Sauerkraut and Sausage

Sauerkraut and sausages, with a bowl of white beans, cornbread and turnip greens

Sauerkraut (/ˈsaʊ.ərkraʊt/German: [ˈzaʊɐˌkʁaʊt] (listen), lit. “sour cabbage”) is finely cut raw cabbage that has been fermented by various lactic acid bacteria. It has a long shelf life and a distinctive sour flavor, both of which result from the lactic acid formed when the bacteria ferment the sugars in the cabbage leaves.

Nearly every country in north-central Europe has some version of this dish. I’m sure that the version commonly served with soup beans in Appalachia is generally a pretty basic version with just whatever sort of sausage was affordable and some sauerkraut cooked together. I got a little carried away researching recipes though, so my version also contains potatoes and apples. Both of those ingredients come from various European versions of the recipe, although I don’t recall if I saw them both in the same recipe anywhere.

Sauerkraut is, of course, salted, fermented cabbage. It lasts for months so it’s a great way to preserve cabbage for the winter. It’s also got all those good for your guts bacteria fermented foods are known for (although cooking it likely destroys most of them).

Of course sauerkraut’s strong flavor turns a lot of people off. I can’t say that my recipe will convert everyone, but incorporating smoky fatty goodness from bacon and sausage and some sweetness from the apple does help balance some of that krauty flavor. Rinsing the sauerkraut a couple times also removes a lot of the strongest flavor (If you happen to love the sauerkraut flavor, feel free to skip that step)

I used smoked sausage or kielbasa, but this will work with pretty much any fresh or smoked sausage, even hot dogs. More flavorful varieties like Italian sausage or chorizo probably wouldn’t work well with the sauerkraut flavor, so use what you’ve got and enjoy.

Sauerkraut and Sausages.

Serves: 5+
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: ~50 minutes
Total: 1 hour

1 ½ Tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
1 ¼ lb. sausage (smoked sausage, kielbasa,bratwurst, hot dogs…),sliced thick
6 ½ oz bacon, cut into ½ inch pieces
4-5 medium red potatoes, diced
2 small onions, sliced thin
1 large apple, sliced thin
20 oz. sauerkraut, drained and rinsed
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 ¼ teaspoon caraway seed
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt

¼ cup sour cream
1 cup apple juice or apple cider
1 cup water
1 ½ teaspoons whole grain dijon mustard
1 ½ Tablespoons vinegar
1 ½ Tablespoons olive oil, in place of canola
1 cup chicken broth
2 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 bay leaves
1 cup white wine

Heat oil in a large skillet. Add sausage and cook until it starts to get crispy around the edges. Remove sausage from pan and set aside. 

Add bacon to pan and cook until it starts to render. Add potatoes and cook until browned on all sides. Use a slotted spoon to remove bacon and potatoes from pan and set aside. 

Drain off excess fat from the pan, leaving 1-2 Tablespoons. Sauté onion in bacon fat for about 5 minutes, until it begins to soften. Add apples and sauté for another 5 minutes or so. Return sausage, bacon and potatoes to pan, then add sauerkraut, black pepper, caraway seed, brown sugar and salt. 

Continue to sauté for another 5-10 minutes until everything is heated through and potatoes are tender.
Add one of the liquids listed in the optional ingredients and allow to simmer for 1-2 or more hours until sauerkraut is tender. 

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