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Choucroute Garnie

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  1. Sure. What do you want to know about it?

    6 Replies
    1. re: chefj

      Do you have a recipe you especially like? It sounds like a dish I'd love. Any pit falls to avoid? How do you feel about using Italian sausage in it?

      1. re: Servorg

        no, no, no -- no Italian sausage -- the spices are all wrong.

        ham hock or two...a **mild** Polish sausage...and hot dogs (in France it would be an Alsatian saucisse, of course...preferably from Montbéliard.

        here's a recipe straight from Alsace -- Google Translate does a pretty acceptable, if not perfect, translation.


        (and Paulj's correct -- you see apple grated in with the choucroute fairly often)

        1. re: Servorg

          Definitely, do NOT use italian sausage in it. Totally the wrong flavor profile. Something in the kielbasa, knockwurst, frankfurter family is more what you want.I like to make my choucroute with a smoked hock or smoked pork chop(s), and some big chunks of slab bacon or pork belly for richness.

          It's also very important that you (a) use decent sauerkraut -- not from a can, and (b) rinse and drain it thoroughly before cooking. Otherwise the dish turns out seriously over-salty and over-sour. Use a light white wine, nothing too heavy or assertive. (Think Riesling, not chardonnay.)

          My favorite recipe is the "Choucroute Garnie Chez Jenny" that Patricia Wells published -- it looks like the version at food.com is pretty much the same:

          1. re: Servorg

            I would not use Italian Sausage.
            I do not really use a recipe.
            It is a braised Sauerkraut dish at heart and quite German in Style. So stick to those flavors.
            For the "Choucroute" I use bone dry un-oaked White Wine, Onion, Bay Leaf, Cloves,Juniper Berries, and Cumin for Flavorings as well as Pork,Goose or Duck Fat.
            For the "Garnie" Ham Shank, Bacon, Kasseler Rippchen, Knackwurst,Spare Ribs, Frankfurters,and/or Weisswurst.

            I sweat the Onion in the Fat add the Spices, Wine and Cabbage. I also add the long cooking Meats (Ham Shank, Ribs, Bacon). Braise for an hour and a half or so and then place the sausages on top to steam till hot.
            It is almost always served with boiled Potatoes.

            It is a dish that varies greatly from Cook to Cook and Family to Family so feel free to play a bit. I have seen it include Blutwurst, Duck, Goose, Pickled Pork Knuckle,Garlic Sausage etc......

              1. re: pikawicca

                Hi pikawicca -

                Cumin is used quite a bit where we live, but not in Choucroute.

                We have had it served with Caraway seed (for digestion with meat) but sparingly. Caraway is also very commonly with pork dishes just across the frontier in Germany.

                The emphasis again is on mild sausage and meats, and nothing spicy or too strong. Most of the cabbage to be used in kraut/croute has just been picked, washed for the season. If the kraut/croute is too salty, it can also be rinsed first before cooking.

        2. It's delicious, particularly if the choucroute is made with vin blanc.

          1. My take on this is sauerkraut braised with a ham hock. Flavorings include juniper berries, and (sometimes) apple.

            My favorite side is Spaetzle.

            2 Replies
            1. re: paulj

              I think I'll use potatoes as the side. Somehow it just strikes me better.

              1. re: Servorg

                it's the only choice -- the potatoes are frequently cooked right there in the pot with the chou and saucisse.

            2. I wouldn't exactly use hot dogs as we know them (Nathans, Oscar Mayer, etc), but rather knackwurst-type.
              Some recipes may call for pork ribs and pork chops, but I'd include some type of cured pork from the charcuterie (cured pork loin or non-smoked bacon, etc)
              Generally, you can get all your meats and sausage from a European charcuterie shop. Also a good place for the sauerkraut. I like the brands with wine.

              1. Looking forward to the answers here - thanks!

                13 Replies
                  1. re: chefj

                    This thread got started because of an LA board search for Choucroute Garnie at any local restaurants. I had never heard of it before that thread. So I got interested and decided that it didn't look that difficult to attempt to make at home. But when I did a search on the Home Cooking board I couldn't find even one mention of it. So this thread was born.

                    1. re: Servorg

                      probably not least because there's really nothing difficult about it-- kind of the original "dump a bunch of stuff in a pan and let it go"

                      1. re: sunshine842

                        "dump a bunch of stuff in a pan and let it go"

                        My favorite type of home made meal. It's why I have so many miles on my Dutch oven.

                        1. re: Servorg

                          Well this should put a few more on it!
                          It really is a great meal it can be very humble or quite fancy, depending on what you put in it.
                          I made a very refined/deconstructed version with Foie Gras, Truffled Boudin and Smoked Duck for some Folks from the Trimbach Estate Winery.

                          1. re: Servorg

                            Choucroute garnie (to me) is a dish that is very easy to make, but difficult to master. Not so much in the execution, but in the choice of ingredients to get exactly what you want.
                            It can range from pedestrian to greatness.

                            1. re: porker

                              "...but in the choice of ingredients to get exactly what you want.
                              It can range from pedestrian to greatness."

                              Then it's probably lucky for me that I have nothing to compare it to.

                              1. re: Servorg

                                like most dishes, the better your ingredients, the better your dish...but it becomes that much more important when there's not much prep to the dish -- the ingredients have to stand on their own.

                                1. re: sunshine842

                                  But 'better' in this context might be quite different from another. Price, for example, isn't a reliable measure of quality for this use. Smoked pork chops are more expensive than ham hocks, but I prefer the hock.

                                  1. re: paulj

                                    who said anything about price? I didn't.

                                    Better always defaults to the judgment of the cook.

                                2. re: Servorg

                                  Lucky...and not so lucky.
                                  After spending time and effort on the dish, you might end up wondering why all the fuss. Either you made a pedestrian version, or it was a great but choucroute just isn't for you.

                                  1. re: porker

                                    I think it's hard to say that the dish is or isn't for me before I've made it and eaten it. If my dish is "pedestrian" by comparison to ones produce by artists of the dish, but I love mine anyway, does that mean I've gotten lucky, or unlucky? Or maybe both at the same time? Taste is a funny thing. It's the reason that people who grow up with certain local dishes that they love all their life is an acquired (one that non locals often never actually acquire) taste for others.

                                    1. re: Servorg

                                      Couldn't agree more.
                                      I'd qualify that any dish is not pedestrian if you love it...
                                      Choucroute isn't rocket science, its a simple dish based on flavorings and nuances from meats.
                                      Me, I don't like smokiness in my choucroute, but I do love the tang of cured meats, so I choose accordingly.
                                      Does this make one better than the other? To me, yes, but on the whole no, as it depends on personal taste, as you say.

                    2. The suggested ingredients by chefj are quite correct.

                      It is served throughout France and the French parts of Switzerland (Suisse) but very commonly to Champagne, Alsace, and Lorraine.

                      This this is a large meal, usually served on a platter-sized plate per person. Small peeled potatoes such as the Yukon Gold found in North America yes, but in moderation. They will take the flavour of everything else.

                      I have not seen one served in France with Spätzle, but if you enjoy that side dish, then why not.

                      As Servorg is writing about the LA area, Alpine Village or Old World in OC, would have everything needed to make this dish. If you have access to a good French or German butcher, you can have a field day with authentic ingredients here.

                      Your emphasis will be on pork sausage and pork cuts. To the list above I would add Schiffala ( a pickled smoked pork shoulder ), fleischwurst ( fine minced pork sausage ), knackwurst or small Strasbourg sausages, perhaps a Morteau sausage, and light liver dumplings, as all common ingredients to this dish in France.

                      One golden rule in cooking this is 12 juniper berries, 2 bay leaves, and caraway seed to help with both flavour and your digestion. This is slow cooked, not rushed, being cooked for 2-3 hours minimum.

                      Another rule is the pork shoulder and other smoke sausage is cooked UNDER under the sauerkraut, while the rest ( knackwurst and other sausage ) is cooked ON TOP of the sauerkraut.

                      I'd go on, but I have to stop and think about dinner tonight. Perhaps I'll see some of you at Alpine Village later today.

                      1. As we are visiting SoCal staying with our son, I took a look at his library for more information on Choucroute.

                        The large Könemann book Culinaria France (US version) has a wealth of information with two recipe versions on pages 74-75.

                        Just a thought but Weisswurst normal to Oktoberfest should be added to Choucroute only at the few minutes of cooking. The Weisswurst will burst if added too early to this dish.

                        We did drive over to Alpine Village for some items, finding the good vegetables and the rest in a local supermarket near our son's house.

                        We pan braised the smoked pork chops along with seasoned pork ribs first, and added a few green apple slices to the pan for 5 minutes. Everything was then layered into an oval stainless steel roasting pan and is slow cooking now for tonight with some homemade seeded bread in his oven below.

                        1. Lots of good tips here. You may also want to look at recipes for bigos for something similar.

                          1. Sounds an awdful lot like Bigos to me - a TRADITIONAL Polish Hunter's STew

                            8 Replies
                            1. re: bushmanJack

                              there are lots of dishes from different cultures that resemble one another.

                              1. re: sunshine842

                                Quite true.

                                The history of Sauerkraut and fermented cabbage is said that it was first introduced by the Mongol horsemen coming across Europe. It was left to ferment in the sun in the saddlebags kept by each horseman as a sort of fast food nourishment while riding.

                                It changes names across Eastern and Middle Europe ( Kapusta, Sauerkraut, Choucroute, etc) but despite the use of a carrot or onion here and there, it is essentially made the same way by fermentation.

                                ( We do however prefer to make ours using ceramic weights in the crock rather than someone's feet ).

                                1. re: SWISSAIRE

                                  It's a nice story but the Mongol invasion of Europe began in the 13th century and we know the Romans were eating pickled vegetables more than 1000 years before that.
                                  Like most foods, in all likelihood sauerkraut was "invented" several different times in several different places.

                                  1. re: caganer

                                    Old Joy of Cooking books have a tale about the builders of the Great Wall of China eating sauerkraut.

                                    1. re: caganer

                                      There is a lot of truth to your statement regarding pickled vegetables (and meats ) in brine and whey products over the years.

                                      The Vikings, left alone by the Romans for 1000 years plus, used salty whey to preserve game and farmed meat, and vegetables for the Winter during that time. That technique was probably picked up as they traded ( silk, slaves, and jewelry ) as far as Constantinople, where they were officially licensed to do so. Given the fact they were also explorers, it is probably they travelled beyond, bringing back cooking recipes and food items they saw along the way.

                                      You are quite correct about the 13th Century, as that is the first time in European written historical records that fermenting sliced cabbage in cooking is first mentioned. In fact it is on the plains of Burgundy against the Mongols that it was noted and mentioned, as a technique of keeping the Mongol horsemen sustained, nourished, and always in the saddle ready for battle.

                                      Chinese documents regarding cooking with fermented cabbage, as a survival food for the elderly, predate those in Europe by 2,300 years.

                                      1. re: SWISSAIRE

                                        I have a small crock of Chinese sauerkraut, Tianjin preserved vegetable. A lot drier and garlicky than the European style.

                                2. re: bushmanJack

                                  I wonder if anyone knows of a good recipe for puff pastry based on Rye flour. I've been thinking of making a slightly drier version of this and making a unique version of a pastie.
                                  Flavour AND convenience in a little parcel YUM YUM

                                  1. re: bushmanJack

                                    A Scandinavian savory pie crust using half rye and half wheat.

                                    Puff pastry may require too much gluten development to work well with rye (all the rolling and folding). But most other pie crusts try to keep gluten development to a minimum (even using alcohol as part of the liquid). So the lower gluten content of rye might be advantage.

                                3. This is my go-to recipe for choucroute - highly recommended.