Food

'Gin' Sauerkraut

No, the actual spirit isn’t used here — but the lovely botanicals that flavour gin are.

No, the actual spirit isn’t used here — but the lovely botanicals that flavour gin are

(Photography by Leila Ashtari )

There is actually no gin in this ferment, but the botanicals used to infuse gin are used here to flavour the cabbage. This is a standard sauerkraut recipe, with the addition of juniper and coriander seeds, fresh ginger, lemon peel and a hint of nutmeg.

‘Gin’ Sauerkraut

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

This recipe is based on a cabbage that weighs 1 kilogram or a little more, which will generally make enough sauerkraut to fill a 1-litre glass canning jar. If you have a larger cabbage, don’t worry, the recipe scales well. Expect a 2-kilogram cabbage to fill a 2-litre glass canning jar, and use 1 tablespoon of salt for every kilogram of cabbage.

Ingredients

  • 1 head of green cabbage, about 1 kilogram
  • 1 tbsp fine sea salt (not iodized salt or pickling salt)
  • 1 tbsp juniper berries, lightly crushed
  • 1 small or ½ large cleaned, ideally organic, lemon rind cut into very thin strips
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 ½ tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Pinch freshly ground nutmeg

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. 

Discard any outer leaves that are wilted or torn. Rinse and reserve a couple of large, healthy outer leaves, which will be used to top off the cabbage later. Rinse the cabbage head in water, dry it, and cut it into quarters. Cut out the hard core/stem and discard it.

Proceed to shred the cabbage, slicing it very thinly using a knife or mandoline (safety note: always use the guard when cutting on a mandoline), and add the cabbage to a large bowl. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and toss the cabbage to distribute the salt evenly. Add the juniper berries, lemon rind and juice, ginger, coriander, cinnamon and nutmeg. Toss again to make sure all ingredients are evenly distributed.

Add more salt in half teaspoon increments, and massage it into the cabbage very well with clean hands. Taste the cabbage (without contaminating your clean hands), and add more salt if needed. The cabbage should taste well-seasoned, a touch on the salty side, but not overly 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.  

Once the salt level is at a place you are happy with, and the cabbage is well massaged, cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and let the cabbage sit for 10-15 minutes, after which the cabbage should look wet, and you should see some brine pooling in the bottom of the bowl — around 1 - 2 tablespoons. At that point, the cabbage is ready to be packed into the jar. If it’s still too dry, work the cabbage some more with clean hands, add a touch more salt, cover again and let the cabbage sit for another 15 minutes. 

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

Use one or two of the reserved cabbage leaves, cut to fit, to cover the cut cabbage in the jar, and use a clean, smaller jar filled with water and sealed, as a weight to keep all of the cabbage 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 one week and up to two. Keep an eye on the fermentation, checking it every day or two, especially in the beginning, to make sure all the cabbage 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 cabbage 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 sauerkraut is ready when it tastes good! Start tasting it after a week, or a little sooner if you know you don’t like it too sour. It should be fermented to your desired level of sourness and all the flavours should have co-mingled deliciously. 

Store the fermented cabbage, 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 tossed with a salad of bitter lettuce, or as a side for beef, pork, venison or duck, 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 )

Curry-Spiced Fermented Cauliflower

(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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