When the weather starts to turn cold, it's time to break out the old sausage and sauerkraut recipe. This one is relatively quick... ready in about 30 minutes by using ready-made sauerkraut. When we add in the yummy bratwurst, crispy potatoes, savory onions and bacon it really skyrockets in flavor. If you love sausage and sauerkraut, stick with me through this satisfyingly simple recipe!
This hearty sausage and sauerkraut recipe is: Gluten Free, Paleo, Low Carb and delightful on a cold winter day.
SAUSAGE AND SAUERKRAUT... WITH ONIONS, PAN SEARED POTATOES AND BACON.
Yes, we are going to use a couple ingredients in this recipe that are not homemade and yes... it will be absolutely delicious. Let's talk first about the sausage. My suggestion is to use bratwurst in this recipe rather than smoked or garlic (Hungarian style) sausage. I like how the more mild flavor of the bratwurst works with the sauerkraut. Plus, you can choose which style of bratwurst you want to use... beer brats, standard brats or whatever else is available. I used rosemary and garlic brats once for this recipe and it was fantastic!
Next, let's talk about the sauerkraut. Although we are going to use store bought kraut, not all store bought kraut is the same. If you can only find the sauerkraut that is in a jar on a non-refrigerated shelf... I might suggest that you walk away from this recipe. I find that shelf stable krauts are really hard to stomach (in more ways than one!). My suggestion is to pick up some chilled sauerkraut like Snowfloss or Bubbies. Snowfloss comes in a bag and is about ¼ of the price of Bubbies... but I really do enjoy the flavor of Bubbies. I eat it straight out of the jar.
To elevate the flavor of the store bought sausage and sauerkraut, we're going to brown up the potatoes in duck fat first. They will be super delicious and the duck fat adds to the overall unctuousness of the dish. Then we add in the onions to caramelize them slightly with shallots and garlic... Can't you just sense the flavors building on one another? Then we add the secret weapon for all sauerkraut: bacon. Just enough to keep things interesting and delightful.
HOW TO COOK SAUERKRAUT
I like to treat sauerkraut with respect. It's a unique ingredient that needs to be handled properly to really draw out all the potential. Here's my suggestion on how to cook sauerkraut:
- First cook the potatoes in some duck fat. The potatoes help to absorb some of the bitterness from the sauerkraut.
- Next, let's add in the bratwurst. There will be some leftover duck fat in the pan that will help to brown the brats, enhancing their flavors. This step isn't meant to cook them through... just get them nicely browned. Keep your pan HOT during this step.
- Add in the aromatics and reduce the heat. Onions, shallots and garlic. The smell will be intoxicating. I like making the onions really nicely browned. Stir frequently so the garlic doesn't burn, or add the garlic in later in the cooking process.
- After that, it's time to bring in the star ingredient. The kraut. First, make sure that the sauerkraut is DRAINED. If you have the time, I would suggest draining and RINSING the kraut. The flavors will still be intense and you'll remove a lot of the salty brine. When you add the kraut to the pan, move the other ingredients to the outside of the pan first, creating a ring for the sauerkraut to sit in. Turn the heat up to medium high. Cook for 4-5 minutes, letting some of the moisture escape the pan.
- Now we are going to COVER the pan and reduce the heat. Sauerkraut needs about 15 minutes to really get the flavors moving. We also need this time for the potatoes to cook all the way through. The aroma that will start to emanate from the pan is truly wonderful. Stir to combine the ingredients all together after 5 minutes. Then stir every 5 minutes until the potatoes are cooked through.
- Serve the sausage and sauerkraut hot with a dollop of sour cream and some paprika.
WHAT IS SAUERKRAUT?
Here's the first word I would use to describe what sauerkraut is: wonderful. Maybe this one: delicious. But in all seriousness, here's what sauerkraut actually is:
- Sauerkraut is pickled cabbage. Yep... just cabbage and salt that has been fermented.
- To make sauerkraut, first you need some shredded cabbage, some salt and a fermenting crock to keep the oxygen out once the fermentation begins. I know there is more to making kraut than this, but it is the general idea.
- I've had the distinct pleasure of making sauerkraut with a friend. Here's the three stages he told me about:
- First stage involves the release of carbon dioxide which creates an oxygen free environment in the crock. So cool.
- The next stage takes a couple weeks. The salt slowly pulls the water from the cabbage as the fermentation continues.
- In the last stage, the fermentation completes. You'll know this when there are no bubbles in the batch!
- One thing I learned from the process is to never stir the kraut while it is fermenting. Whoops.
- The most important item to know about making your own sauerkraut is to learn from someone who has lots of experience doing it. There are a lot of variables which can ruin the batch and make it very dangerous to eat!
Although I'm not a food scientist or nutritionist, I've been told by another friend who is a nutritionist that sauerkraut has a tremendous amount of probiotics due to the fermentation process. I was also told that the high temperature canning process for shelf-stable sauerkraut kills those good probiotics. Yet another reason to buy the ones from the cold case!
QUICK COOKING TIP: If you just read the last section on what sauerkraut is, you'll note that most sauerkraut is fermented in salt. Some is done in vinegar to cheat the process... but that is a whole different story. Here's what I'm getting at: be careful how much you adjust the seasoning in this dish. I do recommend rinsing the sauerkraut before cooking it to reduce the salt content a little bit.
Additionally, we are going to add in some yummy bacon to the mix too. Most bacon is salt cured as well. Between the bacon and sauerkraut we have a salt on salt combination. I would recommend just adding the pinch of salt to the onions so they start to release their water and then hold off adding any additional salt until the very end of the cooking process. The potatoes will absorb some of the salt, but not if too much is added.
Ok. So I have written more than I ever thought I would about sauerkraut. Now it is time to get cooking!
FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE SAUSAGE AND SAUERKRAUT RECIPE:
Some days my body just craves some old world cooking... think sausage and sauerkraut, stuffed cabbage, chicken paprikash or an alternate take on this recipe: butter cabbage and sausage. I love it all.
I've been missing authentic old world cooking for a long time. My grandmother used to cook these recipes for me when I was little. I miss her and I miss the food that she made. To this day I boil my cottage ham. Then slice it thin with just a touch of mustard. It makes me smile.
In the last five years, I've had new inspiration for old world cooking in my life. My friend Michele came along and made me some incredible old world dishes at my catering company. She has incredible talent in the kitchen. Her cooking comes from the heart, just like my grandmother's. She's my muse when it comes to these types of recipes. When I get stuck, I think to myself "what would Michele do?" and the answer is right there.
What are some of your favorite old world recipes? Do they bring back memories for you too? Share some with us and have a wonderful day in the kitchen.