Did you have a nice Thanksgiving? We were blessed with a visit from our good Canadian friends, The Austrian Sweet Tooth and The Organizer, Now Retired (she’s my political conscience!). They were visiting to “experience” the “Southern” Thanksgiving, as they have never been with us for Thanksgiving, American-style, and a “Southern” Thanksgiving, as well. We didn’t do the traditional turkey, but feasted on Pork Tenderloin with Mushrooms, Herbs and Apples, Bread Stuffing with Herbs, Scalloped Corn and sauerkraut. Sauerkraut is just so delicious with pork, so why not? And this…this is some gooood sauerkraut! I love sauerkraut. In the autumn, my mother and I used to make a huge crock of it. It’s one of my favorite memories, cutting the cabbage into thin slivers on the “kraut cutter”, layering the salt and cabbage, and tamping the juices out of the cabbage with a large-ish wooden mallet we used just for this. Then, a large round platter was inverted over the top of the sauerkraut-to-be, with a large (well-scrubbed) rock placed on top. The whole crock was cover with a large piece of gauze and then left to ferment. You could smell it a mile away! But, it was one of those things I do cherish…a mother-daughter moment I am grateful to have. Anyway, when the fermenting process ended, my mother would can the sauerkraut in quart jars, to enjoy all winter long.
The Oma, referred to here, is the mother of The Austrian Sweet Tooth. Sadly, she has traveled to the “world beyond”, but she has left behind many wonderful memories…and it turns out, this delicious Oma’s Sauerkraut with Apple, Onion and Bacon. The Austrian Sweet Tooth prepared this leisurely, over about 3 days, allowing the sauerkraut to rest and let the flavors mingle to delicious perfection.
Day 1—Put the sauerkraut into a big pot, juice and all. Dice up (or thinly slice) an apple, not one that’s too tart, but more to the sweet side. He adds enough water so you can just barely see it. Then, the pot goes on the burner, over low heat, and it simmers. You’re going to stir occasionally, and simmer, stir occasionally and simmer….this will go on for about 30 minutes or so. Turn off the heat, cover and let stand overnight.
Day 2—Reheat the sauerkraut mixture; add the caraway seeds, if using. Lower the heat and stir occasionally; simmer, like we did yesterday, but for only 15-20 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover and let stand overnight.
Day 3—Or “Serving Day”! Remove the sauerkraut to a strainer or colander, placed over a container to catch the juice…you want that juice. Now, drop the bacon fat or butter into the pan. Whisk in the flour (or rice flour for GF) until you have a paste…think béchamel sauce. Slowly add the reserved sauerkraut juice, whisking like a mad Austrian, until it thickens. Add the sauerkraut back in, along with the onion. Return to the simmer, stirring occasionally; simmer for 10-20 minutes. You may need to stir a bit more frequently, as the mixture is quite thick. If you prefer it less thick, either add some additional liquid or less flour when making the roux. Pour into a serving dish, sprinkle with bacon (or add it just after you thicken the mixture) and serve.
The next morning we had some for breakfast. This was new to me, but damn! it was delicious. I fried some of the sauerkraut in a bit of bacon fat, in a cast iron skillet, just until it began to caramelize. While this was doing its magic, I fried a couple of eggs, served the “sauerkraut patties”, with the eggs on top and toast on the side. It was so good, I think I need a cigarette!
Oma's Sauerkraut with Apple, Onion and Bacon
Begin at least 2 days before you plan to serve this. It can be left on the stove between “sessions”; refrigeration is unnecessary as the sauerkraut is fermented (as well as, salty) and will not spoil.
- 2 large cans sauerkraut, undrained (see NOTE)
- 1 large apple, peeled and sliced (Golden Delicious or Ginger Gold are nice)
- Water, as needed
- 1 onion, thinly sliced or diced
- 2-3 tablespoons bacon fat (or butter)
- 1-2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (or rice flour for GF)
- 1/2-3/4 cup diced, fried bacon
- 2-3 teaspoons whole caraway seeds (optional–you may use more or less)
- Coarsely ground black pepper
Day 1: You want a large, heavy-bottomed pot (a Dutch oven is great). Place on the burner, over medium-low heat. Dump the sauerkraut into the pot, juice and all. Add the apple; stir it in. If you cannot see the liquid, add enough water so you can just see it, but it shouldn’t be swimming. Let the mixture come to the boil, lower the heat to just keep it simmering. Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes, more or less. Timing isn’t essential here. You want the apples to cook right into the kraut and more or less, disappear. Remove from the heat source, give it a good stir, cover and let stand overnight.
Day 2: Return the sauerkraut to the simmer; simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. You may need to add a bit more water. Again, remove the pan from the heat source; cover and let stand overnight.
Day 3: Return the sauerkraut to the simmer, stirring occasionally. When the mixture is hot, use a large spoon to remove the sauerkraut to a strainer (or colander) set over a bowl—we want to save that juice. You can press on it slightly, if you wish, but it’s not that important. You want to have no juice left in the pan.
Add the bacon fat (or butter); let it melt and get hot. Add the onion (and caraway seeds, if using) and sauté until slightly softened. Add the flour and whisk the mixture together, into a thick paste. Let cook for a minute or two. Slowly, add the reserved juice, whisking constantly. Then dump the sauerkraut into the pot. Switch to a wooden spoon; stir until thoroughly combined. The mixture should be thick, but this is also a matter of personal preference and how you are planning to serve the sauerkraut. Turn the heat to low; cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Stir in the bacon just prior to serving, or sprinkle over the top, when serving.
NOTE: If you prefer, you may use deli sauerkraut. Taste it. It is seems salt, you may wish to rinse it. Then proceed with the recipe as indicated. The cooking times are very flexible, and this is not a dish that needs much attention, though keeping the cooking temperature low, is important. The resting time should be at least 2 days, or as much as 4 days. Choose an apple with a touch of sweetness, for the best flavor overall.
Oma’s Sauerkraut with Apple, Onion and Bacon Recipe©Hanno Weinberger 2018. All rights reserved.
Someone asked for a recipe to actually make sauerkraut. I don’t have one, as we never used an actual recipe. But, the ingredients are cabbage and non-iodized salt, like kosher or canning salt. On the farm, the Old Farmer’s Almanac is consulted for many things. This is their sauerkraut recipe and it looks pretty much like what we did. Make a party of it and have some fun!