Yes, yes, I know it’s St. Patrick’s Day and all, but we’re not making corned beef until the weekend, so you’re stuck with quasi-Polish food instead. Chicago is probably more Polish than Irish in reality anyway, so it fits – right?!
My husband claims to not like sauerkraut. Once upon a time, I would have claimed the same thing. I have distinct memories of playing at my cousin Heather’s house, while our moms made sauerkraut in the kitchen for a family party. Our little noses wrinkled in disgust at the strong vinegary fumes emanating from the kitchen, and we declared that we would not eat that stinky stuff. Oh, if only I could go back and tell my 7 year-old self that she was really missing out by not eating homemade sauerkraut.
Sauerkraut was undoubtedly a staple of our German mothers’ upbringings, and I can only imagine the grandmother I never knew making large vats of kraut in her own kitchen, perhaps enlisting the help of her two daughters. I came to love sauerkraut much later in life after moving to Chicago and attending Oktoberfest in Lincoln Square, the historically German neighborhood in Chicago. After tasting sauerkraut at the Brauhaus, it has made an occasional appearance on our table…though Mark had resisted it’s tart siren-song until now.
This recipe is a lot like Chicago itself – borrowing from different traditions to make something new. I visited the famed Paulina Meat Market recently – a wonderful old-school butcher shop in Chicago. The butchers behind the counter are stocky men who look like they can attest the the quality of the meats and housemade sausages before them. The butchers call you “Dear” while taking your order as you gaze in wonder at the sheer variety of beautiful meats before you. I love this place. And if you live in Chicago, I hope you’ll visit – soon.
While placing my order for slab bacon (to make Keller’s lentil soup), I found about 4 other things that I just “had” to have, including some polish sausage. Chicago has a large Polish community and I could guess that Paulina’s Polish was going to be good – I wasn’t wrong in my estimation. As the butcher wrapped up my selections, we chatted about my plans for this bounty and he directed me to their housemade sauerkraut to go with the sausage. For $1.60 for a big tub of it – how could I resist?!
This dish borrows a little from my German roots, with a hand from the Polish community with the sausage and hint of sweetness in the kraut. As I set the plates before us, I could tell that Mark wasn’t super excited when he mumbled that I “mixed the sausage all up with the kraut so that it’s hard to pick out.” He literally ate his words a moment later after taking the first bite and saying that it was “really good.” I think I’ve won him over on at least my sauerkraut.
What’s your favorite way to dish up the tart kraut? Share your pickled love in the comments…
Sauerkraut & Polish
8oz polish sausage
3 cups sauerkraut, drained and rinsed well
1/2 onion, sliced thin (about 1 cup
1 clove garlic
1 tsp caraway seeds
1 tsp dried thyme
1 1/2 T butter
2 T brown sugar
1 tsp olive oil
1/3 cup apple cider (or unsweetened, unfiltered apple juice or chicken broth)
fresh ground pepper
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Slice the polish sausage into bite-size pieces and scoop into the hot pan. Saute for 2-3 minutes to brown the sausage, then set aside in a bowl. Return the skillet to the heat and add 1tsp olive oil. Add the sliced onion to the pan and saute for 5 minutes, until the onion softens and begins to caramelize just a little. While the onion cooks, drain the sauerkraut in a colander in the sink. Run some water over the kraut for a minute or two, then reach in there and wring all the water out. Taste the kraut, and if it’s still too puckery for you, rinse and wring again. Set the kraut aside.
- Add the minced garlic, caraway and thyme to the pan and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the butter to the pan along with the drained kraut. Using tongs, gently toss the kraut in the melting butter. When the kraut is heated through, add the apple cider, brown sugar and sausage to the pan. Use tongs to mix everything together. Cook for 3-4 minutes, to reduce the liquid by half, taste, and if too sour, add a touch more brown sugar or cider. Grind a healthy dose of black pepper on top and serve.