Sour cabbage

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Sour cabbage salad with minced red pepper

Sour cabbage (Serbian: kiseli kupus, Serbian Cyrillic: кисели купус, pronounced [kǐseli kǔpus]; Bulgarian: кисело зеле; pronounced [kísselo zéle]) is a vegetable dish, which is popular in the Bosnian, Serbian and the Bulgarian cuisine. It is similar to sauerkraut, with the difference that it is prepared through the lacto-fermentation of whole heads of cabbage, not separate leaves or grated mass. No vinegar or boiling is required. In Serbia and Bulgaria it is a commonly home made conserve, and many families have big barrels (20–200 liter) in their cellars or other suitable places that they fill every autumn with cabbages to make this traditional food.


The quality of the cabbage is the main factor in obtaining a good result and the requirements are somewhat higher and more specific in comparasion to sauerkraut. The heads should be nearly round, but, slightly flattened on the top. Since they are processed as whole, it is very important for the pressure to be distributed uniformly on the entire surface. The core should be as small as possible, since too large a core represents a waste and therefore its fermentation rate would differ from the leaves rate (the fermentation must proceed uniformly everywhere). For the same reason, the ribs should not be too expressed; they should be firm, however not too hard and fibrous. The head should be firm and very compact. Its firmness should not be owed to mechanical tissues, but to the compactness – the leaves should be packed very densely. The leaves themselves should be firm, but thick; their palisade mesophyll should be particularly well developed, not the spongy mesophyll or epidermis. The cellulose content should not be high. They should be rich in sugar and dry content. At all levels there should be as little spaces as possible that could trap air. Such physical characteristics would permit the head to ferment and not to disintegrate, on one side, and on another – to stay soft, but crispy, and not to become tough and paper-like, as well as to have a uniform fermentation.


After the external leaves and core have been removed, the cabbage heads are salted, packed into the barrel as densely as possible (another reason why round form is required) and covered with salted water (4–6% of salt). A heavy load (a rock, for example) is placed above, to keep them under the water, in anaerobic conditions. From time to time the water has to be reversed (flushed from the bottom of the barrel and than again sluiced onto the top), adding somewhat (but, always with salt) if necessary.[1] A higher salinity makes the fermentation slower, while an insufficient salinity makes it unsafe. Higher temperatures require a higher salinity. The fermentation should be done at 16-22 °C. The best temperature is 18-20 °C. A cabbage fermented at a lower temperature has a better fragrance. The best known microorganisms involved in the process include Leuconostoc mesenteroides, Lactobacterium brevis, Streptococcus faecalis, Pediococcus cerevisiae and Lactobacterium plantarum.[2]


The sour cabbage is very popular Bulgarian and Serbian food, consumed mainly during the winter half of the year, both raw or cooked. As raw, it is a very popular winter salad, served usually dusted with pepper powder (aleva paprika) and/or black pepper (but, also just as is). In cooking it is used for sarma in the first place, and for other dishes, such as podvarak.

Nutritional value[edit]

Nutritional qualities are very similar to those of sauerkraut. The liquid (brine) from the barrel the sour cabbage has been fermented in, called rasol (or raso), is one of the best natural dietary supplements. It is traditionally used as a hangover remedy, but, its qualities far exceed that purpose. It is extremely rich in Vitamin C, but also in vitamins E, K, B complex as well as in very rare vitamin U.[3][4] It's also rich in oligoelements (Ca, K, P, S, Fe, Cu, Zn, Mg), enzymes and lactic acid.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mihajlović, Ilija, ed. (7 November 2014). "KISELJENJE KUPUSA". AGRO INFO TEL. Agroinfotel. Retrieved 1 February 2015. 
  2. ^ Šumić, dr Zdravko; Dupalo, Predrag, eds. (10 November 2014). "Tehnologija proizvodnje kiselog kupusa". Tehnologija hrane/Enciklopedija. Tehnologija hrane. Retrieved 1 February 2015. 
  3. ^ Cheney G (September 1950). "Anti-peptic ulcer dietary factor (vitamin "U") in the treatment of peptic ulcer". J Am Diet Assoc. 26 (9): 668–72. PMID 15436263. 
  4. ^ Patel AD, Prajapati NK (2012). "Review on Biochemical Importance of Vitamin-U" (PDF). Journal of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Research. 4 (1): 209–215.