Monday, August 23, 2010

Cortido: My First Experiment with Lacto-Fermentation

I actually intended to make a vegan (even raw vegan) version of this recipe this morning to continue on in my Vegan Monday postings, but that's just not what ended up happening. I was finally able to catch up on a little bit of reading yesterday afternoon, and read this post by Mostly Foodstuffs. Deena is so right in her observations that her dog has abandoned toys that go untouched until another animal decides it's play-worthy. I don't currently have a dog, but I know it sure works the same with children, and also with me in the realms of bookmarked recipes.

I've had this raw vegan recipe earmarked for awhile now, after I first saw it on the website Finding Vegan. I love vinegar, I love cabbage, I love things that can be eaten on everything... I then knew I would love this recipe. Healthy Green Kitchen added apple, kale and vinegar to Sally Fallon's original version that was published in Nourishing Traditions. This book kind of has the "dog toy" effect for me. I have the book, I've paged through a great deal of it (though haven't read it cover to cover), but until I actually see the end result made by someone else, or taste it, like I did at Annie's class, it is a book that wrongfully often slips my mind.

Sally's version includes whey, which isn't necessary but does kick-start the process. Since I've been having a steady harvest of whey, in the end I opted to let the whey do the inoculating rather than make the vegan vinegar version.

According to Fallon, cortido is originally an El Salvadorian ferment made with just a few ingredients, traditionally including pineapple vinegar. While I certainly want to try making pineapple vinegar sometime soon, I opted for the "quick" approach that didn't use any vinegar. Just a 1/4 cup of whey and a tablespoon of salt, and all the liquid needed to keep the cabbage completely submerged was naturally produced.

My favorite part of the whole process was beating the mixture with a spoon for a full 10 minutes. I rather like when kitchen work starts to feel aerobic, it makes me feel like I'm being extra healthy.

Before I added the red jalapeno...

My version of this ferment is different from both the Fallon and Healthy Green Kitchen versions in that I had to add more heat. I am positively addicted to spiciness, and tend not to be happy unless at least part of my day's meals causes my tongue to burn, or preferably, my eyes to sweat. I used the leftover half of a hot, green wax pepper that was in the CSA box last week and a whole, overgrown red jalapeno, in addition to adding the full recommended amount of red chile flake. I wanted to add garlic, really bad. But, I decided that I add garlic to everything, so maybe I should lay off in this instance. It's good, my friends, and it's only been fermenting for the morning. I can't wait until it ages in the fridge...

Fallon's recipe yields 2 quarts, but I got slightly less. Just pack tightly into clean, glass jars, to within about an inch of the top.

Cortido (adapted from Sally Fallon and Healthy Green Kitchen)
  • 1 large cabbage, cored and shredded
  • 4 smallish carrots, sliced
  • 1 large onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 T. Mexican oregano
  • 1/2 t. red chile flakes
  • 1 T. sea salt (I used Celtic Grey Salt)
  • 1/2 of a hot wax pepper, sliced
  • 1 large, red jalapeno, sliced
  • 1/4 c. whey (Fallon says to use an additional 1 T. salt if whey is not available, HGK uses cider vinegar instead.)
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl or bucket. Pound with a wooden spoon or a meat mallet for about 10 minutes to release juices.

Pack firmly into glass jars (canning jars are best), and press down tightly to release liquid that fully covers all the veg. Leave about an inch of space on top, and screw lids on tightly.

Let ferment at room temperature (about 72 degrees f.) for 3 days, then transfer to the refrigerator. It will keep for a long time.

As Fallon says,
"Lactic-acid fermented vegetables and fruit chutneys are not meant to be eaten in large quantities but as condiments... Some lacto-fermented products may get bubbly, particularly the chutneys. This is natural and no cause for concern. And do not be dismayed if a little spots of white foam appear at the top of the pickling liquid. They are completely harmless and can be lifted off with a spoon. The occasional batch that goes bad presents no danger - the smell will be so awful that nothing could persuade you to eat it. The sign of successful lacto-fermentation is that the vegetables and fruits remained preserved over several weeks or months of cold storage."

Of course, I couldn't help but have a tostada for lunch, topped with newly made cortido! It was made even better with a bit of strained homemade yogurt on top. The Boy-O and I had just got back from the pool, which sadly seems to have closed for the season. Just like that. No warning. Summer is as good as over. Fortunately with such fresh preservation methods as lacto-fermentation, I'll be able to extend my enjoyment of the summer harvest at least for a while. If I go through this version as fast as I think I will, I'll try the Healthy Green Kitchen version next time, though I'll still likely add some more heat. I just can't help myself.


  1. Oh, I'm so excited about your lacto-fermentation projects! I've decided I'm going to ferment some pickles & sauerkraut at some point in the very near future -- so you'll serve as my inspiration!

    What kind of milk have you been using for your yogurt/cream? Just curious as I've been looking for a good grass-fed/non-homogenized source.

  2. Lo, I've been using Crystal Ball. It's pasteurized, but not homogenized. But, as you know, it tastes good! (I try not to worry too much. Not sure St. Francis would OK a Jersey cow in my back yard...)

    The only place I was able to find the Crystal Ball heavy cream was at the Winter Market. It was $6 for 8 oz... but so worth it! I had to buy cream for my DB Challenge this month, and went with Sassy Cow. I know it's both pasteurized and homogenized. Apparently, labeling of homogenization is not mandatory. (According to Organic Valley, when I called them...), and Organic Valley is homogenized as well. Their heavy cream is Ultra-Pasteurized, which made awful mascarpone cheese.

    Sometimes I think our foodie commune sounds like a pretty good idea!!

  3. Now I am overcome with a desire for kimchi...

  4. Sounds like a good kitchen workout, but I appreciate that. I think this looks delicious. I also adore cabbage and pretty much anything fermented!

  5. Looks yummy. BTW - if i understand correctly Lactobacillus is everywhere. You don't need whey for a lacto-ferment. all you need is lactic acid, and this recipe would have that w/o whey.


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