five-dollar curtido

A couple months ago, my sister-in-law lobbed a couple cabbages at me. Or maybe it was just one enormous one? I can’t remember. Anyways, I got me some cabbage(s).

Which instantly created problems. Because while I like cabbage, and my family eats it well enough (when leveled with a series of my most hairy eyeballs), I don’t have any great preservation methods. So we eat it fresh or braised or in soups or whatever. It always ends up feeling like cabbage feast or famine.

But then I discovered curtido. Come to think of it, I may have discovered curtido before my sister-in-law chucked her cabbage(s) at me? Did I buy a cabbage from somewhere?

Hm, can’t remember. My brain’s a muddle. 

ANYWAY. Point is, I made curtido and loved it. And then I made it again. (And then, I think, again? Whatevs.) I found the recipe on the New York Times Cooking email that pops into my inbox every several days, but then when I went to write about it, I discovered I was blocked. They had a new policy and in order to see the actual recipe I’d need to pay five dollars a month.

Briefly, I fumed. The audacity! The inconvenience! But then, sigh, I signed up. That’s how badly I wanted the recipe! Even though there are hundreds of other curtido recipes splattered across the Internets, I wanted that one, so humph. (I haven’t gone completely off the deep end; after this month, I’ll cancel the subscription, don’t worry.)

There’s nothing fancy about the recipe (and after all that trouble, too, I bet you thought it was all sorts of exotic, ha): Just shredded cabbage and onion, packed in a jar and then covered with a heavily-salted and lightly-seasoned brine. Prepared like so, the cabbage just sits in the fridge for weeks on end, much like refrigerator pickles. The finished product isn’t even all that exciting.

Except—EXCEPT—for when it’s paired with beans. A scoop of curtido alongside a pile of rice and beans is an oo-la-la game changer. The salty cabbage adds crunch, salt, and tangy-zip. It makes my husband, the not-a-bean-fan grouch, actually smile and—get this—rave. So yeah, this curtido is nothing short of revolutionary. Mark my words.

My mother’s hopped aboard the curtido bandwagon. She’s cut down on the salt and is experimenting with different additions. She’s serious about the stuff. (Hey Mom, you there? If you have a sec, would you mind noting your methods/changes in the comments? xo!)

with pupusas

Also, Dad planted fall cabbages and just passed on a couple starts to me, so there should be plenty of curtido in our collective futures, hip-hip!

Five-Dollar Curtido
Adapted from the New York Times Cooking website.

With 2 tablespoons of salt, it’s quite salty. You could easily cut back to 1 tablespoon and be just fine. It might even be better that way.

1 pound cabbage, shredded
½ medium onion, sliced thin
½ cup white vinegar
1-2 tablespoons salt
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1-2 pinches ground cumin
¼ teaspoon black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Add 1-2 cups of cold water. Mix well. Pack into a half-gallon jar, pressing the veggies down so they are covered with the brine. Let sit at room temp for a day (or three) before transferring to the refrigerator. Serve with beans and rice, tacos, pulled pork, pupusas, etc.

This same time, years previous: the quotidian (9.5.16), rainy day writing, pear tarts, a quick rundown, say cheese!.


  • Margo

    I just made a batch yesterday, and suddenly realized that my mom made something similar when I was growing up. She would put lemon juice on cabbage and let it marinate in the fridge all day, then put sliced tomatoes on top and serve it next to beans. So simple, so good. And reminds me totally of the concept of this curtido. I called my mom to ask her where she got the idea/recipe: from my aunt who was in VS in Costa Rica in the 70s 🙂 So I'm betting there are regional variations and personal recipes for this kind of salad. Can't wait to taste it tomorrow with our beans supper.

  • Melissa @ thelittlegrayhouse

    This looks yummy! We currently eat my yellow squash relish with our beans now. I'll have to make some if this for a nice change up.

  • Kathy Gardner

    I'm making this today. I have a pot of dried large lima beans simmering now but I realize this won't be ready for dinner. It will be ready to eat with any of the leftover lima beans though. I will use chow chow tonight like we normally do but I can hardly wait to try this and may cheat and have a little tonight even though it won't be fermented. I LOVE cumin.

  • beckster

    Jennifer, this looks really good, and you and the NYTs site recommend eating this with pupusas, but you don't have a recipe for them in your archive. Do you have any suggestions on how to make these?

    • Jennifer Jo

      I followed a recipe from The New York Times website, but any recipe wouild probably work. Just make a tortilla dough from maseca flour (I have a recipe on this blog). To form them, I cheat: pat out a tortilla, cover it with cheese, top with another tortilla, pat the two together, and then cook as you would a regular tortilla.

  • kay saylor

    I make sauerkraut and kimchi more often then I should (really, ferments are addicting), but I like the additional spices added here so I think I'll try it. Had a few heads split from all of the rain, so it was headed towards the jar anyway. Thanks for the recipe (and paying the $5 for the rest of us).

  • sk

    So far, hon, I think I prefer your recipe, maybe the lesser portion of salt. SC, you might be right about the vinegar. Vinegar is miraculous.

    • Jennifer Jo

      You make a good point! But I've never noticed any problems, and my husband who is extra-sensitive hasn't said a word about it. If it helps any, the cabbage portion is generally smaller, more like a condiment than a generous serving of vegetables…

    • Suburban Correspondent

      Probably helps that the cabbage is pickled, I'm guessing, plus you probably pre-soak your beans, which reduces the problem, also.

    • Second Sister

      I've been told (file this as hearsay!) that fermenting the cabbage makes it easier for the bowels which is always a good thing for many of us. This is different from simply pickling, however… I think the only difference between this recipe and sourkraut (besides the spices) is the vinegar which is what does the pickling vs the fermenting. I've been making sourkraut this year and loving it! packed in tight lidded jars for 3-4 days on the counter after being pounded for 5-10 minutes with salt to get the juices flowing and its ready to eat. I love all things pickled and fermented. I'm a sucker for counter-top science experiments.

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