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Soured Cabbage Heads Recipe - Croatian Kiseli Kupus

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Kissel's Soured Cabbage Head

Kissel's Soured Cabbage Head

© Flickr by Dropshot1973
This recipe for Croatian soured cabbage heads (sauerkraut) is known as kiseli kupus (KEE-seh-lee KOO-poos), the leaves of which are sometimes used to make sarma. It's getting increasingly difficult to find whole heads of soured cabbage (Kissel's is one brand to look for, Marco Polo brand sells jarred leaves), so families get together to make a large batch to share. This recipe is from "The Best of Croatian Cooking" (Hippocrene Books Inc., 2007) by Liliana Pavicic and Gordana Pirker-Mosher. The horseradish and red peppers in this recipe give it quite a zip.

Makes 24 Soured Cabbage Heads or Croatian Kiseli Kupus

Prep Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour


  • 24 solid heads cabbage
  • 3 1/2 cups salt (not iodized)
  • 1 garlic head, peeled and broken into cloves
  • 1 (7-inch-long) peeled and chopped horseradish root
  • 3 quartered red peppers
  • 15 bay leaves
  • 15 dry whole red peppers
  • .
  • Large, wooden or plastic barrel or crock


Note: If you don't have a large enough barrel or crock, the cabbage can be divided among smaller barrels or crocks.
  1. Wash cabbage heads and remove any tough outer leaves and reserve. Core each cabbage and fill with salt. Place 1 layer cabbage heads, core-side up in barrel or crock. Add some of the garlic cloves, horseradish, red peppers (fresh and dry), and bay leaves. Place another layer of cabbage heads in the barrel and another portion of vegetables. Continue this way until the crock is full. Cover with reserved cabbage leaves.

  2. Fill barrel with as much water as it will hold without spilling over. Place a clean cotton or lnen cloth on top of cabbage and then a clean, untreated wooden board. Weigh down with a heavy rock or other item, to keep the cabbage heads from rising during the fermentation process.

  3. Store the barrel in a garage or fruit cellar, or place that does not fall below freezing, on wooden skids off the floor. You may want to wrap some insulating material around the barrel if you live in chillier climes.

  4. The cabbage should be ready in about 40 days. Keep the brining water clean by skimming the foam off the surface with a slotted spoon or sieve (foaming should start in about 10 days). The soured heads can be frozen for later use or canned. Before using kiseli kupus, you can rinse the leaves, if desired. Chop them for any recipe calling for sauerkraut.
Note: Beets may be added to give cabbage a red color. Adding chopped quince will give a yellow color.
User Reviews

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 1 out of 5
Incorrect, Member hetneo

First of all this is Serbian not Croat kiseli kupus. Then you have to do some math to make it properly, otherwise it will rot or not ferment at all. First of all you need to know how many liters your barrel can hold of water. Half of that amount is maximum amount of cabbage in kilograms you can place in it. Also you need to pour 55% of this amount water it and 4% of salt, any salt can do it's NaCl that is important. Because salt tends to settle on bottom it is good to use barrel that has tap on bottom. If barrel lacks tap an piece of garden hose can be used to either tank out water from the bottom and pour it back or to blow air in and mix water. First 30 days barrel should be kept at 60-68 degrees. If temp is lower it will take more than 40 days to ferment, if higher it will spoil very quickly.

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