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Spicy Cabbage & Carrot Kraut

Eating live, fermented veg – like this tangy, tasty sauerkraut – is one of the simplest ways to boost your gut health, delivering not only beneficial bacteria but also fibre and phytonutrients to your tum. If this is your first bit of home-fermenting, you’ll soon see how simple, cheap and satisfying it is, and I bet it won’t be your last. This is a gateway recipe: the brine method here, using a 4% brine to ferment 1kg veg (mainly cabbage), is very easy and adaptable, as you can see from the variations available. The traditional method (massaging 2% salt – i.e. 20g per 1kg veg – directly into your shredded white cabbage/veg) also works well, but is a bit more risky, as air pockets can form and the wrong microbes can get involved.

Method

Thoroughly wash and dry a 2-litre preserving jar, such as a Kilner jar. Remove the rubber seal from the lid of the jar – this will allow gas to escape as your kraut ferments. Add the salt to 1 litre cold water and stir until completely dissolved to form a brine.

Remove any dirty outer leaves from the cabbage and rinse the outside of the cabbage well. Take one good large leaf and set aside. Cut the cabbage half into 2 or 3 wedges and, using a box grater or a food processor, coarsely grate or shred the whole lot, barring perhaps the fibrous base of the stem. Thinly slice any larger bits of leaf that fall off while you’re grating, with a knife. Put all the shredded cabbage into a large bowl.

Coarsely grate, shred or julienne the carrots and add to the cabbage. Add the turmeric, ginger and chilli flakes, if using. Mix well – the turmeric will stain the mix golden-yellow.

Pack the mixture into the prepared clean preserving jar, pressing the veg down and leaving at least 5cm head-space at the top. Pour the brine slowly into the jar, allowing it to filter down through the veg. Keep going until there is enough brine in the jar to come about 3cm above the veg when you press the veg down with your (very clean) hand (the veg will want to float). Keep any leftover brine for now

Tip the jar this way and that a few times to help release any air bubbles. Put the reserved cabbage leaf over the top of the shredded veg. You now need to weigh down the veg in the jar so that it stays submerged under the brine. Veg that is exposed to air above the brine tends to go mouldy and this can spoil the whole jar. Begin by putting the reserved whole cabbage leaf on top of the brined veg and pressing it down so the brine rises above it. This might be enough but you can further weight the veg with a very clean beach pebble, a glass paperweight or a specially designed glass fermentation weight (available from online suppliers), or even a small glass or china cup – but nothing metallic. Close the jar.

Stand the jar on a cloth to catch any escaping brine and leave to ferment at cool room temperature for 1 week. Have a look at it every day – you should be able to see bubbles of carbon dioxide forming inside. Every couple of days, open the lid to let any excess gas escape, then close it again.

After a week, taste the kraut. It should be pleasantly sour and tangy, which means it is ready to eat. If it doesn’t have that tang yet, leave it another day or two. Otherwise, transfer it to the fridge. Your kraut will keep for weeks, as long as the veg in the jar stays submerged in brine. If it does go mouldy on the top, you might get away with removing and discarding the top layer and recovering with brine, but if it develops a bad or really ‘off’ smell or taste (as opposed to the natural pungency of fermented cabbage!) them I’m afraid you’ll have to discard the whole lot.

CLASSIC KRAUT VARIATION

Omit the carrots and use an extra 250g white cabbage (i.e. 1kg in total). Leave out the ginger and turmeric, replacing them with 1–2 tsp caraway or fennel seeds. You can also add 1–2 tsp juniper berries if you have some to hand.

PURPLE KRAUT VARIATION

Use red rather than white cabbage and replace the carrots with about 250g peeled raw beetroot, coarsely grated or shredded. As for the classic kraut, omit the ginger and turmeric, replacing them with 1–2 tsp caraway or cumin seeds and a generous grinding of black pepper.

Serving suggestions

Serve your kraut with salads or roasted veg, cram some into a pitta with falafel and hummus, or spoon it on top of soups or beside hearty stews. You can even eat it for breakfast with eggs or avocado. And don’t discard the salty-spicy savoury brine – try using a splash in dressings and sauces to add oomph and probiotic goodness, too.

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Ingredients

Makes at least 10 servings

40g fine sea salt

large white cabbage (about 750g)

2 large or 3 medium carrots (about 250g in total)

2 tsp ground turmeric or 1 tbsp finely grated fresh turmeric

A thumb-sized knob of fresh ginger (about 25g), finely grated

A good pinch of dried chilli flakes (optional)