Do You Choucroute? (Alsatian Choucroute -- or Other Variants)
- alkapal Nov 6, 2010 03:43 AM
"[I]t was the choucroute ... that impressed me. It didn't look like much, just a pile of cooked cabbage, but the taste was amazingly complex. Crisper textured than the typical German style that I usually prefer, and very full bodied, full of deep intense savory flavours balanced just so of mild sweetness and acidity, a far cry from the rough and overly sour pickled cabbage that passes for choucroute in Paris.
It is quite mysterious to me how they make such delicious choucroute in Alsace, but talking to a wine producer a few days later (more of that in another post), she revealed that one of the steps involved steeping and rinsing the cabbage in the local wine."
This was from a nice (and wide-ranging) blog "Umami."
Read more: http://umami.typepad.com/umami/2010/0...
Can anyone talk more about this wonder-choucroute? How do you make your choucroute, and how do you serve it? With which meats and adult beverages?
I'm the only one in my house will touch choucroute, so I buy mine from the local charcutier, who is from Alsace.
Their chou is cooked in Alsatian beer, and it's sublime - tart without being sour, and spiced to perfection with juniper berries. (they have a sign in ALL CAPS saying that you should NOT add white wine to it when reheating -- beer or water is okay, but NO WINE)
i've had it with the beer in the cooking, but i'm not sure if they used it before, in preparing the cabbage.
i don't recall having it with wine.
it is funny that your charcutier (also from alsace) says NO WINE when the bloggers' source said it was the secret ingredient. LOL. maybe it was disinformation. ha!
As best I remember, at Maison des Tanneurs in Strasbourg, one can get it made with wine or Champagne. There would be several meats in both: two kinds of sausage (smoother and rougher texture), fresh pork, and smoked pork (hock in cheaper, ham in fancier. It would be drunk with Alsatian wine. Served with boiled potatoes.
the sausages are a hot dog/knackwurst type, and a larger cured sausage more like kielbasa (not spicy).
No fresh pork - it's all demi-sel, which is salt-cured...and none of it will be smoked in a "real" choucroute (darned tasty, though, so I usually use it!)...then a big chunk of solid bacon (poitrine).
And don't forget the grainy mustard.
re: hill food
You can do that, too, but a good grainy mustard is a great condiment on the plate.
All of the winter foods from the mountain regions -- choucroute, raclette, fondue, baeckhoffe, tartiflette -- just beg for a strong grainy mustard as accompaniment. From another thread, look for gingerbread mustard for these -- it sounds strange, but the flavor marries extremely well with these dishes.
I've always thought of it as one of those "just gotta do it til you do it right dishes" and don't hold back on the early simmer in wine, cross reference rohtkohl for tips. you really can't go wrong with a recipe that requires 6+ hours.
when it's right it is as sunshine says, indeed sublime.
simmer on and off for a few days if you can, (personally I'd serve with a fried potato variety and beer or maybe a dry riesling) although maybe a semi-sweet-red would work well (that kraut leaves it kinda perky)
yeah re-heat only with broth or beer.
Here's the recipe (roughly! translated) from my copy of "Toutes les Bases et Les Recettes de la Bonne Cuisine" by Amelie Bar, ISBN 978-2-7373-3586-0, published by Editions OUEST-FRANCE
Choucroute a l'Alsacienne (for 6 people):
1.2-1.5 kg (2-1/2-3 pounds) raw cabbage (200-250g/6-8 oz per person), sliced very thin
2 cloves garlic
1 bacon rind -- the rind from a hunk of salt pork
20g (1 oz) lard, goose fat, or water (recommended)
50cl (2 cups) dry white wine (riesling or gewurtztraminer)
1 kg demi-sel pork (2-1/2 lbs salt-cured pork - can be hocks, a hunk of ham, etc)
200-300g (1/2 pound) smoked bacon (in one piece, not sliced)
1 cooked sausage (Morteau - Polish sausage would substitute well here)
1 bay leaf
1 spring thyme (1 tsp or so)
10 juniper berries
1 whole clove
1) Lay the pork rind on the bottom of a large stew pot
2) cover with half the the cabbage
3) add the onion, studded with the clove, and the apple, peeled and diced, the pork and the bacon (blanch them for a few minutes in boiling water to reduce the salt), and the seasonings.
4) Cover with the rest of the cabbage and the melted lard/goose fat/water
5) Add the wine, then add water to cover the cabbage.
1) Cover and let cook over slow heat for 2 hours (or in the oven at 350F)
2) Add water as needed
3) 30 minutes before completion, add the sausage, cut into chunks.
Serve on a large plate accompanied by steamed potatoes
(Note: when the choucroute is cooked, you can add saucisses de Strasbourg (knackwurst or *good* hot dogs - or saucisses de Francfort (like a weisswurst) poached for several minutes)
Hope that helps someone....note the apple in the mix - that would add some sweetness you wouldn't get from a dry white wine.
Actually I just made something along this line using raw cabbage. I had a brined pork butt that I was intending to serve with lentils (inspired by Petit salé aux lentilles), but also had a small head of cabbage. So while the pork was cooking I sliced the cabbage and braised it with onion, apple, white wine, a splash of cider vinegar, and spices. So it was pork with lentil and cabbage.
But I do also prepare sauerkraut with ham hocks. I like to cook that till the meat is fall off the bone tender, and kraut is nearly caramelized. Fortunately I can get good hocks and kraut from my local butcher.
I hated sauerkraut growing up, but I love choucroute garni! I base mine on the recipes from Patricia Wells' The Paris Cookbook and Sue Style's A Taste of Alsace. I always rinse the sauerkraut in a few changes of water, then cook it with onions and duck fat, a bottle of dry white wine, and seasonings (coriander seeds, cloves, juniper berries, black peppercorns, cumin, garlic), salt pork, and smoked pork. Then garnish with a variety of sausages at the end.
We drink a dry Alsacian white (or Alsatian-style from California, like Claibourne & Churchill). Now I've made myself hungry for it!
Here's an article by Patricia Wells about choucroute. No recipe given, but there's a discussion of various choices.
The Beast is always pestering me to make a sauerkraut with apples and pheasant dish he found in a local Brooklyn magazine several years ago. It uses a bottle of Alsatian wine along w some other seasonings (juniper berries, onions, bay) in the kraut, the pheasant is browned, topped with partly-cooked bacon, and put on top of the kraut with some small apples, cored, then baked in the oven uncovered until the pheasant is done. It's quite good but he likes it more than I do. Have never made the full-bore choucroute garnie.
re: hill food
Mine loves goose too, we have one at least once a year - I like it hot for one dinner (ONE!) and I make a goose pie with filo pastry with whatever else of it I can get away with. If I put it in a cassoulet we eat on it forever...pheasant and quail I actually like. Pheasant (at least farmed) has the weirdest fat (what there is of it) - bright yellow. I like the goose fat for potatoes and in red cabbage.
That sounds good, like the sweetness of the apples would temper the sauerkraut a bit - sometimes it's a bit too vinegary. I used the power of Google to find similar-sounding recipes; not all of them include the bacon but I definitely will, pork and cabbage are meant to be. I think adding pearl onions would be nice as well.
I don't know how they make it in Paris OR Alsace...Here's how I make it...in the Polish American style. It is not sweet like the Germans serve it.
I like to make it with my own home fermented cabbage....but if you don't pickle your own, Silver Floss is the best brand you can buy in the grocery store. Here's my blog post about it http://motherskitchen.blogspot.com/20...
1 big onion, diced
1/2 lb bacon, cut up in small pieces and fried crisp, reserve the grease
1 lb. of the best kielbasa you can find, smoked or fresh or a mix, cut up in 2 inch chunks
4 large potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 large can of Silver Floss sauerkraut drained, reserve juice (this is the best brand of sauerkraut I know of
Put the potatoes in the bottom of the crock pot, and top with bacon. Add onion to the bacon grease and saute until tender, and pour the onion and bacon fat on top the potatoes. Add the sausage chunks, and then top with kraut. Cook on LOW for 8 hours. If it gets dry while cooking, taste it...if it is not sour enough for your taste, add kraut juice, if it tastes right, add water.
That's my Polish grandma's recipe except that we don't always put potatoes in there, we make those fabulous potato dumplings, kluski, or pierogi or just mashed potatoes. And there is always an Idaho potato grated into the sauerkraut to thicken the juice and we add salt and pepper and some sugar but it's always Silver Floss. Plus, I never cook in the crockpot the directions from my grandmother were to cook as long as you can and I always worried it wouldn't cook properly in the slow cooker. Plus we add some caraway seeds.
My grandma never used a slow cooker either. However, I find that it works out great! We'd sometimes have kluski (for the non Polish, Kluski is like spatzle) or even shell shaped pasta in it. On Christmas Eve, she would put sardines in it in place of the meat, because it was our Polish custom not to eat meat on Christmas Eve. Seems like everyone's Grandma agrees on Silver Floss!
here is a great recipe
1/2 lb bacon cut in short strips
2 large onions
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 lbs high quality fresh saurkraut
12 oz bottle of beer
1 granny smith apple
4 tbsp butter
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 cups beef stock
1-2 lbs country style pork spare ribs, par boiled, meat removed from bone
1 1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 bay leaves
10-15 juniper berries
10-15 black peppercorns
1-2 tsp caraway seeds
In a big pot, saute the bacon until golden. Add onions and garlic, saute until transparent. Rinse Sauerkraut under cold water and squeeze dry.Add to onions and bacon. Add beer, apple , butter,brown sugar, beef stock, and spices. Bring to boil.Reduce heat and simmer for 3-4 hours.Stir occasionally.Serve with grilled sausages or bratwurst and hearty bread.
I have never understood the rinsing. I don't even squeeze. I might drain a little of the extra juice from from the bag, but that is about it. I've always felt that rinsing it washed away all the wonderful taste. Do I have this all wrong? Am I enjoying something that I'm not supposed to be eating? Maybe it's because I'm using a manufactured brand from the grocery store refrigerator sectiona and not the real thing?
The key to really memorable choucroute is the quality of the sauerkraut. The mass-market stuff in cans or plastic bags never tastes as good as homemade. And the best homemade is made in the late fall, when the cabbages' sugar content is highest and texture is best and when the cool temperatures support a long, gentle fermentation. Even when home-canned and consumed months later, the homemade stuff is light years better than anything you can buy in a store.
I rinse the sauerkraut in water and cook with white wine -- usually an inexpensive Sylvaner or Alsatian blend, rarely a Riesling and never a Gewürztraminer. I line the bottom of the pot with *couenne* (fresh pork rind with a thin layer of fat) and usually include a thick slice of slab bacon and some salt pork. That's it for the pork, though, except for the rare times I make a traditional choucroute garnie (with sausages and smoked pork chops). More to my taste is rabbit or guinea fowl legs (lightly browned in duck fat), which emerge moister and more deeply flavoured than in any other preparation I know. For a change of pace, there's always seafood choucroute; when well done, it's glorious.
I don't often include cumin among the seasonings, but when I do, it's caraway, which is what the "meadow cumin" that grows wild in Alsace actually is.
Adult beverages? A dry white wine, preferably from the region and not necessarily the same one I used in cooking: a not too petrolly Riesling, a lighter-styled Pinot Gris, one of the sterner Pinot Blancs, Auxerrois, Klevner. In a pinch, a minerally extra-regional white like a Chablis or a non-oxidized Savagnin from the Jura. Avoid off-dry wines, flagrantly aromatic whites (Gewürztraminer, Muscat, many Rieslings) and grand crus and other high-end bottlings. Beer -- specifically a farmhouse ale or a pilsner -- is always a good bet too.
(please note that I was copying the recipe...the wine, meats, and procedures seen above are exactly as printed in a French cookbook. There was no opinion offered or given about the choice.)
I'm sure that choucroute, like chili or cassoulet or ratatouille or indeed nearly any very traditional country food, has nearly as many recipes as there are people who prepare it.
I have had very good results using this recipe as a guide. I have varied the meats, using wild boar, smoked pork chops or ribs, black forest ham, hunters bacon, various keilbasas and/or wursts. Some will take longer to cook than others so use the directions as a guide depending on what you're using. Its important to get good sauerkraut too. I use a dry Reisling or Alsation pinot gris. If you have a good German or Polish deli with a large selection of quality European style meats you can really do a nice mix. I make and serve it in a large Le Crueset dutch oven. I serve with more of the wine I cooked with and a loaf of sourdough rye and locally made butter. Its an impressive dish for company. Its also great because you can prep most of it in advance and except for adding a few items during cooking, you're free to take care of other things and hang out with your friends. Everyone I've ever served it to came back for seconds.
I've been doing a choucroute for New Year's since around 1976, after an Alsatian woman served me some, and it was love at first bite. Mine has evolved as I learned new things and found better groceries. Here's the latest version, somewhat heretical but to me blissfully satisfactory. It combines several eastern and middle European traditions into one dish.
Choucroute with Holubky
1. The Holubky
1 head cabbage, 2-3 lbs.
3/4 lb ground beef
3/4 lb ground pork or bulk sausage
3/4 cup warm water
1 big egg
1/2 onion, chopped fine
salt, pepper, cayenne, herbs of choice
3/4 cup uncooked white rice
Cut core from cabbage to free leaves from their bottom attachment points. Bring a big pot of water to the boil, salt it, and put the cabbage in. When the water returns to the boil, give it two minutes and take the cabbage out. Wearing rubber gloves (unexpectedly brilliant cooking tools, these), remove such leaves as are cooked and pliable. Return cabbage to boiling water, repeat as necessary until you have about a dozen usable leaves. Reserve the rest for use with the next part of the project. While the leaves are still hot, slice off a layer of the thick stem of each one, so that the stem is of about the same thickness as the leaf around it.
Combine the meats, water, egg, onion and seasonings. Test the latter by frying a small glob of the mixture and tasting it. As these rolls will be cooked in liquid, and as there will be rice in there, too, the seasoning should be significantly stronger than you would normally prefer. When this is satisfactory, stir in the rice. Put a decent handful of the mixture onto each leaf, rolling and wrapping it into a tight bundle. These may be cooked immediately according to the following instructions, or stacked and refrigerated in a covered dish or Ziplock overnight.
2. Choucroute, part A
2-3 lbs good sauerkraut; I like Kreugermann's, plus chopped cabbage previously reserved
1 onion, halved and sliced thin
1 big apple (Fuji, Granny Smith, Pippin), cored and cut fairly small
10 or so juniper berries, tied in cheesecloth or in a muslin spice bag
1/2 lb good slab bacon, cut in 1/2" dice
2 Tbs fat or oil
1 bottle dry but fruity white wine
1 qt chicken broth
holubky from previous efforts
pepper, salt if necessary
Drain kraut, squeeze dry and fluff with a fork. Heat fat in a big pot and throw in the bacon, stirring it about until it begins to brown. Add onion and apple, stir until onion starts to go transparent, then stir in the kraut and keep at it until everything's hot and steamy. Tuck the juniper bundle into the kraut mixture and lay holubky on top of everything. Pour in the wine and broth; it should cover everything, but if it's seriously short add some water. Bring to the boil, which will probably take some time, and then cut to a gentle simmer and cover. After an hour or so poke a thermometer into one of the top holubky; when it registers over 160º, everything is done. Remove, keep covered, and proceed as follows.
3. Choucroute, part B
You want at least two kinds of sausages, whether precooked or raw. I had just two raw ones this time, four bratwurst and five Saucisses de Toulouse, but I like to use fresh Kielbasa and such cooked ones as knockwurst and weisswurst. Sometimes I cook the raw ones with the kraut in the previous step, but they really taste better fried or grilled separately. On this occasion, given a nice sunny day, I chose to cook them on the gas grill, which at least got me out of the house for about half an hour.
However you get there, finishing the dish begins with dismantling the previous effort and re-organizing the various parts. Start by removing the holubke to a plate, transferring the kraut to a bowl using a slotted lifter (don't forget to fish out the bag of juniper berries), then straining the liquid into a pan. This you then place on the cooktop and start cooking it down, while you assemble the dish. That requires a non-reactive ovenproof pot big enough to hold everything, unless you're making up two separate meals, as I was.
Begin with a layer of the kraut mixture, then one of holubke. Cut the sausages into two-bite chunks and tuck those around the perimeter. Repeat however you want - you could just pour everything in the pot and to hell with art-directing it, but I like a little presentation here. Let this sit until the juices in the pan have reduced by about a third. Taste for intensity of flavor - and if you're lucky enough to have some nice glace de viande lying around, a tablespoon or so of that stirred in would be a good thing. Pour all this over the casserole; it should not quite come up to the top layer. Cover, and either reheat in the oven immediately or refrigerate until you're ready for it.
I serve this with mashed potatoes, as you'd expect. If you can afford the cholesterol/calories, Pommes de Terre Alsacienne are fabulous: simmer finely-chopped onion in a lot of butter until it's transparent and beginning to color, then beat in sour cream - all of this is to your taste. Season as you like. Serve over plain boiled potatoes, coarsely broken up.
H'mmm... my favorite quote is, "Well, nobody's perfect!"
I'd suggest you just try this. The holubky all by themselves are a lovely dish, and cooking them in sauerkraut is a real Slovak thing, according to several books I dug into. My reason for adopting them was that all my old recipes for choucroute garni called for a chunk of fresh pork loin in the middle, and you can't use modern loin like that unless you've got a Berkshire out back you're about to butcher. Smoked loin was better, a chunk of shoulder was better yet, but this stuff had us clapping and singing and asking for seconds. And it's EASY! Once you get the hang of wrapping cabbage, that is. But the great thing about that is you can blow it with the first five or six leaves and they still won't go to waste.
Heck, I'm feeling impatient now about getting this TG and Xmas crap over with so I can start in on my kraut-fest!
re: hill food
"then tuck yourself in for a long Winter's nap?" No, you silly person! THEN I go and make a pot of cassoulet! What the hell do you think winter is for, anyway? COOKING POTS OF STUFF! Pea soup, posole, pork or lamb or beef stews, chicken and dumplings … When it gets all hot and sticky, and we lose interest in going out for those brisk calorie-burning walks, then I'll grill fish and make salads. But for now, I am gathering rosebuds while I may, so to speak. And making chili.
re: Will Owen
not to mention Hachis Parmentier, and/or Shepherd's Pie and finally getting around to fixing those damn dining room chairs in the basement whose joints failed 10 years ago, but nobody ELSE seems to care about and because I opened my stupid claptrap about maybe doing something with them that's the current guilt trip I'm being sent down. (grrrr)/
Turnips coming in 'round these parts...
re: hill food
true! teeter is open 24/7, but no longer is safeway. but you are right, i just need to get some knockwurst and knock out the dish. it is hard to find the right kind of crusty rolls around here, though. maybe i'll buy them from the italian store; i know they have them for their subs.
on the weekend, i can do the shortcut and go buy a wurst in roll at the heidelberg bakery's wurst cart. it is a shame that it is only done on saturday (maybe sunday, too). oddly enough, their rolls for the wursts ain't all that.
ahh 24/7 groceries, I remember this thing. nearest one now is about 40 minutes away (assuming you're not stuck behind someone who decided it was a good time to move the combine 20 miles like yesterday) only had pastries (at work in Ballston) from Heidelberg and Italian, but based on those I'd be willing to try the other products.
You can do all kinds of choucroute but the trick to unbelievable chou is indeed the rinsing and THEN the sauteeing....Rinse the saurkraut for as long as possible with a colander in big stock pot with the water running - an hour is a good goal, just make sure to go in, squeeze out all the water periodically and take all the water out of the pot and starting the process all over again. For the cooking - I start with cubed/chopped apples, pears, carrots, onions, garlic and let it all breakdown.. Add the super-rinsed chou with a bottle of dry white wine, juniper berries and about a cup of gin. Then add stock so it doesn't dry out. Let THAT reduce then assemble the meats, bacons, saucissons, birds etc and bake in the oven about 20-30 mins. Serve with simple baby potatoes flecked with flat parsley and a variety of both dijon and rough mustards like Amora Mi Forte, Immehof's spicy honey mustard, horseradish mustard, pommery grainy mustard. I agree with sunshine - no wine in the reheat -