Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Sweet Sauerkraut

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This is really a "sweet"kraut and not sauer- or "sour"kraut because in the end, that is what it is: sweet. It is not the traditional sauerkraut that many think of-- the kind that comes piled high on hot dogs, a classic Chicago topping-- or on the side of a plate at a BBQ. This is Sweet Latvian Sauerkraut.

This is a 'kraut that is spiked with brown sugar and slow cooked with fruit and vegetables so the natural sugars escape in the cooking. It is the kind of 'kraut that even if the bag or jar you extrude it from states "ready-to-eat" or “warm and serve” you dare not sit and eat it until it has been subjected to your love for a good few hours.

This is the kind of 'kraut that stinks up your whole house for days (and eventually your mother will move the cooking process to a portable stovetop in the garage, leaving you craving the smell that usually accompanies the dish). When you are younger still, you will think this dish to be a little too bitter, but you know you must love it, and will always force a little down your throat because it is the dish that your grandmother makes for every family meal, no matter the season. It is a dish that is soul warming, and smells like home. It is the dish your boyfriend will take to work, and when reheated, he will have people salivating around him, begging for a bite, praying for the recipe.

The recipe below is made with kielbasa. It is also a sweet accompaniment to my grandma’s perfect Latvian Pancake. It can be eaten on hotdogs, or hamburgers (in place of carmelized onions possibly). Or, in the preferred method of many in my family: slathered on top of real, good, Latvian bread (or the next best substitute). It is also good with a cold beer.

Serves 4. Prep time= 30 min. Cook time= at least 2 hours.
1- 32 oz bag sauerkraut (or equivalent jar)
2 medium-sized carrots, shredded
1 apple or pear (sweet and juicy apple or slightly sour: from fuji to grannysmith), chopped
1 medium white onion, chopped
3 Tbl brown sugar
1 Tbl paprika
½ cup apple cider, apple juice, or beer
1 package (2 12-inch) kielbasa (I used turkey kielbasa for this one)

1) Turn on the broiler and begin to warm a saucepot on the stovetop, medium heat.
2) Put the kielbasa on a pan with juices. Slice down the center. Broil about 10 min or until the top opens, juices bubble, and the skin darkens.
3) While kielbasa is cooking, add 1 Tbl butter to the saucepot. Add onions and sauté 5 min. Add carrots and apple. Sauté 10 min. (Remove kielbasa from oven while this is warming.) Add sauerkraut, brown sugar, paprika. Stir well.
4) Cut kielbasa into bite-sized pieces. Add to pot, stir. Turn heat to medium-low, leave slightly uncovered, allow to cook at least 2 hours. The longer you can stand, the better, allowing the aroma fill the home. Stir periodically. Serve with true hearty and flavorful rye or pumperknickle bread, preferably from Latvia, buttered and toasted.
Note: If you will be cooking this more than two hours, check at least 1 time every half hour. Add more juice if 'kraut appears too dry.
NOTE: I have received many an angry phone call from uncles and grandma: "Where is the caraway???" Well, I don't really like caraway in my sauerkraut. But you may add 1-1/2-2 Tbl to your dish.

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