Thursday, January 08, 2009

Choucroute


Basically what you want to do is get a whole lot of sauerkraut, and whatever meat you can find. The meats you choose will depend on your budget, and your local offerings. I adore pork trotters and always include them. You don't need any special equipment to serve a spectacular choucroute for pennies a serving, if you've got the belt cinched tight.

Sauerkraut: a necessity. This is sold everywhere in France at charcuterie counters, either raw or cooked. It sells here for about €1 a kilo. You can do it at home if that floats your boat, recipes abound. If you can find a good source for your sauerkraut, the battle is won. Even if you can only find canned sauerkraut, you can still serve a nice choucroute. Just make sure you give it a good rinse before you start. No matter what form it is in, make it good at home by adding seasonings. Even if you are working with the pre-cooked, you should still throw in your own additions. To each pound, add:

1 California bay leaf or 2 French bay leaves
2-3 sprigs of dried thyme
10 peppercorns
3 cloves
2 cloves garlic, whole, peeled
1 onion, cut into wedges
12 juniper berries (this is very important, because it gives a special flavor that I associate with a nice hot Choucroute on a winter's evening.)
a couple of glasses of Riesling (a dry white Alsacian wine) or if you are in a pinch, a couple of beers.
(These are guidelines. Work with what you have.)

Throw this into a cast iron pot that has a lid, give it a turn here and there to mix things in, bring the liquid to a simmer, and then throw your meats on top. All kinds of pork products will do. Count a half pound per person. Thick cut bacon, whatever local sausages you can get your hands on, smoked meats, pork trotters, the works. Cover up your heavy cast iron pot and put it in a hot oven, and braise for as long as it takes to cook the meats. Me, I usually let it cook for an hour or so, building up the heat at the end to give it a good browning. The steam from the saurkraut will cook the meats. take off the lid for the last 10-15 minutes and brown them at the end. This is completely feasible in a wood fired oven, which adds a nice smoky taste as well.

Serve with Alsacian wine or beer.

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17 Comments:

Blogger Maryann said...

I like this, Lucy! The photo makes me want to cook this up TODAY. xox

4:19 PM, January 08, 2009  
Blogger Lori in PA said...

The PA Dutch people here in my corner of the world eat pork and saurkraut on New Year's Day to ensure good luck throughout the coming year. Because I have a "mixed marriage" -- The Husband is PA Dutch and my family is from the south, we have our pork/saurkraut much as you described AND a black-eyed pea salad. As a matter of fact, we had enough saurkraut left over after our NY Day meal last week that I got another small pork butt at the grocery a little while ago. It is roasting itself in a low oven for the rest of the day. I'll refrigerate it and run it through the oven again with the saurkraut in a day or two for another cheap and warming meal.

5:23 PM, January 08, 2009  
Anonymous Amy said...

I loooove choucroute! My boyfriend's grandmother always makes it when we visit her in the Moselle in winter. She's very generous with the servings, and won't take no for an answer! :) We usually have to be rolled out of there...It's fantastic.

5:52 PM, January 08, 2009  
Blogger Sarah said...

Yum. It must be the pregnancy hormones, not to mention the love for any all pork related and/or smoked meat products, plus my love for pickled items, but that looks amazing! I may have to make that very, very soon.

Thank you!

Best,
Sarah

6:33 PM, January 08, 2009  
Blogger A. said...

Heaven.

9:02 PM, January 08, 2009  
Blogger antosia said...

Lucy,
in Poland we prepare saurkraut in the other way. We prepare "bigos" 2-3 days also with meat and onion we use peppercorns, cloves and piment, dry mushrooms (not champignon)last day we add dry plumms and red wine. The best way to finish "bigos" is baking it.
Best regards,

9:19 PM, January 08, 2009  
Blogger meet me at mikes - crafty! said...

Ooh... I can feel my arteries hardening as we speak. Mouthwateringly delicious photo, Lucy! Y.U.M.

10:41 PM, January 08, 2009  
Anonymous Jamie said...

Lucy : Happy New Year and I have been looking for you. Glad to see the post! My husband loves choucroute and will be thrilled when I tell him that I have found a great recipe! Thanks!

6:49 AM, January 10, 2009  
Anonymous emiglia said...

I've never had choucroute, but I once listened to a man wax poetic about it over the phone on a 5-hour train ride from Cannes to Paris. Guess I'd better test this recipe... thanks!

10:44 PM, January 11, 2009  
Blogger breadchick said...

Here I was just planning my meal stops for my visit to Paris next week and one of the places I always have dinner have this on their menu.

I have always planned on ordering it one of my visits and I think this post just pushed me over.

5:59 AM, January 12, 2009  
Blogger Nicole said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:35 PM, January 12, 2009  
Blogger maggie said...

What a gorgeous photo. Wow.

8:53 PM, January 14, 2009  
Anonymous Holly said...

That looks and sounds amazing. I think I am going to pick up some Saurkraut today. Thanks for bring back a classic dish to me.

10:12 PM, January 14, 2009  
Blogger Larraine said...

My husband and I lived in Germany for 7 years - from 1972-79. We were young and recently married. He was offered a civil service job right out of the army that involved us moving to Germany for a few years. Could I make the sacrifice? To quote Frances McDorman "You BETCHA!" We had a great time. The first year we were in a small city called Worms. Then we moved to Zweibruecken which is an area that has gone back and forth between the Germans and French for years. We were only an hour from the French border at Alsace. This is Choucroute territory and we had it often. It is absolutely wonderful: a very hearty dish.

1:47 AM, January 15, 2009  
OpenID bubbleandsqueak.fr said...

WOW I love this, and the gorgeous photo, this is what choucroute should be like, I always buy mine in a tin from the Supermarche, this is inspiring me to make my own,
Lune x

5:16 PM, January 15, 2009  
Blogger racheld said...

I learned this method from, of all people, Zsa Zsa Gabor!! She was telling Johnny Carson all about the delicious flavors and using all kind of "pork meats" and sauerkraut, along with caraway and peppercorns.

And I'm a caraway girl, myself, in other things than choucroute---I love the little "crunch" between the teeth, and the tiny flash of licorice flavor.

It's lovely to see you using cast iron for this---that's a wonderful way to go. I like to think you have a black skillet, as well.

10:17 PM, January 15, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I followed your recipe and it is delicious. The Juniper berries make such a difference. I am French and my husband's grandparents were German. We like choukroute and we always wandered what was missing in ours. whoever follows this recipe exactly will eat a great choukroute. I am preparing it today for father's day. Thank you.

8:55 PM, June 20, 2009  

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