Sauerkraut, for those unfamiliar, is sort of the Euro-American (i.e. “western”) version of kimchi, only with less chili pepper, as in none. Like kimchi, sauerkraut is tasty and very healthy. Only sauerkraut is less ubiquitous (nowadays at least) in America than kimchi is in Korea.
American sauerkraut consumption, waning as it has been over the last several decades is largely centered in the upper Midwest. Not surprising considering the density of people of Northern European descent that populate the area. In the homes of these not so recent immigrants is where the majority of sauerkraut consumption takes place. Outside of the home, sauerkraut is most often encountered in Reubens or surrounding a bratwurst or a hotdog, there to offset the cured meat and possibly to make the bun or bread a bit soggy. Many people probably do not realize that there is more one can do with sauerkraut than just heat and eat.
Apple Sauerkraut is one of those dishes that is a bit more than just heat and eat. I found it is a good dish to win over those people who claim that they don’t like sauerkraut. Though I should say there are still some hold outs (some people just don’t know what is good for them).
I first came across an Apple Sauerkraut recipe in, and in fact I mostly adapted this recipe from Betty Fussell’s I Hear America Cooking. She, in turn, came across the recipe in the upper midwestern, German stronghold of Wisconsin. They know how to gussy it up a bit, adding bacon, onions, apple, and wine to give several new dimensions to the sauerkraut. The sweetness from the apples pairing well with the sourness from the sauerkraut, the bacon… Well, it is bacon what more needs to be said about bacon? Probably a lot really, mostly about forgotten moderation. Bacon, however overused in contemporary American cooking, I think is at its best when it’s used to lend flavor and richness to vegetable dishes such as this.
- 4 strips of thick bacon, chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 qt. sauerkraut, rinsed
- 1 large potato, coarsely grated
- 1 large tart cooking apple, peeled, cored and cut into thick slices
- 1/4 t. of caraway seeds (optional), 3 or 4 juniper berries (optional)
- 1/2 c. white wine
- 1/2 c. broth or water
- 1 T. vinegar
- 1 T. brown sugar
- Saute the chopped bacon over medium heat until brown and crisp and most of the fat has been rendered out. Remove the bacon and set aside leaving the drippings in the pan. Add the onion to the pan and cook over low heat until translucent. Add the rinsed sauerkraut and cover and cook on low for 1o minutes.
- Add the browned bacon, grated potato, apple slices, caraway seeds (if using), juniper berries (if using), wine, broth or water, vinegar, and brown sugar. Cover and cook over low for 15-30 minutes until the apples are tender.
Serve with a good sausage and some grainy mustard. Do try to find a good local made sausage, almost any small sausage maker produces a superior product when compared with the national brands. Even in Rhode Island. I know Rhode Island is not known for a strong Northern European presence. In fact one is far more likely to hear Spanish, Portuguese, or, waining but still audible, Italian when you walk down all these streets named for bits of England. However, luckily at least one old Polish family moved here and set up Central Falls Provision Company. They happen to make a damn good kielbasa to go with your kraut.