Sauerkraut was a lifesaving winter staple for generations of Europeans, providing not only a full belly but plentiful quantities of healthful vitamins, minerals and fiber. It remains a flavorful and versatile food, much-loved and still made even though fresh vegetables are now available all winter. In its natural state, sauerkraut has a potent flavor and aroma. Cooks can take several steps to reduce its strong taste, whether it's to be served raw or cooked.
Drain your sauerkraut in a colander, and rinse it well with cold running water.
Taste a few shreds of the kraut. If it's unusually strong-flavored, as some artisanal brands often are, place it in a large glass or plastic mixing bowl. Cover the kraut with water or apple juice and let it soak for 30 minutes. Drain it again, pressing out any excess moisture.
Place the sauerkraut in a heat-proof baking dish or casserole. Add a small amount of water, white wine, beer, chicken broth or other liquid, depending on your personal taste. Bake the kraut at 275 to 300 degrees Fahrenheit until it's softened and its flavor is deep and mellow.
Enrich the cooked sauerkraut by adding sliced apples or onions at the beginning of the cooking time to make the kraut sweeter and mellower. Traditional recipes often include other flavorings, including peppercorns, bay leaves, juniper berries and caraway or anise seeds.
- If you plan to use your sauerkraut as a topping on sausages or hot dogs, use it at the end of the soaking and draining stage.
- For a full traditional meal, add several varieties of fresh and cured meats, such as ham hocks, smoked sausages or duck legs, while the sauerkraut cooks. The sauerkraut tenderizes and flavors the meats, while the meats help mellow and flavor the sauerkraut. Slice the meats and pass them on a tray with the cooked sauerkraut, boiled potatoes and a selection of deli mustards.
- On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen; Harold McGee
- The Old World Kitchen: The Rich Tradition of European Peasant Cooking; Elizabeth Luard
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