From the Archives :: Cracked Pepper Leek Kraut

From Issue 11::MEND. Recipe by Kirsten Shockey, photography by Demetria Provatas.

Cracked Pepper Leek Kraut

Leeks originated in the Mediterranean basin and are one of the oldest cultivated vegetables. Egyptian writings show leeks as a barter currency (along with oxen and beer). Despite their warm, dry beginnings, they’re a cold-weather crop and are often fresh and available the same time as cabbage. While this kraut has the same comforting simplicity of plain cabbage sauerkraut, multifaceted layers of flavor bring it to a new level. It was a market favorite. The best part is it’s still easy to make and versatile. Yields about 2 quarts. 


3 pounds green cabbage, about one large dense head, reserve a few of the outer leaves

1 pound leeks, with 2–3 inches of the green, sliced thinly crosswise

1–2 tablespoons unrefined salt

½–1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


    1. Finely slice the cabbage into shreds and place in a large bowl along with the thinly sliced leeks and ground pepper to taste.
    2. Massage in 1½ tablespoons of the salt. Taste. It should taste slightly salty but not overwhelming. Add more salt if necessary. By now brine will be developing. Continue to massage the cabbage and leeks as if you were kneading bread. If you’ve put in a good effort and don’t see much brine in the bowl, let it stand covered for 45 minutes, then massage again.
    3. When the veggies are limp and glossy and there is a liquid at the bottom of the bowl, begin to press them in the jar or crock. Start by putting a little of the kraut in the bottom of your vessel, press until compacted and continue until all of the kraut is pressed in the jar. It’s finished when air bubbles are out and brine is on top.
    4. Top the vegetables with one of the reserved outer leaves. Then top the leaves with a sealed water-filled jar to weigh it down, or use the plastic resealable bag method outlined in the Leek-chi recipe. (Remember the key to success is keeping everything pressed under the brine.) Cover with a clean kitchen towel. Set aside on a plate to ferment, somewhere nearby and out of direct sunlight, in a cool spot for 7 to 21 days.
    5. Check daily to make sure the vegetables are submerged, pressing down as needed to bring the brine to the surface, and scoop out any scum that develops. It will be ready when it is deliciously sour to you. This kraut will keep, refrigerated, for 12 months.