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Greg's choucroute garni
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Ingredients

quantity ingredient step
300 g onions, chopped (about 1 to 5 “large” onions) 1
3 kg fresh sauerkraut 2
100 g goose fat 2
300 ml white wine 2
100 ml water, mixed with wine 2
15 g garlic, crushed (about 3 to 20 cloves) 2
1 pinch of thyme 2
1 teaspoon caraway seed 2
3 bay leaves 2
1 tablespoon juniper 2
4 cloves 2
200 g smoked pork fat (without meat), in 5mm slices 3
500 g Kassler 4
600 g Smoked sausage, such as Debreziner 4
500 g smoked pork belly 4
500 g potatoes, in 4 cm “cubes” 5
300 g Grilling sausage, such as Weißwurst 6
20 ml Kirsch 7
6 “Leverknepfle” 7

“Leverknepfle” are a kind of dumpling made with liver and breadcrumbs. I have a better recipe than the one in the link, but I can't be bothered to type it in.

Procedure

Start 3½ hours before serving.
  1. Preheat the oven to 140° C. Wash the sauerkraut and drain. Bring the dry meats (typically Debreziner and pork belly) to boil in water, then leave soaking for 10 minutes. In a large cast-iron casserole big enough for all the ingredients, fry the onion in goose fat until glassy.

  2. Add sauerkraut, garlic, thyme, caraway seed, bay leaves, juniper, wine and water.

  3. Bring to the boil on the stove, then place the slices of smoked pork fat on top. Cover and place in the oven.

  4. (Entry in oven +90 minutes, 100 minutes before serving) Place the remaining meat, with the exception of the Weißwurst and the Leverknepfle, in the casserole and mix with the sauerkraut. Do not cut the meat at this stage. Check the liquid. There should not be much left, but if it's too dry, add water and lower the oven temperature. Bring back to the boil on the stove, then replace in the oven.

  5. (Entry in oven +120 minutes, 70 minutes before serving). Place the potatoes in the casserole on top of the sauerkraut. Check the liquid. There should not be much left, but if it's too dry, add water and lower the oven temperature. Bring back to the boil on the stove, then replace in the oven.

  6. (Entry in oven +170 minutes, 20 minutes before serving) Grill the Weißwurst.

  7. (Entry in oven +180 minutes, 10 minutes before serving) Remove the casserole from the oven. Place the meat on a chopping board and cut into 4 to 5 cm pieces, the sausages (including Weißwurst) into lengths of about 10 cm. Depending on what it looks like, you may prefer to discard the remains of the pork fat. Add 20 ml of Kirsch to the Sauerkraut, stir, and arrange in a serving dish. Place the meat, sausages, potatoes and Leverknepfle on top. Serve.

Notes

If you're not used to eating sauerkraut, you should know that it has a mild laxative effect. It's nothing to be worried about, but be prepared.

Discussion

On 22 June 2002 I spent half the day researching recipes for “choucroute garnie”, the French sauerkraut dish. I came up with a variety of recipes, all deficient. At the end I was left with the following questions unanswered:

Other differences were the way it should be cooked: Bocuse (“La cuisine du marché”) wanted it done in layers, with the meat being cooked from the start and progressively removed. There was also the question of whether to cook it on the stove or in the oven. “La cuisine de Madame Saint Ange” (Larousse) writes “if you don't dispose of an oven, it's on a slow flame that the casserole will be placed”. She's also the one who wants it cooked for five hours. I can't imagine what it would be like after that time on the stove.

Finally we went mainly with a recipe from a small book entitled “Cuisines de France: Alsace”, which showed a nice photo of the finished product. My attempt looked completely different: the quantities were all wrong, as the photo shows.

It tasted OK, however (yes, there was sauerkraut underneath, also plenty of sausage). The big problem was that there were far too many potatoes. Since then, I've been working on the recipe, cleaning up obvious deficiencies and trying to get a better balance. Here's what I did on 3 April 2004:

Click on the picture for an enlarged version (about 200 kB)

It's a lot better balanced than earlier attempts, but this time I think I didn't have enough sauerkraut. The recipe below uses 50% more than in this picture.

Some of the choices are more related to what's available here than to authenticity, though I don't think that it would taste significantly different from what you would get in Strasbourg.

Another recipe

On 25 April 2007 I received the following recipe from Bryant Hill:

I stumbled past your webpage and saw that you were tinkering with a Choucroute Garnie recipe. Looks very tasty! I thought I\222d share a traditional Alsatian version with you should you be interested in preparing it.

5 pounds sauerkraut
3 tablespoons rendered goose fat
2 diced onions
1 diced apple
1 ½ cups Alsatian Riesling wine
1 cup homemade chicken stock or canned broth
3 cloves (spice), 1 bay leaf , 3 cloves of crushed garlic, ½ teaspoon thyme, 12 crushed juniper berries, 10 cracked black pepper corns (I smash them with a skillet).. Tie all of this in a cheesecloth.
1-2 pound slab of bacon
2 pounds smoked pork shoulder
12 small potatoes
6 bratwursts
6 frankfurters
2 pounds polish kielbasa

Melt the lard and cook the onions and apple in it until soft. Add the kruat, wine, chicken broth and bring it to a full boil. Bury the spice sachet inside along with the bacon and pork shoulder and put this directly in the oven at 350 degrees. Make sure it is covered tightly and cook it for about 1-1 ½ hours. While the kraut is going, boil the potatoes until tender on the side. Heat a small amount of oil in a skillet and brown the bratwurst. For the kielbasa and frankfurters, bury them in the kraut 15 minutes before removing it from the oven just to heat them. When this all is ready, remove the bacon and shoulder and cut into thick slices. Plate it all up ( Sauerkraut with bacon , sausage , potatoes and bratwurst on top and sprinkle it with chopped parsley). You can serve this with slices of goose, duck, or pheasant on top also. I like to serve it with small ramekins of coarse salt, horseradish, Dijon mustard.

Greg's comments

I haven't tried this variant, but comparing it with may own, I note the following differences:

So which recipe is better? You be the judge. Bryant's recipe is a good representative of the genre. My personal taste is for less meat and more Sauerkraut, but it goes against most recipes I've seen. On the other hand, most recipes also have more meat and less Sauerkraut than the dishes I've eaten in restaurants in the Alsatian and South-West German area.


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