Home Cooking



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Home Cooking


Will Owen | | Jan 14, 2014 01:48 PM

No, I'm not slinging ethnic epithets, I'm talking about my favorite fermented vegetable (which includes such variants as kimchi) and soliciting opinions and suggestions.

I've mentioned that I encountered Choucroute Garni on New Year's Eve, 1974, prepared by my boss's Alsatian-sourced wife, and that I vowed to have that as THE N.Y. dish henceforth, and mostly did so. This last one I gave it a miss because of Mrs. O's having gone veggie, and last year's attempt using fauxsages did not go well: they were okay first time around, but get nastier and nastier with each reheating, the opposite of what real pork things do.

I have made some smaller ones for myself, enough for one supper when she's away and perhaps one or two lunches after. Today I made a smaller one than usual, after I found a nice package of "Country-Style Ribs" in the Manager's Special bin for under five bucks. I didn't bother to get any sausages, just spent my money (about $7) on a 28-oz jar of German sauerkraut, Kühne's Gundelsheim. As usual with European kraut I had to pierce the lid to release the vacuum before I could budge it, and as usual it was packed so tightly what came out made a pile a good bit bigger than the jar. Unfortunately, also usual was how bland and flat the flavor was.

It's been years since I've had to follow the instructions to "rinse and drain the kraut," and I can't understand why. Used to be that a freshly-opened can or jar would perfume the whole kitchen, and there was never any need to add salt to a dish containing it. With this, I just piled it into the mesh colander (which it didn't need, being so dry) and cut the meat into four big chunks, dried and salted them, then browned them in some duck fat. Removed them, heated and turned the kraut in the fat and then buried the meat in it. Poured over a cup of warmed white wine, put it into a 275º oven and did something else for the next two hours. With some mashed potato about a third of it made a very pleasant lunch; it would have been more interesting if I'd cooked chopped onion and apple before the kraut, but this was a sudden inspiration.

Has anyone else noticed the blandness of sauerkraut these days, or is it just my taster/smeller growing old and dim? The very good (and less expensive!) Kruegermann kraut, made right here in Los Angeles by folks from Berlin, does have more noticeable acidity and sharpness, but that I just drain without rinsing.

Maybe I should try using kimchi! Any other thoughts?

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