HUNGARIAN CABBAGE SALAD – NYERS KÁPOSZTASALÁTA
This is the original Hungarian cabbage salad, the simple, elemental cabbage salad our grandmothers used to make. The only variant I have seen growing up was shredding or thinly slicing the cabbage. Old recipes mention adding caraway seeds, but we never had it like that, in general kids don’t care for visible caraway seeds. Salt, sugar and vinegar is all you need to make this. “Make a pleasant vinegar-brine with a little sugar” was all that the recipe ever said, and how much of it was left to the good cook. Except that good cooks make a lot of bad dishes during their lifetime. You really have to be a chemist or at least understand how stuff works and the only way you ever get there with unscientific means is with trial and error. Trial and error of course produces some pretty unpalatable stuff in the kitchen. And the mistakes are much more noticeable in a pared down, simple dish such as this one. Follow this and you will get a pleasant vinegary pucker free cabbage salad.
If I serve it right after pouring the brine on the cabbage, I taste it and sometimes sprinkle an additional teaspoon of vinegar over the salad. But if I make a lot of it or serve it several hours later, I don’t add extra vinegar, because it does get a little sourer in a few hours. The sugar used here is minimal; too much sugar would just kill the balance of flavours. Use ordinary white vinegar for this. The vinegar in Hungary is 20%, in North America it is 5 or 7%. I prefer the 5% vinegar and that is what I use in all my recipes. If the vinegar you use is stronger than 5%, you will have to adjust the recipe and use less vinegar according to the percentage. Don’t increase the salt; the amount listed is all you need to make the cabbage sweat and it is just the right amount to salt the salad. Anymore and you will have to rinse some of the salt off and this will ruin the texture of the cabbage and make it soggy. Wash the chunk of cabbage you intend to slice or shred, but then dry it off completely with a clean kitchen towel. The cabbage has to be dry before you slice it. Sprinkling a little olive oil on it is a possibility but only at the table.
5 cups very thinly sliced green cabbage
1/4 tsp salt
1 bay leaf
2/3 cup cold water
1 Tbsp sugar [not heaping Tbsp]
Tbsp 5% white vinegar
• Wash a section of a green cabbage that will yield 5 cups sliced, omitting the core and thick sections.
• Dry it with a kitchen towel thoroughly.
• With a very sharp knife, slice the cabbage section as thinly as possible.
• Place 5 cups of sliced cabbage in a salad bowl.
• Sprinkle with 1/4 tsp of salt and toss to combine.
• Slip 1 bay leaf under the salted cabbage.
• Set it aside for 1 to 2 hours. The salt will sweat the cabbage.
• Meanwhile combine the brine ingredients.
• When the cabbage is ready, sprinkle it with the brine and toss to combine.
- It began with posting a few recipes on line for my family. "zsuzsa is in the kitchen" has more than 1000 Hungarian and International recipes. What started out as a private project turned into a well visited blog. The number of visitors long passed the two million mark. I organized my recipes into an on-line cookbook. On top of the page click on the cookbook to access the recipes. I am not profiting from my blog, so my visitors will not be harassed with advertising or flashy gadgets. Feel free to cut and paste my recipes for your own use. Publication is permitted as long as it is in your own words and with your own photographs. However, I would ask you for an acknowledgement and link-back to my blog. Happy cooking!