As a young boy, I would witness an annual pilgrimage of a number of adults into our family home's cellar, lead by my paternal grandmother. There, they would spend hours and hours slicing and chopping, pounding and stirring, tasting and sampling – all these activities were part of a complex ritual whose point completely eluded my young mind. All I knew was that whatever they were doing resulted in a horrible stench. I did not like it and I refused to try the “food” they were making. They called it Sauerkraut and every single adult in our multi-generational household loved it.
Fast forward several decades and I still found myself not having tried Sauerkraut. My negative associations were strong enough to last for almost 50 years! Wrap your mind around that!
Still, within the last year or so, I found myself curious. I wondered why the grown-ups of my childhood had loved Sauerkraut so much. I marveled at the ready availability of commercially-produced Sauerkraut in grocery stores throughout the U.S. Quite clearly, Sauerkraut couldn't be all that bad – and it was obviously rather beige in nature and thus, lent itself perfectly to a website dedicated to mostly beige recipes. The remaining questions were how to prepare it, what to combine it with, and whether a kid would eat it or would have the same negative impressions that I had as a child.
When I started reading up on Sauerkraut, it became clear that there are quite a few health benefits associated with it. Thus, I made it my mission to use Sauerkraut in a dish that was quick and simple to make, tasted great – even to a child's palate, and which delivered a punch of healthy nutrients. In doing so, I looked into my own cultural heritage to see what, traditionally, is combined with Sauerkraut. The simplest combination was Bratwurst with Sauerkraut – but I wanted something “more.”
I think I managed rather well – I am eating left-overs as I am typing this!
1 Tbs. Canola Oil.
1 medium Onion, chopped finely.
¾ lb. Sauerkraut (there are quite a few available where I live: Boars Head, Sabretti's, Kühne, etc.).
¾ cup Apple Juice.
¾ cup White Wine.
6 Juniper Berries.
1 Bay Leaf.
1 Tbs. Caraway Seeds.
1 large Apple.
1 very small Potato.
4 Tbs. Butter.
1 lb. Russet Potatoes.
1 Tbs. Corn Starch.
½ to ¾ All-Purpose Flour.
Pinch of ground Nutmeg.
Let's get started:
To make the best of our time, it is necessary to boil the potatoes before we get to the actual preparation of the Sauerkraut and the Dumplings. Thus, let's do that first:
In a medium pot, heat plenty of water over high heat.
Add a Tbs. of Salt.
Add the whole, unpeeled potatoes.
Reduce heat to a slow boil and let the potatoes cook for 20-30 minutes, depending on size. You can check for tenderness with a fork or knife – either one should easily glide through the potatoes when they are done.
Remove the potatoes from the water and let cool down.
Heat the oil in a medium pot.
Add the chopped onion and saute until the onion is translucent – about 5 minutes.
Add the Sauerkraut, stir.
Add the wine and the apple juice, stir some more.
Now add the juniper berries, the bay leaf, the clove, and the caraway seeds. Stir to mix well.
Cover with a lid, reduce heat to low, and let simmer for a total of 40 minutes while stirring occasionally.
Note that the remaining ingredients will be added about ten minutes before the total cooking time is up.
By now, the potatoes should be cool enough to handle.
With a knife, peel off the skins – doing so should be as simple as scraping the blade along the skin.
Put the peeled potatoes through a potato ricer that you've put on top of a work bowl.
Crack the eggs and separate the yolk from the egg white.
Add the yolks, discard the egg white.
Add corn starch.
Add ½ cup of flour.
Season with salt, pepper, and ground nutmeg.
With your hands, work the ingredients into a soft and pliable dough. If the dough sticks to your hands, add a bit more flour until the dough no longer sticks.
Once you have a nice and tight dough ball, dust a work surface with a bit of flour and, with your hands, roll the dough into a large sausage shape.
Cut the large sausage shape in two, set one piece aside, and continue with the remaining piece.
With your hands, continue to roll the half sausage into a thinner sausage – roughly 1 inch thick.
With a knife, cut off a 1/2-inch piece.
Again, roll this little piece into a sausage shape - roughly the length and thickness of your fingers.
Make sure you coat each resulting dumpling with a dusting of flour so that it doesn't stick to your work surface.
Heat a large pot of water until it boils.
Add 1 Tbs. Salt.
Add the little dumplings and immediately turn the heat off – if the water continues to boil strongly,
the dumplings could disintegrate.
Once the dumplings rise to the top, they are done – this will take about 3 minutes.
Remove the dumplings and put them in a colander.
Rinse them with cold water and let drain.
Back to the Sauerkraut:
By now, your Sauerkraut should have cooked for about 30 minutes. Thus, it is time to finish it:
Core the apple and quarter it.
Cut each quarter into thin slices.
Peel the raw potato and finely grate it.
Add the apples and potato to the hot Sauerkraut. Stir to integrate and let simmer, covered for the remaining ten minutes or so.
Season with salt, pepper, and a pinch of sugar – to taste.
While the Sauerkraut continues to cook, let's finish our dumplings:
Back to the Dumplings:
In a large pan, heat the 4 Tbs. of butter over medium-high heat.
When the butter has melted, add the well-drained dumplings to the pan.
Fry the dumplings until golden on all sides.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Spread some of the Sauerkraut on a plate and top with the freshly butter-fried dumplings.