Croatian Desserts cookbook

50 step-by-step recipes, 224 pages, 500 images & expert baking tips 

By Andrea Pisac - 1 Comments - March 23, 2021 min read

Sarma in the summer is a big no. OK, I know this will upset many because you’ve enjoyed sarma no matter which season. But, take a deep breath and let me explain.

Whenever I see pictures of sarma served in the heat of the summer, I cringe. Unless you live in the southern hemisphere, eat sarma only from October to April.

Croatian sarma

And now let’s review why.

We ferment cabbage in the Fall

The first thing to know about cabbage is its timeline – when and how it grows. The earliest we eat fresh cabbage in Croatia is spring. In Dalmatia, we have baby cabbage or čimulice.

Otherwise, a proper cabbage head will form in the summer. As the cabbage matures, the head will become firmer and the spaces in between the leaves will disappear. We say that the cabbage is nice and dense.

Croatia food secrets | Croatia Honestly

In Lika, you can buy their famous cabbage and potatoes from farmers along side roads.

In the Fall, the cabbage is very firm and ready to be fermented. We cut a cross into the stem and pour salt in. The cabbage releases its own liquid. When more cabbage heads are stacked together in a barrel, they release so much liquid that get fully submerged.

Cabbage heads are usually fermented separately from the cut cabbage. But the process and the principle are the same.

(Cabbage + salt + time) x right temperature = sauerkraut

Aside from the ripeness of cabbage, there is another reason why we do this in the Fall. We need optimal temperature for fermentation.

If you live in the continental climate, this happens in the Fall. The temperatures outside will drop to about 10-12 degrees C, which is an ideal environment for lacto-fermentation.

Check out more Croatian recipes

We need vitamin C in the winter

Your first sauerkraut will be ready about mid-October. This depends on how warm the Fall is. Nothing in nature can be forced or predicted with 100% accuracy.

It is, however, safe to say that as temperatures outside drop, we are nearing the sarma time.

People have fermented vegetables for centuries – for one specific reason. To continue reaping the goodness of the fresh produce. They didn’t have a fridge or a freezer. But they still had to meet their need for the vitamins, especially vitamin C.

sarma

The soil was frozen and nothing was eaten fresh. The menu consisted of grains, pulses and occasionally meat.

So sauerkraut served two purposes. As the source of vitamins and as a clever digestive. Yes, it helps digest heavier and fattier winter food.

Sarma is made to last

As the winter sets in, out bodies need more sustenance, i.e. meat. This is why sarma is always made in a large pot and paired with smoked meat or sausages.

Because it’s cold outside, you don’t even need a fridge to store your sarma pot. And as the festive season approaches, people spend more time at home. A large pot of sarma is a must-have during the Christmas and New Year season.

Not only because it can naturally last for days. A pot of sarma is ideal for a large family. In this time of the year an entire extended family comes together, and the most nourishing dish is, of course, sarma – with smoked ribs, or špek.

This is the reason why we connect sarma with closeness and togetherness. No one ever cooks sarma for one. When you eat sarma, you know you are feeding your body and your soul.

If you still don’t know how to make the soul-nurturing sarma, check out my Sarma Masterclass.

Sarma masterclass

with andrea, nikica and mama

Impress your family and friends with your sumptuous sarma.

Hone your skills through 9 Video Lessons with amazing detail and easy-to-follow instructions.

Sauerkraut has an expiration date

Fermentation is a natural process, which means it never really stops. It might seem to you that your sauerkraut tastes the same during the winter. But this is only so because it’s cold outside. Coldness slows down the fermentation.

Come spring, your sauerkraut will be exposed to higher temperature. The good bacteria will wake up and the fermentation will speed up. This time, we don’t really want it.

sarma recipe

Last sarma of the year

Every sauerkraut has an expiration date. But to extend it as much as possible, the store-bought kraut contains preservatives. Once the levels of acidity are achieved, the industrial type of sauerkraut is given chemicals to stop it from fermenting further.

If you home ferment in a natural way, you won’t be able to stop further bacteria development.

As soon as you get warm sunny weather, your sauerkraut will go bad. This is when its season naturally comes to an end.

And this is why you MUST use up your kraut by April-May, depending on how warm it is.

If you’re able to buy sauerkraut in a store in the middle of the scorching summer, you can bet it contains preservatives.

Sarma gives way to stuffed peppers

Why would you even want to eat sarma in the summer when you can have stuffed peppers?

Listen, you don’t need the benefits of fermented food in the summer. Now is the time to eat fresh, seasonal vegetables. Everything is ripe and filled with vitamins. Use them to replenish your body.

It is no coincidence that we love stuffed peppers just as much as sarma. We almost think of these two dishes as one.

Croatian sarma food

Sarma for the cold part of the year, stuffed peppers for when it gets warm. As long as we have a vegetable stuffed with meat, we’re laughing.

Did you notice that we never cook peppers with smoked meat or sausage? We don’t need that extra boost. It’s warm outside and the body needs to be agile and active.

Leave sarma for the winter hibernation. Pick punjene paprike to mark the beginning of the summer.

Now, let’s make the last sarma of the year. Join my Sarma Masterclass to learn how.

Sarma masterclass

with andrea, nikica and mama

Impress your family and friends with your sumptuous sarma.

Hone your skills through 9 Video Lessons with amazing detail and easy-to-follow instructions.

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  1. Thank you for the great information about Sarma and cabbage. I always wondered why my parents always made saurkraut in the Fall -a certain time was very important. There were certain rules also. Thank you once again.

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