Braised Sauerkraut

The lowly cabbage shines in legends about what to eat in the New Year for health and good fortune. Although it may have first been touted because it was available and cheap, we’re learning more about its cruciferous benefits. To add hype to the claim comes the fermented variety, sauerkraut. Fermented vegetables boost our immune systems, aid digestion and pack in vitamins. The great Choucroute Garni laden with sausages and potatoes from Alsace is one of Europe’s classic dishes. Aware of the need to lighten up, I now make French style sauerkraut with just a fraction of richness and pork and it’s still splendid.

Each fall at the final farmer’s market I buy a huge green cabbage to shred, salt and pack into a gallon plastic container. Weighted under a saucer topped with my five-pound brass mortar, the cabbage brews in its own juice in the cool garage until one day the bubbles spew out the odor of mustard, telling me the fermentation has passed. I give it a careful eye from day to day, making sure the liquid stays up and clean. Four to six weeks later, I taste the first sauerkraut.

Fresh sauerkraut is available in any supermarket today, but it’s  fun to watch the transformation of a shredded cabbage and a couple of handfuls of salt into one of our oldest vegetable staples. It’s even better to have braised sauerkraut for supper.

Sauerkraut Garni

1-2 slices bacon

2 tablespoons bacon drippings, olive oil or duck fat

1 medium onion, chopped

1 carrot, diced

1 branch celery, diced

1 small tart apple, peeled and diced

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

½ teaspoon dry thyme

1 bay leaf

2 whole allspice berries (optional)

4 juniper berries (optional)

1 pound fresh sauerkraut, drained and rinsed if very tart

½ pound green cabbage, shredded (3 cups)

½ cup white wine or 1 cup light colored beer or ale

salt to taste

3-4 steamed potatoes

braised pork shoulder or grilled pork chops

Cut bacon in 1-inch pieces and sauté until golden. Remove to side dish and reserve. In 2 tablespoons dripping or oil, sweat the onion, carrot, celery and diced apple until tender. Add garlic, thyme, bay leaf allspice and juniper. Stir in the sauerkraut and cabbage. Mix well and pour over the wine plus ½ cup water or the beer. Cover and simmer at least an hour or, better yet, an hour and a half.

If possible plan to simmer the sauerkraut early in the day and reheat it at serving time for enhanced flavor. Potatoes may be steamed on top of the sauerkraut during the final half-hour.

Serve the sauerkraut with potatoes, sliced pork and garnish with bacon. Makes a cold night’s feast for 3-4.

Mary Jo’s cookbook is available at Amazon.com    http://amzn.to/9lOnZv

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