Cultured Vegetables: "Red Sea" Sauerkraut, Pickled Pearl Onions, Pickled Beets (gluten free, vegan, raw, ACD)

More lacto-fermented fun!  I was so happy with my

last batches of cultured veggies

I had to do more.  I've been compiling this post for a while, and am finally getting around to posting it. I am following the basic proportions and techniques from

Nourishing Traditions

, with the exception of the whey - I haven't yet gotten around to straining out yogurt or kefir to get whey to use in the recipes, as Sally recommends in the book.  So, as suggested, I am using extra salt instead.  Next time, I'd like to try the whey and see what kind of difference, if any, it seems to make.  

I'm really pleased with how all of these turned out, and I'm excited for them all to mature and continue to get tastier and tastier.  As you can see from the photos above, and the ones that follow, I've already dug into these!  I also made more pickled brussels sprouts, this time flavored with sprigs of fresh tarragon instead of spices, and they were delicious.  For a recipe for making pickled brussels sprouts, check out this post:

Cultured Vegetables: Pickled Turnips and Beets, and Pickled Brussels Sprouts 


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I call this my "Red Sea"  Sauerkraut.  Why?  Because this naturally cultured  sauerkraut is a blend of red cabbage and a trio of tasty seaweeds (wakame, hijiki, and dulse).  Together, they combine to make a vibrant red sauerkraut that is spiked with loads of nutrition from the sea and lots of good bacteria. Red cabbage and seaweed were made for each other!   Hooray for seaweed sauerkraut, more lacto-fermented fun, and corny, punny recipe names.  

While each of these sea vegetables is delicious on its own, when combined, they add fun texture and an impressive list of health benefits.  If for some reason you are a bit squeamish about introducing sea vegetables into your diet, this is an easy, tasty way to do it.  Sea vegetables offer unique nutritional benefits that are incomparable to other foods, because they absorb minerals found in the sea.  Plus, they a high amount of iodine, a mineral that is often hard to come by in many other foods.  Here are some of the fabulous things sea vegetables have to offer:

  • Lots of nutrients: iodine, vitamin K, iron, calcium, magnesium, and many other minerals
  • Good source of folate and high in fiber
  • Naturally anti-microbial and regulating to gut bacteria
  • Supports healthy thyroid function, kidneys
  • Healthy, flavorful substitute for salt in recipes

I let mine ferment for four days, and it has now been sitting in the fridge for a few weeks.    Even in that time, it has  started to smell and taste more "sauerkraut"-y.  I adjusted the recipe so it should only make 1 qt - I ended up with a 1 qt, 1 pint, and a little leftover...LOTS of sauerkraut.


yield: 32 oz (4 cups/1 qt) 

2 small or 1 large red cabbage, organic if possible

2 T dry wakame

2 T dry hijiki

2 T dry dulse flakes

2 T salt

  1. Wash cabbage well and remove outer leaves.  
  2. Core cabbage with a sharp knife, and thinly slice/shred cabbage, using lots of patience and that sharp knife, or a food processor. 
  3. Place wakame and hijiki in a bowl with water to rehydrate, for 15-20 minutes.
  4. Place cabbage in large bowl with salt, stir to mix, and let sit for 10-15 minutes.
  5. Squeeze cabbage with clean hands or pound with a wooden spoon/mallet until cabbage is softened and juicy.  This is an important step, don't give up!
  6. Drain and rinse seaweed.  Add to cabbage, along with dulse flakes.  Stir to mix evenly.
  7. Place a handful of cabbage in a clean, sterilized wide mouth 1 qt jar (or two 1 pint jars). Press down with your fist or a mallet firmly. Add more cabbage, press.  Continue until all the cabbage is gone or until you are about 1 inch from the top of the jar. It will be juicy and messy!
  8. Screw the top on firmly, and let sit out at room temperature for 3-4 days.  Make sure to put jars in a tray or plate to catch leaks and drips - purple rings will stain counters!
  9. After fermenting, transfer to cold storage.  

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I had been wanting to try pickling pearl onions, but never think to buy them; I figured I'd wait until I could get a bunch at the farmers market.  When a leftover bag of pearl onions was up for grabs after a photo shoot ended at work, I jumped at the opportunity to take them home with me.  Into the pickling jar they went!  This recipe is inspired by Sally Fallon's recipe, but I switched around the seasonings to fit with my allergies and what I had in my pantry.  I let it ferment for three days, and it is now in my fridge.  I threw a few on my salad for lunch today and they were awesome!


adapted from Sally Fallon's

Nourishing Traditions

yield: 1 pint (16 oz/2 cups)

10-12 oz pearl onions

1 tsp black peppercorns

5 whole allspice berries

a few sprigs fresh tarragon

1 T salt

1/2 c water

  1. Blanch pearl onions in boiling water for about 10-20 seconds to help remove skins.  Rinse with cold water, and peel.
  2. Pack whole onions into jar with spices and tarragon, pressing down lightly.  Dissolve salt in water, and pour over onions. There should be about 1" of space between top of water/veggies and jar lid.  
  3. Close tightly, and let sit at room temperature for about 3 days before transferring to cold storage.  Can be eaten right away, but becomes tastier with age; will keep for up to 8 months in refrigerator.  

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I'm going to ramble on here for a bit about Norwegian stuff.  If you just want the recipe, page down.  If you want a story, read on.

One of things I learned in college is that I love pickled beets. My alma mater, Luther College in Decorah, IA, has a very strong Norwegian heritage.  Each Sunday one of the dining halls had a special brunch.  Whenever I went, I would inevitebly leave the buffet line with half my plate full of pickled beets rolled up in fresh 


.  Other Scandinavian foods like pickled herring and lutefisk also found their way into our college food service kitchens - but never to my plate.   All I wanted was the pickled beets and 



(I was a dedicated vegetarian at the time anyway


.  I loved the sweet and salty beets, bitey and deep scarlet, especially when wrapped up in a fresh piece of tender





 is basically the Norwegian tortilla - a paper thin, round, flat bread of made of potato, butter, flour, and water, cooked on a griddle and flipped with a big, flat stick.  As with most traditional foods, there is a serious technique to make making good 


.  Bad 


 - most found in grocery stores - is like pasty junk.  But good, fresh 


 melts in your mouth like nothing else on earth.  Especially if eaten warm, and spread with butter and sugar, like the old folks do.  I always liked mine spread with lingonberry jam, drizzled with maple syrup and butter, or stuffed with savory things like Swedish meatballs or sausage. Or beets. 

A cute little Norwegian woman makes fresh 


by hand and sells it at the local co-op.  And at Nordic Fest, Decorah's annual summer festival of all things Norwegian, fresh 


 is made all day long and sold on the street.  For a couple dollars you get a


round of 


 and have your choice of toppings. People wait in long lines for it, the way that people wait for corn dogs at normal carnivals.   Nordic Fest is really fun, if you're into Norwegian stuff - you can watch Norwegian dancing, see the parade, visit Vesterheim Norwegian American Museum, participate in other fun Norwegian activites, and try a variety of other crazy Norwegian delicacies.   I remember one particularly rough Nordic Fest a few years back when I tried a little cup of



is a thick, rich porridge made of wheat flour, sugar, butter, and milk, served warm with melted butter and sugar on top (I'm not kidding).   Norwegian immigrants ate


 with coffee for dinner during the cold, long winters on prairie.  I'm not sure what self-destructive sort of curiosity compelled me to try it, because even then I knew it was a risky choice.  After eating my little cup  - which


delicious, I have to admit - I thought I was going to die.  


 + 95* weather + my digestive system = pure hell.  

In short, most Norwegian food is not friendly to the gluten, sugar, or dairy intolerant.  I have often wondered if  gluten free 


 would be possible, but I just don't think it is; the gluten is what MAKES the tenderness of the 


possible.  I fear any GF replication would just be a sad, disappointing experience; I think 


 now exists in memory alone.

On the plus side, do you know what Norwegian treat is totally okay for us to eat?  Pickled beets, baby, that's what.  So let's get on with it.  Let's talk beets.  This is post about beets, not




.  I had been eyeing up Sally's Pickled Beet recipe for quite some time.  Instead of using raw vegetables like most of the other cultured veggie recipes in the book, like the recipe for

Pickled Turnips and Beet

s (YUM!), her recipe uses roasted beets.  If you've never roasted beets, you must try it.  Roasting really concentrates the sweetness; roasted beets win over even the staunchest of anti-beet individuals.  Leave the skin on, poke them a few times, and put them in the oven.  Magic!  The skin peels right off once they are done.  Then your beets can be served up as is, used in soups, salads, or other entrees, or used for this tasty recipe.  

So, try them out.  You'll feel just like a Norwegian grandmother. They are delicious, and remarkably easy. The deep, sweet flavor of the roasted beets is accentuated with a hint of cardamom and offset by the salty pickly quality.   The water turned into a thick, salty sweet goo, and the beets are the most beautiful deep garnet color you can ever imagine. Yeah, I know that this photo doesn't look completely appetizing, but I promise you, they are good.  I let them ferment for three days, and then transferred to the fridge. In fact, as I write this, I am enjoying them in a salad with romaine, fresh snap peas, amaranth, fresh dill, and a drizzle of olive oil and kefir.  It is delicious.  And the beets keep getting better each time I eat them!


adapted from Sally Fallon's 

Nourishing Traditions

yield: 1 quart (32 oz/4 c)

12 medium beets (I used about 4 large beets)

seeds from 3 cardamom pods

2 T salt

1 c water

  1. Prick beets in several places, place on a cookie sheet or in a large roasting pan.  Sally's recipe calls for baking at 300º for about 3 hours, or until soft. I didn't have that kind of time - I baked at 425* for about an hour, with tin foil over the pan.  
  2. Once beets are soft, let cool slightly. Peel (run under cold water, and skins come right off!), and cut into a ¼-inch julienne. (Do not grate or cut beets with a food processor—this releases too much juice and the fermentation process will proceed too quickly, so that it favors formation of alcohol rather than lactic-acid.) 
  3. Place beets in a quart-sized, wide-mouth mason jar and press down lightly with a wooden pounder or meat hammer. Combine remaining ingredients and pour over beets, adding more water if necessary to cover the beets. The top of the beets should be at least 1” below the top of the jar. Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for about 3 days before transferring to cold storage.