Chow Town

January is the perfect time to give sauerkraut a try

Updated: 2014-01-23T15:42:04Z

By LOU JANE TEMPLE

Sauerkraut may be one of those foods you just don’t get until you are an adult. Just the smell of sauerkraut made me wrinkle my nose when I was a kid.

Now it fulfills my need for something sour in my wide range of food likes. And I fell in love with the dish Choucroute Garnie when I first went to Paris, served as it is there on a glamorous pedestal tray.

The process of making sauerkraut is one the ancient methods of preserving foods. It has a mere three ingredients: cabbage, salt and time. Take a head of cabbage, thin slice it or shred it. Toss it with salt. Put it in a glass or ceramic container and with minor human interference, sauerkraut happens. It’s a miracle of chemistry.

First, here is my version of Choucroute Garni, guaranteed to satisfy on a cold winter night. Second, here is a great recipe for a classic Russian soup, Shchi. It is a meal in a bowl with both cabbage and sauerkraut as two of the many ingredients.

Even if it made you wrinkle your nose long ago, January is the perfect time to give sauerkraut another try.

Lulu’s Choucroute Garnie

4 pounds of sauerkraut

2 pounds of small new potatoes or fingerlings

1 tablespoon of juniper berries

1 tablespoons of fennel seeds

1 bottle Riesling, more dry than sweet

6-8 smoked pork chops

1 pound Kielbasa sausage

1 pound Andouille sausage

2-4 smoked bratwursts

Horseradish

2 different types mustard, such as coarse grain and Dijon

Combine everything but the potatoes, horseradish and mustards in a large casserole, cover and bake in a low oven at 325 degrees until everything is nice and heated and most of the wine has been absorbed. This will take an hour and 20 minutes or so.

If you have a Le Crueset or other heavy Dutch oven, you can do the cooking on the top of the stove, low heat, nice and slow.

Boil the potatoes, or oven roast them, your choice. Serve the potatoes on the side with the horseradish and mustards for garnish.

Shchi

8-10 dried porcini mushrooms, well rinsed

For the stock

3 pounds of beef brisket or chuck roast

1-2 pounds of beef marrow bones

10 cups water

1 large onion

1 carrot, peeled

1 rib celery, with leaves

1 parsnip, peeled

Salt to taste

Bouquet garni (dill sprigs, parsley sprigs, bay leaves and peppercorns tied in a cheesecloth bag)

For the soup

6 tablespoons of unsalted butter

4 cups of shredded green cabbage

2-1/2 cups of sauerkraut, rinsed and drained. Use the clear packaged, not the canned.

2 tablespoons of tomato paste

1 carrot, peeled and julienned

1-1/2 cups of chopped onion

1 rib celery, chopped

1 large purple turnip, peeled and diced

1 16-ounce can of Italian plum tomatoes, drained, seeded and coarsely chopped

1 large clove garlic, minced

Salt and pepper, to taste

For the garnish

Chopped fresh dill

Sour cream

To prepare the mushrooms: Soak the mushrooms in 1 cup water for 2 hours. Drain the mushrooms and pat dry with paper towels, chop fine.

To prepare the stock: In a large soup pot, bring the meat, bones and water to a boil, skimming off the foam as it rises to the top. Add the remaining stock ingredients and simmer for two hours or until the meat is tender.

To prepare the soup: Melt half the butter in a deep skillet over medium heat. Add the cabbage and sauerkraut and sauté for 10 minutes, tossing regularly. Add 1 cup hot stock and the tomato paste. Cover and simmer for 35-45 minutes.

Melt the remaining butter in another large skillet and sauté the carrot, onions, celery, turnip and mushrooms until soft and lightly browned.

When the stock is ready, strain it into a clean pot. Reserve the meat and discard the solids

Add the sauerkraut and cabbage, the vegetable mixture, and tomatoes to the stock. Season with salt and pepper and cook, covered, for 20 minutes.

Cut the meat into bite sized pieces and add to the soup, along with the minced garlic. Simmer another 5 minutes.

Let stand at least 15 minutes and preferably 24 hours before serving. Serve garnished with dill and sour cream.

Source: “Please to the Table” by Anya von Bremzen and John Welchman.

Lou Jane Temple’s road to food has been a long and winding one. First as a rock n roll caterer back stage to the stars, then with her own Kansas City based catering company, Cafe Lulu, food writing, novelist, private chef. Lou Jane has written and had published nine culinary mysteries and one cookbook. She recently moved back to Kansas City and eagerly awaits the next chapter of her food career.

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