The term “sauerkraut” is often associated with the whole dish. It’s a mistake! Sauerkraut is precisely just the thinly cut cabbage that is fermented in brine. The whole dish is called “choucroute garnie” or “dressed sauerkraut” in Alsace, where it served with an assortment of cold cuts and sausages.
And if I told you that sauerkraut was made in China, would you believe me?
Indeed, it is in China that everything started during the construction of the Great Wall. Yes, more than 2000 years ago, workers were fed on fermented cabbage and kept in its brine. Along the wall, preserved in wooden barrels, these sour cabbages helped to build it. People believed this fermented cabbage had many virtues including fighting diseases such as scurvy for example.
We have to thank the Huns invaders for the introduction of the recipe to Europe. After fighting battles at the Great Wall, they set out to conquer Europe with this cabbage in their luggage.
It was not until the fifteenth century, and with texts from the sixteenth century that the presence of sauerkraut at the table of monasteries was confirmed. In the seventeenth century, sauerkraut also appears as kompostkrut (cabbage compost).
Accompanied by meats, sausages and potatoes, “choucroute garnie” was born in the nineteenth century.
Sauerkraut is made from finely chopped white cabbage and lactic acid bacteria obtained by fermentation in the absence of oxygen. Lactic acid bacteria grow from the cellular sap of cabbage and are cleaved by the addition of saline solution. During the fermentation of lactic acid, the bacteria are killed and, therefore, the cabbage is well preserved.
If sauerkraut is a preparation that is traditionally consumed in Germany, you can also find it in Russia, Bulgaria, Poland, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Serbia, Luxembourg, Switzerland</a>, Slovakia, Chile, the United States, China and southern Brazil.
In Chile, sauerkraut is one of the ingredients that make up the traditional chileno completo sandwich.
In Italy, in the region of Trentino-Alto Adige, sauerkraut, called crauti, has benefited since 1999 from the “Prodotto agroalimentare tradizionale” (PAT) certification, a particular Italian recognition for regional products that is not recognized at the European level.
In Eastern Europe, this is how sauerkraut is called:
Bulgaria: kiselo zele
Croatia and Serbia: kiseli kupus
Czech Republic: kysané zelí
Latvia: skābi kāposti
Lithuania: rauginti kopūstai
Poland: kiszona kapusta
Romania: varza murata
Russia: kvashenaya kapusta
Slovakia: kyslá kapusta
Slovenia: kislo zelje
Ukraine and Hungary: savanyú káposzta
Although I must confess that there is nothing like homemade, I did not prepare the sauerkraut from scratch. I will also admit that I have a very nice butcher who did it for me!
No, I unfortunately can not follow our devil Mike just yet. He who did not hesitate to ferment a whole cabbage in a jar for his sarma, or to make his cheese for the excellent Polish sernik, or to stick a can in a chicken’s ass to smoke it for a Gabonese nyembwe chicken. I will make sauerkraut from scratch, I promise!
People say that sauerkraut is a real winter dish? Sounds good to me! We enjoyed it on the day of the first snowfall in Paris and it was just excellent, as much as the pints of beer that accompanied it!
- 2 lb sauerkraut (in brine), rinsed and drained
- 10 juniper berries
- 3 whole cloves
- 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
- 4 oz. goose fat
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 cups white wine (e.g. Riesling)
- 2 onions , diced
- 1 lb smoked pork , sliced
- 5 oz. smoked bacon
- 20 small firm-fleshed potatoes , peeled
- 6 Strasbourg sausages
- 6 Landjäger sausages
- 6 thin slices smoked garlic dry sausage
- 3 bay leaves
- An assortment of deli meats
Fry the onions in the butter for 2 minutes over medium heat.
Then, add the smoked pork and stir for 5 minutes.
Then add the cabbage while adding goose fat one spoon at a time. Season with salt, cloves, caraway and juniper berries. Stir well for a few minutes until the goose fat melts.
Add the white wine then cover with boiling water. Bring everything to a boil.
Add the potatoes, salt and pepper, as well as the slices of smoked garlic dry sausage, the Landjäger sausages and push them into the cabbage so that they are immersed as much as possible.
Cook covered for 20 minutes over medium to high heat, then on low heat for another 30 minutes. Stir gently from time to time.
Then uncover to allow the liquid to evaporate and cook for another 30 minutes.
Finally, add the Strasbourg sausages and bacon without pushing them into the cabbage so as not to spoil them by mixing, and cook for another 15 minutes.
Serve with an assortment of cold meats.