Red cabbage, apple + juniper sauerkraut
You can eat this two ways, either raw as a quick slaw, or you can leave it for a few weeks to ferment into a bright fuchsia sauerkraut.
It makes a clean-tasting autumnal slaw; but a little time and fermentation sharpens the flavours and turns it into a different offering altogether. If you want to eat it in its crunchy, slaw stage, you’ll only need to add a good pinch of salt.
There are so many virtues to sauerkraut. We have been making and eating ferments – kombucha – for the last few years and I have to say that as well as being good to eat I do think they have had a positive overall effect on how I feel. I am not a fan of the super fermented style, so I keep my fermentation times quite short (up to one week in the summer, perhaps two in the winter) but I’ll leave that up to you and your taste buds.
While there are a lot of great things about fermented foods, filling your house with wonderful smells is not one, so find a nice cool spot where this can sit and leave it be until you are ready to jar it up and put it in the fridge.
MAKES ABOUT 4 JARS OR SERVES 8
1kg red cabbage, finely chopped or sliced on a mandoline
800g fennel, finely chopped or sliced on a mandoline
a good pinch of flaky sea salt or 2 tablespoons fine sea salt
1 tablespoon juniper berries
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
200g crisp eating apples, grated
If you are planning to ferment your cabbage you will need 1–3 weeks and a large bowl, a ceramic crock or a large, deep Tupperware with a lid, a plate that fits inside the crock, a heavy weight (a jar with water in it, a heavy stone, a pestle) and a tea towel.
Put the cabbage and fennel into a large bowl as you prepare it and sprinkle with the 2 tablespoons of salt as you go, layer by layer (if you plan to eat this as a slaw, just sprinkle the whole lot with the pinch). Bash the juniper and fennel seeds in a pestle and mortar to a coarse powder. Add the apple and spices to the vegetables and massage together for a few minutes. The cabbage should start letting out water, helped along by the salt.
If you are eating this as a slaw, stop at this stage and serve.
To ferment, pack the whole lot, including all the juices, into your crock or Tupperware and press down firmly so that it is covered by the liquid. Place a plate on top of this and use the weight to add pressure. Cover with the tea towel. You may not have much liquid at this point, but check it every few hours for the first day, removing the cloth, weight and plate and applying pressure with clean hands – this will help extract more liquid. By the end of the day you should have about a centimetre or two of liquid above the top of the cabbage. Replace the plate, weight and cloth each time. You want the natural yeasts in the atmosphere to get into the container while keeping out flies and dust. Keep in a cool, darkish part of your kitchen.
The sauerkraut will start to taste good within a few days but improves greatly by the second week. Check it every couple of days to make sure it is still submerged, pressing down if not. If a little surface growth appears, simply scrape it off – it is not a problem. When your kraut is ready, press it into sterilised jars with some of the liquid and a tight-fitting lid. Store in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.