Sauerkraut and sausages with a French accent
In my last IT column (Fermented Foods- March 1), I discussed the benefits of incorporating fermented foods into your dietary regimen and I included instruction on how to make Easy Homemade Sauerkraut. For those of you who rushed out and bought a couple heads of cabbage to try out my recipe, by now your salted cabbage should be fermenting into a mild-tasting sauerkraut. At a temperature of around 65 degrees, this takes about three weeks. At this point you should taste your kraut. If a stronger flavor is desired, cover it up again and let it ferment a little longer. When the desired “krautiness” is achieved, store it in the refrigerator to slow down further fermentation. I always label my containers with masking tape and a Sharpie. I include the starting date and the date I put my sauerkraut into the refrigerator.
In order to receive the probiotic benefits from my fermented foods, I eat a forkful of kraut or drink a shot of kraut juice every day. Since I make my sauerkraut in large batches I tend to accumulate several containers in the back of my refrigerator. During the summer grilling season I always serve sauerkraut alongside my bratwurst, hot dogs or Polish sausages. In the cold weather months I make Choucroute Garnie.
Choucroute Garnie is French for “dressed sauerkraut.” Although sauerkraut is traditionally a German dish, it also became a French dish after France’s annexation of Alsace and Lorraine in 1648. Choucroute Garnie is sauerkraut prepared with sausages, smoked bacon, cured pork and potatoes.
I first experienced Choucroute Garnie in an Alsatian restaurant in Paris several years ago. The restaurant was a tiny storefront known for its extensive collection of eaux de vie. Eaux de vie, which translates as “water of life,” are Alsatian clear fruit brandies, and this little restaurant stocked over 100 varieties, many homemade. Alsace, on the border of Germany and France, is also known for its German-influenced hearty pork-centric cuisine.
This little restaurant was staffed by only two people: Klaus the chef, who was a huge bald man, and petite Brigitta, who was the only server. The menu, written in French, was incomprehensible to me so when Brigitta came to take my order, I picked something at random. Moments later Chef Klaus appeared with a big knife in his hand and shook his head. “Order this instead!” he said, pointing to an item on the menu with the tip of his knife. “I make the best Choucroute Garnie outside of Alsace!” I don’t argue with people brandishing knives. A large platter was soon placed before me: a mountain of wine-braised sauerkraut garnished with three different kinds of sausage, cured pork belly, smoked slab bacon and potatoes. It was wonderful but way more than I could eat. By the time I pushed away my plate, we were the last ones left in the restaurant.
Klaus invited me to the bar to sample some of his eaux de vie. Not far into the eaux de vie tasting I began to feel inebriation (and some accompanying bad judgment) kick in. Klaus pulled an unlabeled bottle from behind the bar. “Poire,” he said. Pear. “My father makes this himself. If you drink too much you’ll go blind. Try some.” I sipped and nodded in appreciation. He poured me some more. The next thing I knew I was squeezed into the back seat of a tiny Peugeot heading to a wine bar in Montmartre with Klaus and Brigitta. I remember asking Brigitta if the two of them were married. “Oh no!” Brigitta explained. “Klaus has a wife and a mistress. I’m just his girlfriend.” I spent a bizarrely wonderful night drinking wine and having conversations with strangers I couldn’t understand. I managed to find my way to a subway station at three in the morning, only to find that the trains wouldn’t start running for a couple more hours. But after the big meal followed by excessive alcohol consumption, I managed to sleep like a baby on the hard subway bench.
• 2 pounds sauerkraut, drained (use homemade sauerkraut or store-bought refrigerated kraut in plastic bags)
• 2 tablespoons peanut oil (or duck fat if you happen to have some)
• 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
• 2 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
• 10 juniper berries
• 2 large bay leaves
• 1/4 teaspoon caraway seeds
• 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
• 3/4 cup white wine
• 1 1/2 pounds pork baby back ribs, cut into 2 sections
• 1 pound kielbasa, skinned and cut into 2-inch pieces
• 6 skinless hot dogs
• One pound piece of boneless boiled ham (3 to 4 inches wide), sliced ¼-inch thick
• 6 medium potatoes, peeled
• Dijon or stone-ground mustard, for serving
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Rinse the sauerkraut in cold water and squeeze dry.
Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened, about 7 minutes. Stir in the sauerkraut, juniper berries, bay leaves, caraway seeds, black pepper, stock and wine and bring to a rolling boil over high heat.
Rinse the pork ribs and pat dry. Tuck the pork ribs into the sauerkraut and bring back to a boil over moderately high heat. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 1 1/2 hours.
Remove the pork ribs from the sauerkraut. Cut into individual ribs. Return the ribs to the sauerkraut and add the kielbasa, hot dogs and ham. Cover and bake until the meats are hot, about 25 minutes. Discard the bay leaves.
While the meat and sauerkraut are baking, cover the potatoes with cold water in a large saucepan, add salt and bring to a boil over high heat; cook the potatoes until tender when pierced. Drain the potatoes and cover to keep warm.
To serve, mound the hot sauerkraut in the center of a warm platter, and garnish with the meats. Serve the choucroute with the boiled potatoes and mustard.
The next public informational seminar presenting the experiences of the CrossFit Instinct intermittent fasting study will be held on Tuesday, March 27, at 6 p.m. at Springfield Clinic at 900 N. First St. Free parking is available in the adjoining parking garage to the north. Enter into the first floor and turn left into the first hallway to the media room.
Contact Peter Glatz at firstname.lastname@example.org