I am preparing food for Christmas hoping that there will be guests to eat it. Right now the perspectives are unclear. Among other things indispensable on my Christmas table is Russian pickled cabbage which is unlike any other pickled cabbage. It is made without vinegar for the simple reason that historically there was no wine production in Russia and thus no sour wine to make vinegar. True, there was no wine production in Finland or Sweden either, and they still don't make the Russian style cabbage – presumably influenced by Germany. Nowadays I only make a little jar of cabbage, as much as we can reasonably eat within a reasonable time. I used to make a huge 20-litre earthenware jar and keep it cool in the cellar. This is how it was done in Russia when I was a child. Fresh cabbage was available in the autumn, and the only way to save it for the winter was to pickle it. You had to be a team to slice all this cabbage, grate the carrots and then rub it with salt until it became juicy. Then you put something heavy on top, a big stone wrapped in a piece of cloth, and left it for some days to ferment. Yum.
I have shared this repeatedly on food pages of Swedish newspapers, and I have a special chapter in Masha's Russian Cookbook (which incidentally is my best-selling publication).
If I were to make a 20-litre jar of pickled cabbage today I wouldn't know where to keep it. I don't have a cellar. And why would I do it when I can make a small jar any time I want it? Just one of those many things from your childhood you took for granted but only make sense in their own context. Pickled cabbage was essential for survival in Russia when I was a child. Today, it's just a nice addition to my Christmas table.