Tag Archives: sauerkraut

Smoked Beer Sauerkraut

Get out your Rauchbier, folks! It’s smoked beer sauerkraut time!

Not long ago I was in Oklahoma getting ready for a backyard grillfest with friends I hadn’t seen in a while. We decided to keep it relatively simple. Plenty of bratwurst from Siegi’s Sausage Factory in Tulsa would do the trick fine.

We also just so happened to have some homemade sauerkraut in the fridge. What could be better with bratwurst than a nice, smoky sauerkraut?IMG_1574 I was just about slice up some bacon and get the pork hocks out when my partner in crime reminded me that we had a few vegetarian guests coming. She suggested I make a vegetarian sauerkraut. But … but … I want a nice, smoky sauerkraut, I protested. And besides, we had some hearty grain salads at the ready.

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I’ve made sauerkraut with wine, I’ve made it with hefty wheat wines and Weizenbocks, I’ve made it with gueuze. I’ve even made it vegetarian. But how would I satisfy my craving on this particular day for a deeply rich and smoky sauerkraut without the meat? A light bulb went off in my head, triggered by the Aecht Schlenkerla I spied in the fridge earlier in the day.IMG_5163

So far so good. But adding Rauchbier alone wasn’t going to do the trick. I needed to get that depth of flavour in there somehow. Enter caramelized onions. Lots of them! And lots of butter. Both help round out the beer’s contribution to the dish.

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Unlike my light and zesty Choucroute à la Gueuze recipe I shared a few years back, this sauerkraut is Central European through and through: butter in place of the bacon, duck, or goose fat, and cooked for several hours. Spice amounts are approximate. As far as the sauerkraut goes, use fresh sauerkraut from the deli. Better yet, make your own. All you need is some advanced planning and enough time to let the critters do their thing –– not unlike homebrewing, really. (Details follow the recipe).

Smoked beer sauerkraut is a perfect side dish during grilling season, but it’s also suitable as a main course to help warm those dark days of winter. Even if the base for this recipe is vegetarian, nothing’s stopping you from adding some of those bratwurst fresh from the grill. Whatever the season, pour yourself a Rauchbier and raise your glass in the general direction of Bamberg.IMG_5086

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs. fresh sauerkraut, rinsed
  • ¼ cup butter, slowly browned in a saucepan before using in the main dish
  • 4 onions, cut in half and sliced relatively thinly (too thinly and they’ll burn)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • About ½ a bottle of Aecht Schlenkerla Ur-Märzen (I use Aecht Schlenkerla because it’s one of the more intense Rauchbiers out there. Grätzer/Grodziskie, for example, would be too subtle for this dish.)
  • 1 tbsp juniper berries, lightly crushed with the back of a knife
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp celery seeds
  • 3-4 cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Sea salt or kosher salt to taste. The amount you use will depend on how briny your sauerkraut is. Careful that you don’t over salt.
  • Cheesecloth and cooking twine
  • Accompaniments (boiled young potatoes, or sausages for your carnivorous friends)

Directions

Rinse the sauerkraut according to personal preference. Tie the juniper, cloves, coriander, fennel, celery seeds, and bay leaves in cheesecloth to make a spice bag.

Now crack yourself a beer and start browning your butter over low heat. In the meantime, set a heavy-bottomed casserole over medium-low heat and cover with a fine layer of vegetable oil (you’ll add your browned butter later so that it doesn’t burn). To truly caramelize your onions, you’ll need a good forty-five minutes. Add about a third of the onions to start, and keep adding as the onions reduce down.

If patience isn’t your thing, you can get by with about twenty minutes at a slightly higher heat and still get some richness into your sauerkraut, but going the distance will add that much more depth. When you’ve gotten the onions to where you want them, swirl in your browned butter, add the garlic and cook till it’s aromatic.

Raise heat slightly, deglaze the casserole with your Rauchbier, add the sauerkraut and spice bag, and let everything come to a gentle boil. Check salt and add if necessary, then cover the casserole and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for the next two to three hours.IMG_4932

Beer pairing: Any smoked beer. Porters and stouts would also go well with this dish, and I’m willing to bet that a dunkles Hefeweizen, a Weizenbock, or a dunkles Bock would work as well.

Turning Cabbage into Sauerkraut

Find a dense cabbage, remove the outer leaves, core it, and then slice it thinly. For every five pounds of cabbage you’ll need about 3.5 tablespoons of salt (roughly 2-3% of the weight of the cabbage).

If you don’t own a crock, the fermenting fabrication in Sandor Ellix Katz’s Wild Fermentation works just as well: two food-grade containers of equal size. Just fill the bottom container with alternating layers of cabbage and salt, then fill the top one with water to weigh it down. Top it off with a clean pillow case to keep the bugs out, store the container in a cool, dry place, wait about three to five weeks, and Bob’s your uncle.IMG_5046

Endnotes:

A deli and German-style restaurant in one, Siegi’s Sausage Factory in Tulsa is one of the best places in the U.S. to get German-style sausages. Look them up if you’re passing through Oklahoma on the I-44 some day (8104 S. Sheridan Rd., Tulsa, OK, 74133).

Related Tempest Articles:

Dining Down the Holiday Stretch: Choucroute à la Gueuze

Down the Rabbit Hole: Doppelbock-Braised Rabbit

The Fonduementals of Beer and Cider: Recipes to Warm Your Weekend

Bourbon Squared: Maple-Glazed Pork Belly Meets Barrel-Aged Beer

Images: F.D. Hofer

© 2016 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All rights reserved.

Dining Down the Holiday Homestretch: Choucroute à la Gueuze

Sauerkraut is one of those dishes that can assume multiple incarnations, some on the light side, and some with enough goose fat to sink the Bismarck. After three solid days of eating rich foods over the course of that American holiday of sublime overindulgence, I’m feeling very much inclined to look to the lighter end of the spectrum and to the west of the Rhine.

For this variation on Alsatian-style sauerkraut, Choucroute à la Gueuze (or just plain sour beer sauerkraut, if you prefer), I use gueuze in place of white wine for a zesty crispness that’ll cut through all that turkey and mashed potatoes. I also bundle up a slightly different spice blend than I do when making my soporific duck fat German-style sauerkraut, spices that come together in a flavourful ensemble with the citric tartness of the gueuze. The amounts are approximate – spice as conservatively or intensely as you like.

One of my many sauerkraut variations - this one made with Boulevard's Harvest Wheat Wine

One of my sauerkraut variations – this one made with Boulevard’s Harvest Wheat Wine

Versatility is the hallmark of this dish. You can serve it up with sausages and ham, or you can opt instead for a seafood variation using scallops and halibut. Prepare these simply: salt, pepper, and a quick sauté in a mixture of olive oil and butter before garnishing the platter. You can also add mussels near the end of cooking to echo that other great beer accompaniment, moules-frites. Boiled young potatoes add just enough heft, and sliced, parboiled fennel bulb rounds out the dish.

Vegetarians need not feel left out in the cold either. For depth of flavour, substitute one pound of mushrooms for the bacon and skip the butter if you’re vegan. Crimini mushrooms work well, but chanterelles or oyster mushrooms add a finer touch. Caramelize the mushrooms in a separate skillet, and then combine with the rest of the ingredients when adding the sauerkraut.

The humble cabbage is, of course, the star attraction. You can use canned sauerkraut in an absolute pinch, but a bag or jar of fresh sauerkraut will flatter the dish all the more. Better yet, make your own. All you need is some advanced planning, a little time, and a sharp knife. (Details follow the recipe).

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs. fresh sauerkraut, rinsed
  • ¼ lb. slab of bacon, diced
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 onion, cut in half and sliced thinly
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 green apples (peeled, cored, and diced)
  • 1 cup gueuze or lambic (a light-coloured beer like Lindemans Cuvée René works well)
  • 1 tbsp. juniper berries
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 tsp. black peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp. coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp. fennel seeds
  • ½ tsp. cumin seeds
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp. tarragon, chopped (keep a few sprigs aside for garnish)
  • sea salt or kosher salt to taste
  • cheesecloth and cooking twine
  • sausages, meats, seafood, potatoes, and vegetables of your choice

Directions

Preheat oven to 325º F. Rinse the sauerkraut and prep the onion and apples. Tie the juniper, cloves, coriander, fennel, cumin, and bay leaves in cheesecloth to make a spice bag.

In the meantime, render the bacon fat in a heavy casserole set over just shy of medium heat. Swirl in the butter, raise heat to medium-high, and sauté the onions until they turn translucent. Add garlic and apple and sauté another minute or two.

Raise heat slightly, deglaze the casserole with the gueuze, and add the sauerkraut and spice bag, letting everything come to a gentle boil. Check salt and add if necessary, then cover the casserole and place it in the oven.

You could easily let this dish cook for up to three hours for a very tender, nearly melting sauerkraut, but since we’re going for a light touch, an hour will yield sauerkraut with some crunch. You could also braise the sauerkraut on the stove top over low heat, but cooking it in the oven frees up the stove top so you can prep the other fine foods that will garnish your dish.

Remove from the oven and stir in the tarragon. Cover and let sit for another minute or two before garnishing the casserole or turning the contents out onto a platter.

Serve with gueuze, lambic, Flanders red ale, or Oud Bruin. White wines like Rieslings or Gewürztraminers are perfect accompaniments as well.

Turning Cabbage into Sauerkraut

Find a dense cabbage (go for purple cabbage if you’d like some added colour), remove the outer leaves, core it, and then slice it thinly. You could use a food processor, but the result comes out like watery coleslaw. For every five pounds of cabbage you’ll need about 3.5 tablespoons of salt (roughly 2-3% of the weight of the cabbage).

If you own a crock, great. If not, this fermenting fabrication works just as well: two food-grade containers of equal size.

IMG_9497Simple, eh? Just fill the bottom container with alternating layers of cabbage and salt, then fill the top one with water to weigh it down. Top it off with a clean pillow case, draw some whiskers on it, and you’ll keep the ambient critters at bay. Store the container in a cool, dry place and wait about three weeks.

© 2013 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All rights reserved.