The Perfect Cut
The healthy properties of fresh and fermented cabbage are hardly a novelty, and we’ve discussed them in our earlier blog post. But we don’t eat cabbage because it’s healthy, we eat it because we enjoy the taste. Beside flavor, a big part of an enjoyable eating experience is the food texture, i.e. what it feels like to chew it. Here, we will examine how to shred cabbage for three most popular cabbage based specialties.
Cutting, slicing and shredding
You can find many recipes for delicious fermented veggies and dishes in recipe books (We suggest this book about sauerkraut and this one for over a 100 different fermented foods). There is something as equally as important as the ingredients of those dishes – the cutting technique and the size of the cabbage pieces.
The difference between yummy and yucky comes down to how you cut your cabbage. We are going to discuss some finer points of proper cutting for three cabbage based side dishes: sauerkraut, kimchi and coleslaw. Most people agree that the most important characteristic of these dishes – besides taste – is the texture. People want their food to have more of a crunchy, fresh texture, not soft and mushy. So let’s take a closer look at how to achieve this.
Sauerkraut: the Art of Shredding
One of the most noticeable characteristics of good sauerkraut is the crunchiness of the cabbage. Even though the final product is completely fermented, properly prepared kraut still has a good dose of crackle and pop when you chew it. Achieving such delicious texture can be challenging. This is where the cutting and shredding details make all the difference.
The secret is not in the cabbage itself, nor in the brine it’s immersed in. It is in the size of the surface that gets covered with salt. Greater surface results in better fermentation. To achieve this, it is very important to have thin threads. But not just thin. Uniformly thin. If some bits are cut thicker, they will be tougher to chew. On the other hand, those threads that are cut thinner will become too soft and mushy. Unevenly cut threads will produce unevenly fermented sauerkraut and ruin your eating experience.
Cutting your cabbage into thin and even threads using a knife is just too difficult and time-consuming. Especially if you want to make an abundant amount of kraut. You can use an electric slicer, but with them you don’t have enough control over the size of the thread and they can easily mince the vegetables too much. You need to be able to control the thickness of the threads, without wasting too much time and energy.
If you use a traditional cabbage shredder, you have direct control over the shreds, and you can quickly handle a large batch. The veins and ribs on the leaves can sometimes result in uneven threads. However, a traditional wooden cabbage shredder gives you perfect hands-on control and you can see the shreds and react if a larger chunk slips through the blades. You can vary the way you hold the vegetable and apply different amounts of pressure to get different results. After some practice and experimentation, you will get the feel of the shredder and be able to achieve the perfect thread thickness. Making kraut at home should be a fun and authentic culinary experience, like restoring an old car by yourself, or working in your garden. The hands-on approach gives you that satisfaction of preparing your food using your own hands, and you can’t feel that if you use an electric cabbage cutter. You can read more about making your own kraut in our previous blog post.
Express kimchi: shredding saves time
Kimchi is a delicious Korean dish that traditionally takes several days to ferment, but in case of emergency, it can be made fairly quickly. Most commonly the cabbage is cut only in halves or large wedges, and there are traditional variants where the whole leaf is used, which is more time-consuming and requires a bit more skill. These kimchis take from a couple of days to a week to ferment, and they are not something you would prepare for an impromptu dinner with friends. You can, however, make an express kimchi. The best part: you don’t need to change the recipe, as the only difference is in the cutting.
Shredding the veggies will speed up the fermentation process significantly. Just grab the smaller version of the cabbage shredder that hangs on your kitchen wall and shred one or two small cabbages in a matter of minutes. Its compact design is perfect for swift and easy handling of smaller batches. Add the spices and the rest of the shredded vegetables and your exotic Korean dish is ready, all under 30 minutes.
Coleslaw: delicious – no matter how you slice it
Today, there are dozens of different variants – but they all originate from an old Dutch recipe, the simplest version of this delicious and healthy side dish. It consisted of cabbage, vinegar and some sort of oil or butter, which are the only common ingredients to all the modern incarnations of coleslaw. All those different recipes are cultural, seasonal and regional variants with some added or substituted ingredients. In the USA, coleslaw is prepared with mayonnaise, buttermilk, or some other similar dressing. The Italian variant has that touch of the Mediterranean, with the addition of cooked ham and sliced pepper, while other coleslaw recipes include carrots, celery and other vegetables.
But no matter which recipe you chose, the success of your salad depends on the size, freshness and crunchiness of the vegetables. How you slice or shred them matters. Salad is more palatable if it stays crispy. If your salad needs to be marinated longer, you need to cut thicker pieces, as you don’t want them to become soggy and soft. Thicker threads are also better for recipes with peanut or almond butter, or any other heavy or creamy dressing. The crispiness of the threads will serve as a nice contrast to the sauce and the mix won’t be too mushy. And if you want to serve your coleslaw right away, shred your cabbage to thin and crispy threads for a perfect toothsome experience.
The Final Cut: choosing the proper tool
The success of most vegetable based delicacies depends a lot on the way you cut them. To achieve the perfect cut, you need the perfect tool. When it comes to these three dishes, it’s all about how to shred cabbage. This is why wooden cabbage shredders are an absolute must-have for every kitchen. The large one is great if you want to make a big batch of sauerkraut, and the smaller version is perfect for quick and easy preparation of coleslaw salads and “express” kimchi dishes. You can a get both of them in a package for a better price, and be fully equipped for every culinary situation.
How do you prepare these meals? Do you agree that the size of the cabbage pieces are important? Which kind of cutting technique do you use? Have you tried our shredders? Feel free to share your experiences and thoughts in the comment section below.