No, cabbage leaves are not needed, I was hedging the bet. It was about 9 gallons of chopped jalapeno peppers set up in (2) 5 gallon BigMouthBubblers, and another 3 gallons of habanero peppers. That I paid a good price for from a local farmer! It was not like 2 cups of chiles and if it tanks.... oh well, OOPS!.... 2 cups gone~~~
I had a good amount of money in the purchase of these peppers and a good amount of time in cleaning, trimming, chopping, prepping, etc...... so I put cabbage on the top to kick start the ferments. Hedging the bet~ for a couple dollars to buy cabbage, quick and easy, and a bit of peace of mind since I knew the ferment would be sitting and stewing for at least 3 months before I got around to dealing with them.
The cabbage was removed before the ferments were processed.
I've done the same process in the past when prepping for a community hot sauce class and people have taken the fermented cabbage home to eat. The cabbage tasted really goodby itself! Fermented/sour, and spicy! and it still had the probiotics thing going for it when the people at the class took it home.