Obachan’s Backyard Koko


pickling ingredients

Yield: Approximately 2 quarts

Prep Time: 10 minutes, plus 2-4 days’ fermentation


  • 1 large or 2 small head cabbages (4-5 lb.), washed and quartered stem to top
  • 1/2 c. Hawaii Kai (Moloka‘i) sea salt, or your favorite sea salt
  • 4 Tbsp. cooked rice, optional (Rice speeds the fermentation process.)
  • salted water (See Method for amounts.)
  • 1-2 seeded Hawaiian chili peppers, whole or sliced, optional

Optional Garnishes

  • shoyu/soy sauce, to taste
  • freshly grated ginger, to taste
  • thinly sliced green onions
  • katsuo boshi, to taste

picklingMethod: Layer cabbage wedges in a clean, nonmetallic bowl (enameled or ceramic), sprinkling evenly with salt (and rice, if using). Place a ceramic or plastic plate on top of the cabbage and gently weigh it down with a heavy object, such as canned goods, or a gallon plastic bag filled with water and sealed well.

Cover container with a dish towel or cheesecloth and place it on your kitchen counter. The cabbage will express water as it sits. After two hours, turn the cabbage over and redistribute the weight evenly, keeping the water in the container. Replace towel. After two days, taste a small piece of cabbage, first rinsing excess salt (and rice, if using). Enjoy now, or continue fermenting for a tarter flavor.*

Rinse under cool tap water to remove excess salt. Squeeze cabbage firmly by hand, then chop into bite-size pieces. Pack into glass jars and cover with a saltwater solution of 1/4 tsp.-1 tsp. salt per 1 c. water, to taste. (If cabbage is salty, no added salt is needed.) If using the chili pepper, add now, either whole or sliced. Store jar in the refrigerator. Garnish with ginger, green onions, shoyu and katsuo boshi at plating. Best if eaten within one week after placing in refrigerator, but will keep for a month.

*Reserve about 1/4 c. of liquid from the fermented vegetables for your next batch of pickled cabbage. Natural yeasts captured from the air will inoculate your next batch.

Shaved katsuo boshi and oroshiki may be purchased at Maui Chemical/TJ’s Party Pantry, 875 Alua Street, Wailuku; 808-244-7311


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