of the jar, but leave an inch or two at the top, as the mixture will continue to release brine as it ferments. Once you are done packing, tip any extra brine from the bowl into the jar. 

Now place something on top of the vegetables to cover; a piece or two of clean, cut cabbage leaves work well, or use clean plastic wrap or a freezer bag. Once covered use a clean, smaller jar filled with water and sealed, as a weight to keep all of the mixture under the brine. This is critical for the fermentation to go well and to avoid spoilage. 

Cover the jar loosely with a tea towel and place it somewhere reasonably cool and out of direct sunlight for 4 - 8 days. Keep an eye on the fermentation, checking it every day or two, especially in the beginning, to make sure all of it remains underneath the brine. Sometimes a little white foam or scum develops, this is harmless and you can simply remove it with a clean spoon. Mold however, while common, is unwanted. It’s likely cause is the mixture not being kept underneath the brine. Remove all affected areas and traces of mold if they appear, and redouble efforts to keep cabbage submerged to avoid losing the entire batch. 

The batch is ready when it tastes pleasantly sour and the spices have infused the vegetables. 

Store sealed in the refrigerator for up to six months. As long as the pickle is still looking, smelling and tasting good, it’s good to eat. If it starts to get really soft, smell or taste bad, it’s time to throw it out.

Serve on labne, with grilled chicken, in a hot dog, or just by itself.

Yield: Makes 1 litre

Pssst… more lacto-fermented recipes for you to try out here!

Minty Pickled Celery with Apple and Beets

(Photography by Leila Ashtari )

'Gin' Sauerkraut

(Photography by Leila Ashtari )

Leila Ashtari is a food and travel photographer currently based in the Niagara region who loves telling stories about food, people and places through her work. As well as contributing to CBC Life, her work has been published in Saveur Magazine, The New York Times, Vanity Fair and Lonely Planet Magazine, among others. She also likes to ferment things and always has experiments bubbling away in her basement. See more of her work at leilaashtari.com or on Instagram @ashtariphoto.

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