A gloomy, rainy, chilly, enervating, soul-sucking December afternoon. Carol and I were sick of being stuck in the house doing chores, sick of short days and long dark nights. We went to Wisnom’s Hardware across the street and spent a long time buying five dollars worth of hardware, just so we could get out of the house. But eventually we had to go back home, and watch the world outside the windows turn ever grayer and darker.

So we decided to make sauerkraut. I chopped a two-pound head of cabbage into thin strips, grated some carrots into the cabbage, and dumped everything into a glass bowl. We grabbed big handfuls of cabbage and carrots and squeezed hard to bruise them and begin to release their liquids (this was the best part; very satisfying):

I added five teaspoons of salt (two for each pound of cabbage plus one far the carrots), and mixed it in. We smushed the mixture down with a plate until the liquid rose up over the vegetables:

Then we put a weight on the plate (another glass bowl with water in it), and set it on the kitchen counter to ferment:

With any kind of luck, it will have turned into sauerkraut in time to make choucroute garni on New Year’s Day.

5 thoughts on “Kraut”

  1. This is where one needs the fire in the fireplace (or the candles in the menorah), the hot drinks, and, as you are doing, the preparation of food and other items for ritual feasts (followed by said ritual feasts).

  2. Erp, we tried lighting a fire in the woodstove, but it was one of those days when the chimney wouldn’t draw properly, and so the fire wound up smothering itself in the stove. But we did have hot drinks.

  3. Ah, choucroute garni is one of my favorite dishes and especially on New Year’s Day. Be sure to have a good ale or hardy lager with it. I prefer a stout.

    What sausages do you plan to have with it?

  4. Ed, I was actually going to ask for your recipe — you make the best choucroute garni I’ve ever had.

    And I was thinking of brewing some hard cider to go along with it, but I can’t seem to find any unpasteurized sweet cider to start with. Maybe I’ll have to press my own?

  5. Choucroute Garni Serves 6

    1½ pounds pork hocks
    2 pounds raw sauerkraut
    3 cloves garlic
    1 bay leaf
    3 whole cloves
    1 Tbsp. juniper berries
    1 tsp. mixed black and white peppercorns
    4 oz. bits of salt pork or 2 slices of smoked bacon cut in half
    1 onion, finely chopped
    1 medium carrot sliced very thin
    2 cups white wine (Riesling or Sylvaner)
    1 cup chicken stock or water
    1 pound smoked kielbasa
    6 Various sausages or frankfurters
    1½ pounds potatoes (not bakers)

    • Rinse the pork hocks.
    • Wash sauerkraut under running water and drain.
    • Crush garlic cloves and tie in cheese cloth with the bay leaf, cloves, juniper berries, and peppercorns.
    • In a heavy, 6-quart pot, heat the oil and cook the onion until golden. You could use salt pork instead of oil and cook the salt pork or bacon until crisp. Remove the salt pork/bacon and save the bacon for later.
    • Add sauerkraut and carrots and cook for 5 minutes, separating the strands with two forks.
    • Pour in wine and stock and mix well. Bring to a boil.
    • Bury pork hocks, bacon, and spice bag in the middle of the sauerkraut.
    • Cover and cook over very low heat for 1 ½ hours. Add water if needed. One can bake at 325° F for 1 ½ hours.
    • Peel and wash potatoes.
    • Place potatoes on top of sauerkraut, cover and cook (bake) for 30 to 45 minutes or until tender. Add water if needed.
    • Add the sausages and cook (bake) another fifteen minutes.
    • Arrange a mound of sauerkraut on a platter and surround with various meats and potatoes. Cut the sausages to about 1 ½ inches.
    • Serve very hot with beer or ale.
    You can reduce the amount of meat and potatoes to accommodate the number of people served. Do not reduce the amount of sauerkraut by the same proportions. The more sauerkraut the better. Do not change anything else.
    If bacon is used try to get thick sliced bacon and cut each slice in two pieces. One can use sliced smoked pork butt – it is more traditional.
    I prefer to bake the dish but the stove-top works just as well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *