I made one of my best soups ever using rinsed sauerkraut instead of my usual shredded cabbage. Deeply browned diced kielbasa (6 oz.), then added a big chopped onion to deglaze the soup pot. Into this went 2 qts water, 2 cups of apple cider, a tsp of minced garlic, a heaping tbsp of chicken base, 2 cups each of diced celery and onion, a tsp of caraway seed and a big grind of pepper, plus a quart jar of kraut, rinsed first. Simmered until the carrots were tender, and added 2 cups of already-cooked white beans at the end. I didn't measure anything so this is all approximate. Made nearly 4 quarts and could have been more had I used a larger pot - I could easily have had more chicken broth as the soup is packed with solids ("stoup", as I called it long before Rachael Ray and her "stewps"). I've been putting whole-grain crackers and a slice of Swiss cheese in the bottom of a big soup bowl, ladling in the soup, and nuking, then stirring it up before diving in.
We do this meal every year. Last year I found this recipe here-- sorry not to have noted the source! But it's wonderful and you could certainly add potatoes and carrots. And I highly recommend the variety of sausages, and maybe a smoked porkchop too. Mmmm.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 pound smoked slab bacon, rind removed and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces
2 medium-large onions, sliced
9 cups drained sauerkraut (about 5 to 6 pounds), rinsed and squeezed drys
1 tablespoon juniper berries
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
6 sprigs parsley
6 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 bottle white wine
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 pounds assorted smoked and precooked fresh sausages (we used smoked kielbasa cut into thick slices, frankfurters, and baernwurst, and precooked fresh bratwurst, weisswurst, and chipolata)
1 pound piece smoked boneless pork loin (Canadian bacon), cut into 6 slices
2 1/2 pounds small waxy-style potatoes, peeled
Serving suggestion: Coarse-grained mustard
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Heat the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the bacon and onion and cook, stirring, until soft. Add the sauerkraut and stir to combine.
In a swath of cheesecloth, combine the juniper berries, peppercorns, caraway seeds, parsley, thyme, cloves, and bay leaves and tie into a bundle with a piece of kitchen twine. Add the spice bundle to the sauerkraut mixture. Pour in the wine and add enough water to cover the sauerkraut. Stir to combine and bring to a boil. Cover pan tightly with foil and braise in middle of oven for 2 hours. (The sauerkraut may be prepared up to this point 1 day ahead, cooled, uncovered, and chilled, covered with plastic wrap.)
Heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat and, working in batches, brown the sausages.
Uncover the casserole and nestle the sausages, pork loin, and potatoes in the sauerkraut, partially submerging them. Recover and continue braising for 30 minutes more.
Serve the choucroute at the table in the Dutch oven or transfer to a large serving platter.