Pickled Whole Cabbage Heads Recipe
Peel off any damaged outer leaves from each cabbage head you wish to ferment, and then core them. The easiest way to remove the core is to repeatedly insert a narrow, but stout, knife around the base of the stem at an angle pointing to the middle of the cabbage. Repeated “stabbings” are better than trying to pull the knife around inside the cabbage.
Place your cabbages into your container where they will remain to ferment. For each cabbage you will want to add 1-2 cloves of garlic, peeled and quartered lengthwise, 1-2 bay leaves, and 1/2-1 tsp. black whole peppercorns. The more cabbages you do, use the lower number since you will actually need less brine per head because of the amount of space they will occupy. You can also modify the amounts and which ingredients you use to suit your taste. I’m not a huge pepper fan, and so I use less than other people might. I know that many traditional recipes also call for using a fresh horseradish root cut into strips, but I couldn’t find that in the store. Remember it’s pretty spicy!
The amount of brine you will need to make will be determined by the size and shape of your container as well as the cabbage heads. To make the brine weigh out 35 grams of salt, then add enough water to make one liter, this makes it a 3.5% concentration. If you don’t have a metric scale this is roughly equivalent to 1.2 ounces with enough water added to make 1 quart (using American units of measurement). IMPORTANT: note the wording!! You are not adding 1 liter/1 quart of water, you are adding enough water to MAKE 1 liter/quart. Big difference!! After measuring the salt, put it into your liquid measuring cup and then add the water to it. You will need to make enough brine to cover your heads completely after they are held down in the liquid. I needed about 4 liters for the heads I made.
The heads will want to float so you will need to weigh them down with something. I used a lid from one of my oven bakeware pans and turned it upside down, since that was what was heavy enough and would fit. Keep in mind it will need to be there the whole time so find something you don’t use often.
Allow the heads to remain undisturbed for at least 6 weeks. You can keep them there much longer, and in fact families in places like Romania where this process is very common will ferment a few dozen heads all at once and pull them out as needed during the rest of the year. You will get mold growing on the surface of the brine, so you can skim that out every so often if it bothers you.
When you are ready to use your cabbages, remove your weight, skim off any mold, and remove the heads. Return the weight if you have cabbages left and cover your tub again. Rinse the heads off, including where you removed the core, and set them into a strainer core side down to allow the water to drain off, then after that they are ready to use! The pieces of garlic can be used as well, but all the remaining brine and spices should be discarded. Don’t use the brine or spices in your garden as they will be too salty.