In a Polish and Ukrainian-rooted American family, it’s pretty likely that you have some serious cabbage traditions. In my family, it’s gwumpki (also called stuffed cabbage). If my dad didn’t keep to his pre-Christmas Eve tradition of boiling cabbage and rolling gwumpki until 2 or 3 a.m., I don’t think my family would recognize the next night as Christmas Eve. In my pickle-related efforts to reconnect to my heritage, I’ve come across so many ways of pickling cabbage. I’ve probably tasted hundreds of versions before making this one my new cabbage tradition. I love to imagine my own ancestors popping a crock of this open during the cold, gray, Ukrainian winter to discover the brightest burst of color and flavor.
Yield: 5 heads of cabbage
Per 3 gallons (11.4 L) of crock space
- 5 heads red cabbage (about 13 pounds, or 6 kg)
- 1 bulb of garlic, peeled
- 1/4 cup (27 g) caraway seeds
- 1 bunch of dill
- 1 red onion, thickly sliced
- 8 small, dried Thai chili peppers (optional)
- 5 bay leaves
- 5 juniper berries
- 1 1/3 cups (245 g) kosher salt
- 1 1/2 gallons (5.7 L) filtered water
- Rinse the cabbages and remove and set aside any undesirable outer leaves. Cut the cabbages in half.
- Place the garlic, caraway, dill, onion, chilis, bay leaves, and juniper berries into the crock and begin the process of fitting in the cabbage halves. Don’t be afraid to maneuver. Leave 4 inches (10 cm) at the top of the crock. If you can’t get the halves to fit, or if they’re just a bit too high in the crock, remove 1 or 2 halves and cut them in half. Cabbage quarters can be fit in a bit more easily than halves. Apply the crock weights.
- Stir the salt into the water until dissolved and then pour the brine into the crock until there is a 1-inch (2.5 cm) brine layer above the cabbage.
- Ferment for 2 to 5 months. Serve as thick slices.
Also from Ferment Your Vegetables:
Reprinted with permission from Ferment Your Vegetables: A Fun and Flavorful Guide to Making Your Own Pickles, Kimchi, Kraut and More by Amanda Feifer and published by Quarto, 2015.