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How To Make German Sauerkraut
I happen to have a love hate relationship with this thing called sauerkraut. Growing up as a German in Brazil, 'chucrute' (portuguese for sauerkraut) was the nickname the local kids had for those of us who were transplanted there from the motherland. Perhaps it is the epidemy of all things German, but this dish does get a bad rap for no good reason.
So what is there to love about sauerkraut? Raw sauerkraut is actually a very healthy food. It is both very low in fat and high in vitamin C. It is also a great source of lactobacillus. In fact, did you know that it has more lactobacillus than yoghurt?
In this country, sauerkraut is mostly known and enjoyed as a condiment on hot dogs. May I say that this is in no way comparable to the sauerkraut one would enjoy as part of a meal in Germany. In particular, the Bavarian style of sauerkraut I am referring to is far from sour. Sure it is a bit tangy, but it is also loaded with other wonderful flavors such as apple and bacon.
And as you may not know, it is one of the simplest side dishes to prepare. If even my six-year-old can handle it (with some supervision), so can you. Interested yet? Please read on.
The Ingredients for Sauerkraut
All you need is four simple ingredients to serve four people. All measurements are approximate as this dish is literally fool proof.
- one jar of sauerkraut
- 3 strips of bacon (preferably apple smoked)
- 2 beef bouillon cubes
- 3 cups of apple juice, plus 1 cup extra if needed
If you might enjoy a traditional Bavarian meal known as 'Kassler mit Sauerkraut', consider adding 4-5 smoked pork chops to your shopping list. These are commonly available in the meat department of your grocery store. Other sides which pair well with this meal are peas, a green salad, pretzels or mashed potatoes. Oh yes, and a cold German beer!
How to Prepare Sauerkraut
Drain the sauerkraut from the juices in the jar and wash thoroughly in a colander under cold running water. Shake colander to remove excess water.
Cut the bacon into 1/4 inch strips and drop directly into a saute pan. I used to struggle through this step with a knife and a cutting board until I learned the trick of using my kitchen shears.
Over medium heat, brown the bacon until golden to dark brown. Stir frequently and watch carefully as the bacon can burn quickly towards the end.
Add the sauerkraut and bouillon cubes to the bacon. Stir to blend. Continue cooking over medium to high heat until sauerkraut mixture is dry and golden brown. Roughly 5 - 10 minutes. Stir frequently and don't worry about the bits of sauerkraut which might get stuck to the bottom of the saute pan. You are in fact creating lots of great flavor.
Add the apple juice to cover the sauerkraut and mix well. Stir to thoroughly deglaze the saute pan.
Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to a simmer for 1 1/2 - 2 hours. Use this time as a guide since it is literally impossible to overcook sauerkraut. Check and stir sauerkraut every half hour, adding apple juice as needed.
During the last 15-20 minutes, uncover and continue simmering. Sauerkraut is done when most of the liquid has evaporated and texture is tender.
Meal Ideas With Sauerkraut
Sauerkraut is often served with a variety of sausages or roasts, but my kids prefer it with smoked pork chops ('Kassler mit Sauerkraut'). Simply layer the smoked pork chops on top of the sauerkraut once the sauerkraut is already done. Re-cover saute pan and heat. Smoked pork chops are already fully cooked, so you are merely 5 - 10 minutes away from serving dinner.
Enjoy your meal, or as we like to say in Germany: "Guten Appetit!".