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Choucroute Garnie – Dressed Sauerkraut

Choucroute garnie (French for dressed sauerkraut; choucroute is a phonologically francophonic form of Alsatian Sürkrüt, c.f. German Sauerkraut) is a famous Alsatian recipe for preparing Sauerkraut with sausages and other salted meats and charcuterie, and often potatoes. Although sauerkraut is a traditionally German and Eastern European dish, the French annexation of Alsace and Lorraine following the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 brought this dish to the attention of French chefs and it has since been widely adopted in France.

In principle, there is no fixed recipe for this dish – any preparation of hot sauerkraut with meat and potatoes could qualify – but in practice there are certain traditions, favourite recipes, and stereotypical garnishes that are more easily called choucroute garnie than others. Traditional recipes call for three types of sausage: Frankfurt sausages, Strasbourg sausages, and Montbéliard sausages. Fatty, inexpensive or salted cuts of pork also often form a part of choucroute garnie, including ham hocks, pork knuckles and shoulders, back bacon and slices of salt pork. Other recipes call for pieces of fish or goose meat, but this is far less typical.

The sauerkraut itself is usually heated with a glass of Riesling or other dry white wines or stock, and goose or pork fat. In some recipes, it may also be cooked with chopped onion and sliced apples.

Like cassoulet, pot au feu, and so many other examples of France’s regional cuisine, its origin is in a traditional, inexpensive dish, but grand versions (such as Choucroute Royale, made with Champagne instead of Riesling), and grand ingredients (such as foie gras and wild game) are mentioned both in traditional sources (e.g. Ali-Bab) and in recipes from contemporary chefs and restaurants.

Choucroute garnie is available throughout France in canned or microwavable ready-to-eat form. A Hungarian version includes stuffed cabbage leaves in addition to the other ingredients. Shredded cabbage can also be added along with the sauerkraut to produce a somewhat less acidic version.

Choucroute Garnie - Dressed Sauerkraut
In principle, there is no fixed recipe for this dish - any preparation of hot sauerkraut with meat and potatoes could qualify - but in practice there are certain traditions, favourite recipes, and stereotypical garnishes that are more easily called choucroute garnie than others. Traditional recipes call for three types of sausage: Frankfurt sausages, Strasbourg sausages, and Montbéliard sausages. Fatty, inexpensive or salted cuts of pork also often form a part of choucroute garnie, including ham hocks, pork knuckles and shoulders, back bacon and slices of salt pork. Other recipes call for pieces of fish or goose meat, but this is far less typical.
Ingredients
  • 1.2 kg sauerkraut
  • 60 g salted pork or slab bacon, in large dice
  • 2 cups finely chopped onions
  • ½ cup chopped carrots
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tart apple, peeled, cored and grated
  • 1½ cups chicken stock,approximately
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 whole black peppercorns
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 8 juniper berries
  • salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 900 g garlic sausage or other sausage, fresh or smoked
  • 700 g boneless smoked pork tenderloin, sliced 1¼ cm thick
  • 225 g Virginia ham, sliced 3 mm thick
  • 6 medium-size potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • Dijon mustard for serving
Instructions
  1. Drain sauerkraut, reserving juice. Rinse in two changes of cold water, wring out well and set aside. Heat oven to 160°C.
  2. In a large casserole, at least 5 litres, cook salted pork or bacon over medium heat until golden. Remove, draining well. Leave fat in casserole. Add onions and carrots, sauté until soft. Add garlic and apple, and cook, stirring, for several minutes. Add sauerkraut, and return pork or bacon to casserole, folding it into sauerkraut. Add stock and wine and bring to a simmer.
  3. Add bay leaf, peppercorns, cloves and juniper berries. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and bake 2 hours.
  4. Tuck sausages into sauerkraut. If sauerkraut looks dry, add stock. If sauerkraut needs more bite, add a little reserved juice. Cover,and bake 20 minutes.
  5. Place smoked pork on sauerkraut. Cut ham slices in half,and add them to top. Cover with parchment cut to fit inside casserole and placed directly on ingredients. Cover pot,and return to oven 15 minutes.
  6. While meats cook, simmer potatoes in salted water until tender. Drain.
  7. Serve choucroute directly from casserole, placing potatoes on top first.Or spread sauerkraut on a platter,and top with meats and potatoes. Serve with mustard.

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