Making Kimchi “Curtido” with Chef Ernest Miller

by Mary Papoulias-Platis

Post image for Making Kimchi “Curtido” with Chef Ernest Miller

I had no idea what fermentation process was until I attended Chef Ernest Miller’s hands-on class at Melissa’s Produce this last week.  The class was on making Kimchi, and I chose the variation “Curtido”. Walking into Melissa’s kitchen that morning took me by surprise, to see how visually appealing Chef Miller’s display of fermented vegetables were on display. It instantly reminded my of my aunt’s home kitchen, and how she also used these large preserving-type vessels stuffed with her colorful vegetables from her family garden.

I was so excited to get started on this process of fermentation.

Preserving Class at Melissa's

I first met Chef Miller at the Orange County Fair last year when we went up for an olive oil presentation and book signing. He had his own booth. It looked more like a chemistry lab where he taught every hour on the hour about preserving and brewing! He was fascinating from the beginning, watching his ease of teaching all about beer brewing and fermentation to all the fair goers.

Chef Miller

Soon after, I met up with him again in San Diego at the Culinary Historians of San Diego meeting where he presented the history of food preserving. It was very interesting and above all educating. I left asking myself, What don’t you do Ernest? As we sat down to our cooking centers with all the ingredients set out for us, Chef Ernest began with a demonstration on how to begin. I couldn’t believe how easy it was! All these years in the food business and I had never taken an interest in this? Why? Because I never came across a teacher who taught this subject.

It’s literally a one-bowl recipe.

Napa cabbage


We chopped and chopped, weighed our ingredients to perfection, salted and pressed 2 lbs. of these veggies into a small specially designed bottle from Chef Miller’s collection. Check out his site to purchase one or two. Sitting next to Cathy Arkle from She-Paused for Thought , was a day of laughter and crying – over the onions of course!

Cathy and I

We were treated to a creative fermented vegetable luncheon by Robert Schueller and his staff, Chef Debbie Dubbs and  Sara De Leeuw, both master preservers. Fermented foods add a zing to your dish, besides having health benefits.

Here are a few facts I learned:

  • It’s low in calories, high in fiber and nutrients.
  • Your adding vitamin A, B1, B2 and vitamin C into your diet.
  • Rich in amino acids and minerals such as capsaicin, chrorophyll, carotenoids, and flavonoids.

Curtido which I made is traditionally a lightly fermented cabbage salad originating in El Salvador. Today, you can find it in many Central American nations.

It’s eaten as a side dish similar to sauerkraut, or a condiment for a wide variety of foods. The reason I chose it because I wanted to learn the dish “pupusas” the famous El Salvador national dish.

Egg in preserved beet juice

Eggs fermented in beets.

Layered Muffato sandwich with slaw

The popular sandwich “muffaletta” layered with meats and kimchi! Fabulous.

Curtido with Bread

The curtido served with puffy breads called pupusas.

selection of fermented veggies

Examples of various vegetables you can use for fermentation.

With the class we were given each a bottle from Chef Miller’s collection, recipes and information on the process. I’m dying to dive into my stuffed fermented bottle, but we need to wait  for a week or two. In the meantime, my brain is all a flutter dreaming of all the ways I can use this awesome mixture!

Just try it.

Making "Curtido" from Master Preserver Chef Miller at Melissa's Produce

Curtido is a lightly fermented cabbage salad from El Salvador, try it on any sandwich, for a topping on any bread, or simply as a side.
Course Appetizer, Fermentation
Cuisine El Salvador
Keyword curtido, fermented, preserved
Servings 4 servings
Author Chef Ernest Miller


  • 1 3/4 lb. cabbage, shredded (white, purple, Savoy, or Napa)
  • 1/2 lb. carrot, grated or julienned or grated
  • 1/2 each of white and red onion
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • 3/4 oz. salt, canning, pickling kosher or sea salt (1 oz. of salt per 3 lbs. of vegetables
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon oregano, dried
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • Juice of one lime


  • 1 oz. of salt per quart of water


  1. Discard outer leaves of cabbage. Rinse heads under cold water and drain.
  2. Cut heads in quarters and remove cores. Shred or slice in thickness of quarters.
  3. Put cabbage in a mixing bowl and toss with all the remaining ingredients, salt and spices.
  4. Pack firmly into your clean fermentation jars.
  5. Make sure your jar is filled to the "max" line but no higher.
  6. Place your clean, notched weighting jar on the cabbage and press down.
  7. If juice doesn't cover the cabbage then add brine.
  8. Seal your jar, gently twist the airlock into place and fill the airlock with brine or distilled vinegar to the fill line. (if using Chef Miller's jars)
  9. Store at 70 to 80 degrees while fermenting. Under these temperatures curtido should be ready in about 5 days. At temperatures 60-65 degrees it should take 7-9 days.
  10. You may allow your curtido to ferment longer, but it is traditionally a shorter ferment.
  11. (If the curtido becomes soft, or develops a disagreeable odor,discard. Fully fermented curtido may be kept tightly in the refrigerator for several months.

We were all so proud of our accomplishments in the kitchen! This was the very first time I had an opportunity to cook in the kitchen with many fellow food bloggers and friends. I couldn’t resist but post these happy faces!

Cooking Class Attendees



Thank you to Melissa’s and Robert Schuller for sponsoring such a successful and informational event and luncheon

And thank you to Chef  Ernest Miller for all your hard work making this class possible.

Let’s get fermenting, 


© 2015 – 2022, Mary Papoulias-Platis. All rights reserved.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Cathy | She Paused 4 Thought

What a fabulous event is was. This recipe is so simple it is shocking. I had no idea fermented food was as uncomplicated as this.
Here is to fermentation and health!

2 Mary Papoulias-Platis

Cathy, we had so much fun that day! Mine was delicious, I’m adding it to everything from eggs to sandwiches.

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