If your only exposure to the traditionally German, fermented cabbage known as sauerkraut is an addition to your brat at the ballpark, the full sauerkraut culinary experience is yet to be opened for you. Slow cooking kraut with a meaty cut or well-made fresh sausage mellows the tang and brings out a fullness of flavors. The transformation is as dramatic as raw onions slowly caramelized to bring out layers of flavor and sweetness.
The kraut of choice for a recent preparation of this dish was an artisan offering from The Brinery – Jupiter’s Orbit. I have also prepared this dish with a store bought, Krispy Kraut brand from GLK Foods in Appleton, WI, which is the largest producer of sauerkraut in the world under a great variety of names. With store bought kraut, I recommend a quick rinse in cold water, but The Brinery product required no rinse in advance.
For a recent dish, we brined and slow-smoked thick cut pork chops. We have also purchased thick-cut smoked chops from our favorite butcher shop. Smoked ham would work along with grilled seared pork chops. The addition of a couple venison sausages were excellent. If you have access to high-quality kielbasa, that is also an excellent option here.
While the meat is being prepared, add one medium onion, sliced thin and saute with a 1/2 tablespoon of dried thyme in a tablespoon of salted butter over medium heat until soft, then core and slice three Gingersnap apples (or similar golden apple). After the apples have softened, about 4 minutes, add the sauerkraut to the skillet and saute for another few minutes. At this point, pile the sauerkraut over your meat of choice in a 13 x 9 pan and bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.
The result will be moist chops and a complexity to the sauerkraut that is not experienced in the raw state. This is simple and traditional. It suggests more interesting options for sauerkraut. A good friend has a family tradition of adding it to home-made pizza, which may not be Great Lakes Cuisine, but it sure is an intriguing use of an under-appreciated ingredient.