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LACTO-FERMENTED EL SALVADORAN CURTIDO

SAUERKRAUT'S SPICY CENTRAL AMERICAN COUSIN!

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by Jody Gowans in Lacto-fermentation, Recipes
October 23, 2017

Early this summer, a foodie friend of mine introduced me to curtido after sampling some of my sauerkraut.  “This sauerkraut is good, but you should try making curtido- you’d love it”, he told me.  Every time we saw each other, he would ask if I had tried making it, but I was too distracted with the local summer harvests to start working with cabbage.  I also knew I could get cabbage late into the Fall, so I didn’t feel a sense of urgency to get started.  Wow, was I wrong!  I made curtido last week, and could kick myself for not making it sooner!  It is insanely flavourful, fresh and so easy to make!

CURTIDO- EL SALVADOR’S NATIONAL CONDIMENT

As sauerkraut is to Germans, and kimchi to Koreans, so is curtido to El Salvadorans.  This spicy and zingy lacto fermented slaw is generally served with pupusas, the national dish of El Salvador.  The curtido pairs nicely with these fried, corn flour (masa) cakes, that can be stuffed with a delicious mixture of meat, beans and/or cheese.  The flavour is fresh, robust, and crisp with a touch (or more depending on your preference) of heat, along with the characteristic tang derived from the lacto fermentation process.    

I like to serve curtido with tacos, quesadillas, and on burgers.  Like sauerkraut, curtido also pairs well with grilled meats or other rich dishes.  The traditional recipe calls for Mexican oregano which can sometimes be hard to find.  Don’t worry, you can substitute other varieties of oregano.


HOW TO MAKE CURTIDO

Fermentation time: 5 days to 1 month

INGREDIENTS

carrots, jalapeno, onions, lime, chili flakes, oregano, cabbage

  • 2 heads of cabbage 
  • 3 carrots (grated)
  • 1 onion (diced)
  • 1-2 jalapeno or serrano peppers (seeded and diced)
  • 1 tablespoon dried chili flakes
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano (2 tablespoons fresh oregano)
  • 2 Limes (juice and zest)
  • salt (non-iodized): 5-6 grams of salt/pound of ingredients (1 level tsp= approximately 5 grams of salt)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Shred cabbage (the finer, the shred, the faster the ferment)

    Shredded cabbage

  2. Add carrots, onion, peppers, oregano, chili flakes, lime zest and juice to cabbage.

    Add rest of the ingredients to shredded cabbage

    4. Weigh the mixture (subtract the weight of the bowl (tare) to obtain the weight of the ingredients). 

    5. Gradually add the salt (5-6 grams per pound of ingredients), mixing evenly while massaging the mixture.  Continue massaging until the vegetables begin to release their liquids and create a brine.  Let rest for an hour to allow more liquid to be released.

    let curtido mixture rest to release more liquid

     5.  Pack curtido tightly in fermentation container, ensuring that the mixture is below the brine. Close lid.

    tightly pack curtido in container

6.  Leave to ferment at room temperature, out of direct sunlight.  The curtido is ready after 5 days.  For more intense flavour, leave for 1 – 2 months and use an airlock (or remember to burp jar to release built-up CO2 pressure).

7. Store in refrigerator to decelerate fermentation.

 

13 Comments
  1. Al says:

    Thank you so much for including salt to weight ratio.
    Others recipes are useless as brine concentration of utmost importance.
    All recipes should be precise but fermented recipes even more so.
    Can imagine many reasons why so many sloppy recipes are posted and none are good reasons.
    Thanks again

    1. Jody Gowans says:

      Thanks Al. To be honest, it wasn’t how I was first taught, but soon switched to using salt to weight ratio for optimal ferments!

  2. LUCY GARCIA says:

    How about Vinegar? Can I add a little vinegar to this?

    1. Jody Gowans says:

      Hi Lucy, bear in mind that vinegar is antimicrobial. If you wanted to use it, you could add vinegar at the end of the ferment so as not to interfere with the fermentation process. In doing this, you will likely kill off the beneficial lactobacillus bacteria. The fermentation process will give the curtido a “vinegary” taste, so there really isn’t much need to add it, unless you really like the taste of vinegar!

  3. Lilith says:

    In your text you say “weigh the ingredients”, but I don’t see any weights in your ingredient list. Can you enlighten me? Also, regarding “medium heads of cabbage” there is a lot of variability there… Can you provide approximate weight of cabbage to use. What size fermentation crock are you using? Yes, I can and will use your images as a general guide to the cabbage/carrot ratio. Thanks for posting your recipe!

    1. Lilith says:

      Oops! Oh duh, I get it now, weigh it all to determine how many grams of salt for a 2% – correct? Other comments still hold though. Thanks!

      1. Jody Gowans says:

        Hi Lilith- thanks for your questions. Yes, weigh all the ingredients and add 5-6 grams of salt per pound. The weight of a head of cabbage is variable due to freshness (fresher is heavier as it contains more liquid) and size. An “average” head can vary between 3-4 lbs. I use between 2 litre mason jar for a this recipe, but any size will do. You can distribute the curtido mixture among multiple fermentation containers without any issue. As for the carrots, I stated “3” meaning “average” size. If you really like carrots, add more, not so much, add less. It won’t directly affect the success of the ferment. That goes for the jalapeno and chili peppers- add more if you are a fan of super spicy- this recipe lies just on the edge of hot without going overboard. Good luck, and enjoy! This is one of my favourite ferments and one of my best sellers as well- and it is a quick ferment!

  4. Hank says:

    I’ve heard that Salvadorans add a tiny amount of pineapple to it to help fermentation. Have you heard of this? Also, have you ever used something like the Easy Fermenter Mason jar lids that self burp?

    1. Jody Gowans says:

      Hi Hank! Thanks for your interest and question. I haven’t heard about adding pineapple to Curtido. From my research and experience, the fresh lime juice helps to quicken the ferment, no need for extra sugars (especially pineapple). I would keep a close eye on your curtido if you choose to add pineapple. I don’t use easy lids since it is a quick ferment ( max 5 days) Fido jars are always the easiest for small batches as they are self-burping.

  5. Stradford Stone II says:

    Hello Jody! I am making your curtido here and my cabbage didn’t produce nearly as much brine. Can I add brine to it? Or how can I save it?

    https://www.dropbox.com/s/xe2k1mglh28j810/Photo%20Jan%2016%2C%202%2055%2049%20PM.jpg?dl=0

    1. Jody Gowans says:

      Hi Stradford- thanks for your interest and question. If you have just finished making it, I suggest applying your fermentation weight, and waiting a few hours for the vegetables to fully release their liquid- you would be surprised of how much liquid they will eventually release. If the vegetables are still not submerged, then you can top off the container with brine. It actually looks great from what I can see in the photo, but I can’t see the top of the jar. Bear in mind that there is less liquid with a dry salting method as opposed to liquid brine solutions.

      1. April says:

        Is this an authentic recipe or has it been tweaked?

      2. Jody Gowans says:

        Hi April- yes it is an authentic recipe that I tweaked slightly- it’s hard to find Mexican oregano where I live, so I substitute with greek or standard dried oregano. It is a staple in El Salvador, so there are likely many variations, but the core ingredients are generally the same

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