Curtido is a Salvadoran fermented cabbage dish, rather like sauerkraut but with a twist. Packed with nutrients, it has been a staple of food in El Salvador for years.
It is a kind of relish made from lightly fermented cabbage, onions, carrots, and oregano. It can be called curtido blanco or curtido rojo depending on its ingredients. “Blanco'' refers to the use of traditional green cabbage, while "rojo" refers to the use of beets together with the green cabbage.
This popular Salvadoran dish is famous throughout much of Central America. It is similar to other traditional fermented recipes such as sauerkraut, kimchi, and coleslaw. It’s usually served alongside pupusas, a type of flatbread filled with cheese, chorizo (pork), and other ingredients.
The English version of curtido might be called picked coleslaw. The dish can vary depending on which part of the Americas it comes from, and the Belize version is quite different.
Curtido is easy to make at home, so you adapt it to suit your taste. It can be made spicier by adding jalapenos. It can be pickled or fermented, although fermenting is the traditional method. When the ingredients are allowed to ferment, sugars break down and leave behind a vinegary taste.
Pickling, however, is a much faster way to make it. The pickled version involves adding vinegar to speed up the process. Most store-bought krauts are pickled by just adding vinegar to cabbage to create that distinctive fermented flavor. Without fermentation, these krauts will be much less beneficial for your immune system and digestion.
As with so many foods, making your own curtido or sauerkraut at home is the best way to go!
The health benefits of curtido stem from its lacto-fermentation. It’s rich in naturally-occuring bacteria, just like other fermented dishes. Curtido has a slightly sour flavor, which it owes to its powerful probiotic bacteria. The sour taste increases with the length of fermentation. This crisp, fresh vegetable dish can be kept in the fridge for up to a month.
The traditional El Salvadoran version of curtido involves adding shredded cabbage and carrots to hot water and allowing them to steep for about five minutes. They are then drained and combined with vinegar, scallions, chili peppers and salt. The mixture is left to sit at room temperature for a few more minutes before being refrigerated. Your curtido is then ready to use.
1 jalapeno (finely chopped)
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