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Do You Choucroute? (Alsatian Choucroute -- or Other Variants)

"[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."
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This was from a nice (and wide-ranging) blog "Umami."

Read more: http://umami.typepad.com/umami/2010/0...

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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?

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  1. 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)

    2 Replies
    1. re: sunshine842

      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!

      1. re: alkapal

        that's one thing I'm puzzling over, though -- because it's delicious as it is -- but the flavor to me is far more wine-like than it is beer-like.

        One of these days when they're not dealing with lines 6 people deep, I'm going to ask them.

    2. 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.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Joebob

        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.

        1. re: sunshine842

          842: not just full-on mustard seeds tossed into the simmer? (I'm cool either way)

          1. 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.

      2. 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.

        1. 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
          1 onion
          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 apple
          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)

          Seasonings:
          1 bay leaf
          1 spring thyme (1 tsp or so)
          10 juniper berries
          cumin
          coriander
          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.

          Cooking:
          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.

          3 Replies
          1. re: sunshine842

            Sounds about right. I'm drooling at the memory!

            1. re: sunshine842

              YIKE. Caught an error.

              It's not raw cabbage in the above recipe -- it's raw sauerkraut/choucroute -- the stuff that's been marinated for a while, and is sold as "choucroute crue" -- I'd look for the stuff in the refrigerated section at the grocery in the US.

              1. re: sunshine842

                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.

            2. 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.

              http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage...

              1 Reply
              1. re: Karen_Schaffer

                is there anything that duck fat doesn't make better?