Curtido is to Central America what sauerkraut is to Germany and kimchi is to Korea. Simply put, it is simply a lacto-fermented and therefore raw and probiotic food that is bursting with good bacteria.
You know why I’m enamored with lacto-fermented foods right now? It’s because they are so simple to make (no cooking required), inexpensive (only 2 to 4 ingredients), raw (which means all antioxidants are intact) and they’re bursting with good bacteria.
And you know why we need good bacteria? The gut microbiome -- the host of good bacteria, good fungi and good viruses in our tummy -- is one subject that have microbiologists in awe. What they have so far found out is nothing short of astounding -- these minute good guys, which may be more in number than our own cells, are performing so many functions, to wit: fighting bad bacteria, fungi and viruses; manufacturing vitamins (Vitamin K for example); killing cancer cells and boosting nutrition and immunity.
Good bacteria however, are under constant attack by the modern diet and lifestyle. Animal meat and dairy are contaminated with antibiotics which kill the good microorganisms in our colon. Food additives, triclosan and toxins from our toiletries and radiation from our gadgets are also said to be possible culprits. Of course, oral antibiotics are especially harmful to both bad and good bacteria.
To repopulate our digestive system with the healthy balance of good microflora, we need to go back to the traditional diet of lacto-fermented foods. Please read this if you want a better understanding of the health benefits of lacto-fermented foods If you don’t want to go back to that, then let me just sum it up like this: when you lacto-ferment foods, you are simply allowing the good bacteria which are naturally present on the surfaces of raw produce to multiply. Good bacteria feed on the sugars of produce and in the process exponentially grow in number. They turn the sugar into lactic acid which preserves the food. When we eat lacto-fermented foods, we are eating along the good bacteria. Regular consumption of lacto-fermented foods ensures that the good guys in our tummy get the upper hand over the bad ones.
Okay, ‘nuff said, let me now show you yet another lacto-fermented recipe -- something that I find very tasty and with a lovely spiciness to it. Curtido is simply sauerkraut jazzed up with carrots and spices. Here’s the recipe I used. (Click on the links if you want to know the health benefits of each highlighted ingredient.)
- Fills one big mason jar
- Prep time: 20 minutes
- Cook time: 0 minutes
- 1 big head cabbage
- 1 big carrot
- 1 onion
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 2 teaspoons oregano powder
- 1 to 2 tablespoons of unrefined sea salt
- Wash produce and herbs. Slice the cabbage into thin, 1-inch strips. Grate the carrots. Mince the onion and garlic. Transfer the cabbage strips, shredded carrot and minced herbs into a large mixing bowl.
- Add in the salt and oregano powder and mix. With your clean bare hands, squeeze and crumple everything until the juices ooze out.
- Pack into a mason jar and push the vegetables down as you go in such a way as to keep the vegetables submerged under their juices. Leave one inch of space from the top to allow some room for fermentation gases.
- Cover the jar with a lid and leave in a cool, dark place for 7 days.
- Every day, in the morning and in the afternoon as well, push the vegetables down under their juices using your clean index finger or a sturdy wooden spoon. As long as the veggies are submerged in the probiotic brine, you will not have any moldy growths. If you do notice a little moldy growth, remove them with a wooden spoon. Experts in lacto-fermentation say the mold is harmless and the brine beneath the moldy growth is still richly probiotic. The key really is to submergea all the veggies in the brine or liquid.
- On the 7th day, your curtido is done and ready for eating. Store it in the ref where it will keep for, as my sources say, months.
I do love curtido. I pair it with grilled or fried fish or simply eat it as a side dish or condiment. For weeks now I have been making this or sauerkraut every week. That way I never run out of lacto-fermented food in my ref.
My husband is beginning to love it too. My kids still turn up their noses at the smell but I know they’ll love it in time. I hope you’ll get around to making your own curtido. Would you give it a try?