Sauerkraut and Sausages
Instead of family dinners, let’s do Sunday lunch for a change. There is something so much more convivial about a long lunch: guests are more relaxed, daylight to enjoy your surroundings, plenty of time to linger,…ok, it is a way to write off the whole day too, but in a very enjoyable way!
As usual, I asked for ideas for a theme, the only requisite being for comfort food to warm our bones since the weather had suddenly turned wintery on us.
That’s when Shelley ( Terry’s older daughter) suggested German food. Now what should come to mind when thinking of Germany but sauerkraut and sausages! There is no shortage of Bavarian-style restaurants in Sydney and we’ve tried our fair share in the past 12 months, be it at the Lowenbrau in the Rocks (now revamped as the Munich Bauhaus) or the Bavarian Cafe closer to home. But when it comes to cook your own, finding a german butcher can become a challenge. Except if you leave in the Shire, where Rudi’s Continental Butchery is located. Rudi’s has been around in Kirrawee for as long as I have been in Australia (28 years!) and has been our go-to butcher for authentic anything German like smoked meats and sausages, sauerkraut, mustards, cheeses and even German sodas!
So here I go, met Stefan and told him I was planning a Sauerkraut for dinner for 9 people in 5 days time. “How are you going to cook it?” he asked. “Is it going to be the main meal or served on the side?” I didn’t even know there was a difference! But there is. The main course is slowly cooked with the sausages and cured meats heaped on top. The side course is also slowly cooked, but the meat is roasted separately and the whole dish is served very much like a “roast and vegetables” style. Needless to say I was confused, especially as my plan included serving crispy pork knuckle and I had no idea how to fit that in. Fortunately Stefan (who must deal with these sort of queries every week) made it easy for me, offering to prepare the knuckles ( i.e cut them in half, score and season them ready for the oven), 1 kilo of freshly made sauerkraut and providing all the instructions necessary. As for which sausages to choose, that’s when the fun started: with a choice of over 15 types, the only way to narrow down the selection was to get samples. So a few days before the big lunch, I took home some cheese kransky, stuttgarter, weisswurst and thuringer bratwurst for a sausage tasting. The smile on Terry and the kids faces: priceless!
Fast forward to Sunday and armed all with the pre-ordered sauerkraut, knuckles, speck, myriad of sausages, spices, white wine and Stefan’s directives, I set out to prepare the dish. It is not as complicated as it sounds, and if anything, I would say the main “ingredient” is time, to let the whole dish cook properly. In the end, it took the same amount of time to roast the 6 kilos of pork as it did to simmer the cabbage.
In the meantime, looking for a starter to have with our beer, I came across a recipe for Obazda which is a Bavarian cheese spread, consisting of Camembert, butter, paprika and beer. Since these ingredients are always in my fridge, it was fate and only took a few minutes to put together…only thing was, I had to dash out at the last minute to buy the pretzels to serve with, as Stefan warned me only the freshest of pretzels would do to keep the crunchiness of the rock salt! Lucky we have a Luneburger german bakery nearby in Miranda.
So by the time our guests arrived, the kitchen smelled of fermented cabbage, freshly baked pretzels, strong cheese, and crispy pork! Tania presented us with dessert: a home made chocolate and salted pretzels cake, which was greeted with many “Oohs” and “Wows” and that was the cue to open the beers (German of course!) Prost!!
Obazda (bavarian Cheese spread)
Adapted from an original recipe on germanfoods.org
Makes 2 cups
250g Camembert or Brie ( preferably ripe)
250g cream cheese
25g butter, softened
6-8 tbsp of dark german beer (to taste)
2 tsp mild paprika
salt and pepper
White onion, peeled and thinly sliced
- Trim off the skin of the Camembert if too ripe. In a bowl, mash together the Camembert and the cream cheese until well mixed. Add the soft butter, salt, pepper and paprika. Pour over the beer and stir well. Cover with climgwrap and let rest in the fridge for 2 hours, to allow the flavours to develop.
- Serve with sliced onions and fresh pretzels. Enjoy!
Sauerkraut my way
1.5 kg fresh sauerkraut
2 1/4 cups dry white wine
2 onions, peeled and chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
350g speck, coarsely diced
6 juniper berries
1 tsp caraway seeds
6 black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1 kg each of stuttgarter, cheese cranky, thueringer sausages
5 pork knuckles, cut in half and scored ( ask your butcher to do it for you)
Salt and pepper
2 kgs of potatoes
- In a large pot/dutch oven, heat the olive oil and brown the chopped onion slowly, until near caramelised (it can take up to 15 minutes!), add the speck, stir and let sweat for another 5 minutes to render some of the fat. Mix in the juniper berries, caraway seeds, peppercorns and bay leaves and finally add the sauerkraut, stirring to combine. Pour the wine over the mixture, bring it to there boil, cover, reduce the heat to as low as possible and let simmer for at least 2 hours.
- In the meantime, pre-heat the oven to 220 C. Pat dry the pork knuckles, rub with olive oil, plenty of coarse salt and spread on a baking rack, over a tray. Pour a little water in the tray, enough to stop the meat from drying out but not so much that it will boil. Place in the oven and roast for 2 hours. Check for doneness, maybe it will take longer depending on your oven. When cooked thru, turn the oven to grill and leave the pork in for another 10-15 minutes to get it crispy skinned. Watch it does not burn (see photos!)
- While all this happens, wash the potatoes, place in a large pot and boil or steam until tender. When cool enough, peel off the skin ( or leave it if you prefer ). Keep warm.
- In the last 30 minutes of cooking, separate the sausages in 2 lots. Place the first lot on top of the sauerkraut ( most of the liquid should have evaporated by now and the cabbage should be nice and moist ), cover and let steam. Pan fry the rest of the sausages in a little olive oil and keep aside. Why do it 2 ways? Because we like both textures and could not decide which was best, so we decided to have it all.
- When ready, place some of the sauerkraut on a large serving plate. Surround with the potatoes and some of the sausages cut in serving portions. Place the knuckles in the centre the plate.
- Serve with german mustard, curried ketchup, a salad of lettuce, apple and radishes (just so you can say you had greens!).
- Enjoy with a nice German riesling, plenty of beer or even Krauterlimonade!