The best Sauerkraut (German) or Choucroute (French, Alsace) I have ever made. It is white cabbage, thinly sliced, salted and fermented in crock barrels. Of course, these days one can buy it and the secret is to get it from a good butcher and not just a supermarket. I am normally an advocate of make-it-yourself but we cannot feed the five thousand with the quantities that would be required amounts here and I am bit fearful of it going wrong. Fermented foods add so much more complex flavours to our diet and were for a long time the only way to conserve vegetables. It’s health benefits are discovered left, right and centre. If you would like to give making it yourself, I would recommend Sandor Katz’s The Art of Fermentation.
Anyway, Sauerkraut or Choucroute garni / royale are traditional dishes in Germany and the Alsace, garnished (garni) with several smoked sausages, smoked pork belly and other meaty pieces if you want to go for the full Monty (royale) experience. On a normal day though, I would give pride of place to the Sauerkraut and add mashed potatoes and a little bit of meat. This time – did I mention the bit about the best one I have made so far? – we had smoked sausages and a thin slice of smoked pork belly to add flavour.
The secret ingredient is Griebenschmalz, rendered pork fat with herbs, onions and sometimes apples. Here is a recipe how to make it yourself, it is wonderful just on brown or grey bread. Good with drinks as well. Huh, this might be two posts in one then.
Sauerkraut / Choucroute (mini) garni
enough for 4 to 6
One package of fresh raw Sauerkraut (500g or 1 lb)
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons of Griebenschmalz or Hubertusschmalz (pork lard with herbs, browned onions and apples) or use Schmaltz
5 juniper berries
3 allspice berries
2 bay leaves
2 cups of strong vegetable broth
a little dash of white wine
one slice of smoked pork belly
4 or 6 smoked butcher sausages (depending on people)
salt & white pepper
Rinse the raw Sauerkraut under water to render a little bit of the sourness. Melt the Griebenschmalz in a pan (with a lid) and add the onions. Sauté until they are translucent, then add the Sauerkraut, juniper berries, allspice and bay leaves. Stir and pour over the broth & wine. Nestle the meats into the Sauerkraut, cover with the lid and let is simmer for at least 30 minutes. You could prepare it in advance and use it the next day or in the evening for supper, the flavour benefits from the extra time. Reheat and try for the final seasoning, add salt and white pepper.
Serve with lashings of mashed potatoes or potato purée and heaps of strong German or Dijon mustard.