So I wanted to make pupusas con curtido: El Salvador’s national dish. Have you ever had pupusas before? They’re sort of like fat masa tortillas stuffed with…stuff. Often cheese. Sometimes refried beans. Sometimes pork. Sometimes cheese and refried beans and pork. Sometimes other stuff, like fish or whatever the heck you want. You get the idea.
Pupusas, Therefore Curtido
You eat pupusas with curtido and salsa roja (red sauce). Curtido is this lacto-fermented cabbage slaw/salad/relish/kraut. Eating pupusas without the curtido is apparently unthinkable. It’s like omitting the peanut butter from a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Anyway, I don’t just have curtido laying around. And while I’m sure you can buy it canned someplace, that’s not really how I like to roll. Curtido is a lacto-fermented product. Lacto-fermented things, as we’ve mentioned before, are good for our gut microbiome. Yes? Yes. So if I need curtido, aren’t I going to make it from scratch? Oh yeah. You darn right I am.
Anyway, I made a batch about a week ago. And I’m making pupusas today. Of course all of this has to go through the food blog sausage-grinder. So today is the curtido recipe. Tomorrow I post the pupusa recipe. They’re a team, like peanut butter and jelly.
What Exactly is Curtido?
I’ve heard people call curtido called “Salvadoran sauerkraut,” and that’s really not all that off the mark really. I mean it’s cabbage that’s salted and fermented using essentially the same method used to make kraut. However, to me at least curtido is more reminiscent of Mexican taqueria style pickled carrots, onions, and jalapeñoes. That’s probably because in addition to pickled (fermented) cabbage, it contains pickled carrots, onions, and jalapeñoes.
About this Curtido Recipe
Granted, you have to wait around a bit for it to ferment, which may make home made curtido seem a bit too fussy. But that caveat not withstanding, curtido is super easy to make.
Shred some cabbage and carrots. I have a shredder blade on my food processor, which makes 20 seconds of work out of this.
Now julienne some white onion and thinly slice a jalapeño.
Now mix it all together will a little bit of sea salt or kosher salt.
Now stuff it into a few jars. Sterilize them first. I run them in the dishwater. Done. No brainer.
Now fill with cold water until the mixture is covered with water (you want it covered to keep mold from forming–which is an aerobic thing). Let those jars sit on the counter for 2 – 5 days. The longer you wait, the more sour (i.e, awesome!) the curtido becomes.
You can buy these little glass pucks that just fit in the top of a canning jar. This keeps your stuff submerged under the liquid to keep mold from forming. I finally broke down and got some of these things, and they’re great. Get some of those. Here are the ones I bought (this is an affiliate link).
Air locks. I usually just place a canning lid on top of the jar without sealing it and I let it bubble away. But if you want to get fancy you can get a water air lock–of the sort used by beer brewers to keep their beer sterile. Those are handy too. Here are the ones I bought (this is an affiliate link).
Here is the pupusa recipe by the way!
- ½ Head Cabbage, sliced thinly
- 1 Medium White Onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
- 5 Carrots, shredded
- 1 Jalapeno Pepper, cut into thin slices
- Zest and juice of one lime
- 1 ½ Tablespoons Kosher Salt (or Coarse Sea Salt)
- Distilled water
- Sterilize two pint sized canning jars and lids. I usually just run them through my dishwasher on not wash without soap.
- Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Sprinkle with the salt.
- Pack the curtido mixture into the two jars leaving a little room at the top to cover with liquid to keep mold from forming while the cortido ferments.
- Add distilled water until the cabbage mixture is covered completely. If you have glass fermentation disks (they keep the cabbage under the surface of the liquid, add one of those.
- Cover the top of each jar loosely with a canning lid so it can breath. If you have a cap with an airlock, use one of those.
- Allow the jars to ferment for at least two days and up to a week on a countertop at room temperature. After a few days the curtido mixture should begin to lightly bubble with lactobacillus activity.
- After fermentation you can seal the lid on the top and keep in the refrigerator for several months.