Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Grandma Szarek's Sauerkraut

I am going to Vienna and Germany soon to teach and usually get ready by starting to eat that kind of food for a few weeks before. It helps if I prepare stomach. So, I was at the health food store and found a package of fresh sauerkraut that was calling my name. I never liked sauerkraut as a kid because it was so sour, even though my German grandmother made it many times.  It wasn't until I married the father of my children that I learned how to make Sauerkraut the German/Polish way from his grandmother.  Actually she made it two ways:  the first was with onion and apple, which tempered the sourness - that's  I the recipe here and the other was a sweet and sour version with tomato sauce - it's also delicious.  I've tried many kinds in the 15 years I've been teaching in Germany and learned to like it, but Grandma Szarek's versions are the only ones that I really love.  Sauerkraut is so good for you. Strangely, it is especially good for getting rid of canker sores and of course, for aiding digestion too.

Once I decided that I was going to make Sauerkraut, I went to the local butcher and got some smoked pork chops and a little bacon too.  I like Sauerkraut with mashed potatoes, but I have to admit that white potatoes with yellowish Sauerkraut on a white plate doesn't really look very exciting!  Luckily the smoked pork chops bring in some color.  Next time, I am going to add some chives and parsley to those potatoes. Anyway, Sauerkraut is quite easy to make.  I use white wine instead of beer because that's what my grandmother-in-law used - I think it must have been the French influence in Poland - and, the apples and onions mellow the Sauerkraut so much. The only thing that I have changed is that I add a tiny bit of cornstarch and water so that the sauce coats the Sauerkraut and makes it smoother. If you are a purist, you don't have to add it or you could use a pat of butter  or cook more bacon in it or add some other fatty pork in instead.  I steamed the smoked pork chop on top instead of pan frying them and it was a wonderful German-Polish dinner!

Grandma Szarek's Sauerkraut

2 heaping cups of Fresh Sauerkraut, preferably unsterilized, rinsed and drained
2 slices of raw bacon, cut up into small pieces with scissors
Extra Oil if necessary
1 medium onion, minced fine
1 medium sweet apple, peeled, seeded and minced fine (I used a Fuji)
1 cup white wine (I used a Reisling)
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 bay leaf
4 cloves
2 teaspoons cornstarch mixed with enough water to make a slurry
Salt and Pepper to taste

Put bacon in a large pot and cook until the fat renders.  There should be about 2 Tablespoons of bacon fat in the pan.  If not, add extra oil.  Then put in onion and apple and cook until soft.  Add in white wine and chicken broth and bring to a boil, then put in Sauerkraut and bring back to a boil.  Turn down heat and put the bay leaf on top with the cloves on top of that.  Simmer for about 20 minutes and remove bay leaf and cloves.  If using smoked pork chops or sausage, stir Sauerkraut and place on top and steam for an additional 10 minutes.  Remove and add in the cornstarch slurry. Season to taste with salt, if neccessary (I usually don't add it) and sprinkle with fresh ground pepper.

Five Element Analysis

Cabbage is an Earth food and the mashed potatoes are Earthy too. But Sauerkraut is also fermented so that it becomes more of a Wood food and the chicken broth contributes even more, making this a very Wood dish.  The white wine and apple bring in the Fire Element, whereas the bay leaf and cloves bring in just a bit of the Metal Element and the onion adds even more. The Water Element is found only in the small amount of bacon and needs support, so serving it with a smoked pork chop or sausages that are Water meats makes this a very balanced meal!

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