05 November 2017

Meat, meat, and more meat... plus cabbage, potatoes, and carrots

That's what some of my photos look like. The traditional Alsatian sauerkraut serving is a big mound of sauerkraut and half a dozen different meats, which can be varied by the cook. Here's what mine looked like in the serving dish. Farther down, there's a photo of the choucroute as it came out of the oven. I put in the meats, all pre-cooked, on top of the chou to heat through at the very end of the cooking time.

There was enough cabbage and meat here for 2 or 3 meals for 2 people. The choucroute itself cooked for about four hours in the oven at low temperature. I should have cooked it in the slow-cooker, and next time that's what I'll do. After all, I bought three kilos of choucroute crue and I only cooked one kilo yesterday. The cooking liquid was mostly water with just about a cup and a half of white wine. One of the meats I like to include, along with smoked sausages and smoked pork belly, is smoked chicken, which is easy to find here in France.

There are theories about the carrots. A lot of recipes for cooking choucroute call for them, and a lot don't. One that does is Monique Maine's, and her 1969 cookbook Cuisine pour toute l'année is one of my favorites. Some cooks call for putting the carrots into the dish with the cabbage but removing them at the end of the cooking time and not serving them with the cabbage and meat. One thing I've read is that the carrots counteract the sharpness of the sauerkraut, which is after all produced by a fermentation process that creates lactic acid. I wouldn't leave them out any more than I would leave out the onions.

Some recipes and opinions I've read says not to cook the sauerkraut in white wine, because the wine has an acidic character that only accentuates the acidity that is what makes choucroute tasty and not bland. Other cooks say the choucroute should be served only with meats that are specifically Alsatian, which means don't serve it with the "foreign" sausages called Montbéliard and Morteau that come from the neighboring Franche-Comté region. And certainly don't replace the saucisses de Strasbourg with saucisses de Francfort! I'm not that kind of purist.

Here's a recipe for preparing choucroute from a book called La Cuisine alsacienne that was given to me as a gift a few years ago by my friend Martine from Belgium. It doesn't mention carrots. This is my translation.


3 to 3½ lbs. sauerkraut
2 onions
1 clove garlic
5 or 6 Tbsp. goose fat
2 bay leaves
2 whole cloves
2 cups Sylvaner wine
2 ham hocks
2 pieces of smoked pork shoulder
¾ lb. slab of smoked bacon
6 large potatoes
6 Strasboug sausages (wieners)
Salt and pepper

Rinse the sauerkraut in cold water. Drain it and rinse it a second time. Squeeze the cabbage to remove all the rinse water.

In a big pot, cook the onion, sliced, and the garlic in hot goose fat.Add the rinsed sauerkraut in the pot. Salt and pepper it. Add the bay leaves and whole cloves. Pour in the Sylvaner wine and about a cup of water. Let it cook for an hour on medium heat, stirring occasionally to mix all the ingredients and flavors together.

Add the ham hocks, the smoked pork shoulder, and the slab of bacon to the pot. Let everything cook together for 90 minutes on medium heat, adding water as necessary to keep the sauerkraut moistened.

Peel the potatoes and put them on top of the cabbage to cook for 20 minutes. Separately, poach the wieners for 5 minutes.

Spoon the sauerkraut into a big serving dish. Serve the meats, sausages, and steamed potatoes over it or alongside.

The total cooking time for this recipe is 3¼ hours. Don't let a lack of goose fat in your kitchen deter you — use a little lard or bacon fat plus some vegetable oil as a substitute. Sylvaner is a semi-sweet Alsace wine, but you can use any dry or semi-dry white wine. By the way, the French recipe calls for making, cooking, and serving with the choucroute something called quenelles de foie (liver dumplings), for which there's a recipe in the book. I've never made or eaten those so I left them out. As I've said, I like to have smoked chicken with sauerkraut, and I know that some people eat it with boiled beef or other meats. CHM once had sauerkraut with duck confit in one restaurant, but I don't think he would recommend it.


  1. Ken, it took me too long to prepare this comment to be able to post it yesterday. Here it is today. I’m sorry it is so long; it is in two parts.

    As I said many times, there are no carrots in the traditional < i > Choucroute garnie alsacienne < /i >.

    The recipe I follow most of the time was given to me by a friend of mine, J.L., many years ago. Since she now has Alzheimer, I cannot ask her were she got it in the first place. Perhaps the source was the « Elle » magazine, from which she got many recipes. In any case, her recipe doesn’t call for carrots.

    Here is her recipe, adapted for American measures and ingredients.

    Choucroute garnie
    (adaptée aux mesures et ingrédients américains)

    Pour 6 personnes :

    - 2 livres de choucroute (5 cups)
    - 1/2 lb. de bacon (thick sliced)
    - 4 tbsp. de graisse de porc ou de beurre
    - 1 feuille de laurier
    - 6 à 8 grains de poivre
    - 10 baies de genièvre
    - 1 cup d’oignons hachés
    - 1 cup de vin blanc sec ou bière
    - 2 à 3 cups de bouillon poulet ou bœuf (cubes)
    - sel

    Chauffer le four ˆ à 325°F.

    -Laver la choucroute à grande eau ; l’égoutter à fond.
    -Couper le bacon en morceaux de 3 à 4 cm. après avoir supprimé la couenne. Le mettre dans une casserole d’eau bouillante et le faire mijoter pendant une dizaine de minutes.
    -Égoutter le bacon et le faire revenir avec les oignons à petit feu, dans le beurre ou la graisse, sans faire dorer.
    -Ajouter la choucroute, les épices, le vin (ou la bière) et suffisamment de bouillon pour couvrir la choucroute. Porter à ébullition. Couvrir la cocotte et mettre au four préchauffé. Régler la température de façon que la choucroute cuise doucement pendant un minimum de trois heures et que le liquide ait été absorbé.

    Pour une choucroute garnie, faire dorer les côtes de porc, saucisses, etc. dans du beurre avant de les ajouter à la choucroute en cours de cuisson, en tenant compte du temps de cuisson nécessaire pour la viande (environ 1 h. pour les côtes de porc, 20 minutes pour les saucisses de Francfort).

    Servir avec des pommes de terre à l’anglaise.

    I use also a simpler recipe by Ginette Mathiot in La cuisine pour tous (1955)

    Choucroute à l’alsacienne
    Préparation : 10 mn. Cuisson : 3 h 1/2 ou 4 h.
    1 kg de choucroute.
100 g d’oignons.
1/4 de litre de vin blanc.
150 g de saindoux.
300g de lard fumé.
250 g de saucisses.
500 g de pommes de terre.
6 tranches de jambon.
    Faire fondre le saindoux.
Y mettre les oignons et la choucroute, arroser de vin blanc, assaisonner et laisser cuire pendant 2 h 1/2 à petit feu.
Mettre à ce moment le lard fumé qui doit cuire une heure, puis mettre 30 minutes avant de servir la saucisse, les pommes de terre coupées en quartiers. Servir sur un plat.
On ne lave la choucroute qu’au printemps.
On peut ajouter, en outre, des saucisses de Francfort pochées, de la palette, des cervelas.
Au moment de servir, on peut mettre la valeur de 2 verres de Champagne et l’on fait ensuite réchauffer.
    (To be continued)

    1. I should have remembered that. I have Jeanine's recipe somewhere, too, because you gave it to me. Thanks for sending it again. I will continue to put carrots in my choucroute. You might as well get used to it. Maybe mine is a Choucroute de Créances ou une Choucroute à la parisienne. I wish I could remember whether all the choucroutes I ate in Metz in 1979-80, when I worked there, had carrots in them, but of course I can't. At least one man who contributed a comment to a Marmiton forum on choucroute alsacienne said his Alsatian grandmother always put carrots in her choucroute to improve the taste of the cabbage. Tous les goûts sont dans la nature, Monsieur le Gardien des Tradtions!

    2. As everybody knows Blogger is a pain in the traditional place. I've been trying to post the second part of my comment for an hour without result. Let see what happens now!

  2. Now let's try piecemeal to know which part of my comment Blogger doesn't lke.

    My maternal grandfather was of Alsatian descent and his wife, my grandmother — a marvelous cook — made sure that her choucroute garnie alsacienne was exactly that. She bought all the ingredients needed at Schmid’s, a well known Alsatian traiteur near gare de l’Est in Paris. I am positive there was no carrot whatsover in her choucroute garnie alsacienne. Unfortunately, I don’t have her recipe. I wish I did. Traditional recipes should have the same AOC/AOP that wines, cheeses and other regional products do get.

  3. Here are a few links to recipes, all in French :
    in which carrots are absent.

  4. Finally, here is a link to a video by ThierryMarx dans Les Carnets de Julie. No carrots there either!

    Carrots do sweeten the general taste of a dish. Maybe that's why some people use them. Who knows if choucroute you get in restaurants are cooked with carrots that are taken out before serving? In any given recipe, you can put or not put whatever you want, but it is then your own version, not the traditional recipe.

    In conclusion, most, if not all, of the numerous recipes, in French or in English, I checked for choucroute garnie DO NOT call for carrots in their ingredients. As you said, Ken, it’s all a matter of taste ;—)

    1. I'm not sure I ever declared that what I was writing about was the traditional version. It's just that it's very different from American sauerkraut. That was the point.

    2. And I'm trying not to take your remark about it being a matter of taste the wrong way!

      I received on e-mail your comment with all the links in it about a dozen times. Maybe that was too many links for Blogger to deal with.

    3. No, you never said your choucroute was the traditional one, just choucroute (aux carottes). But for me, when I hear the word choucroute it immediately evokes the choucroute garnie alsacienne I used to know. Now, since I eat less and less meat, the choucroute I prepare is more like chou fermenté au poivre en grains than anything else.

      Let's take clafoutis as an example. Traditionally, clafoutis is made with cherries. So if I say I baked a clafoutis, it means a dessert with cherries. But, if I choose to uses bananas, instead, I must say I baked a clafoutis aux bananes to explain what kind of dessert it is. Words are important, and they have a meaning. Now with the "volapük style" French and English have become, I'm not sure it is any clearer!

    4. Toujours sur les remparts, depuis 35 ans que je te connais. Il faut accepter le changement. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. On n'arrête pas le progrès, autrement dit.

      You know, the other day when you said you wanted to try my "pulled pork thingie" someday, I was a little offended at the word "thingie". I can say the same about your "traditional Alsace choucroute thingie".

    5. Voilà ce que c'est de faire le perroquet et de répéter des choses sans vraiment les comprendre. J'ai vu ce mot "thingie" dans un blog et j'ai pensé que c'était rigolo. Je ne savais pas que cela pourrait être pris en mauvaise part et je te prie de m'en excuser, car ce n'était certainement pas mon intention.

    6. Ce n'est pas grave. Tout cela semble de peu d'importance après ce qui s'est passé près de San Antonio au Texas hier.

      A propos de "thingy", Dictionary.com dit : (Facetious.) any small item whose name is unknown or forgotten.

  5. I still have not the faintest idea why Blogger refused in bulk what it accepted piecemeal????

    1. Blogger does what Blogger does, and it's free. If it weren't free, I probably wouldn't have a blog at all. On fait avec.

      I've been reading recipes for Choucroute à la lorraine for the last hour or two, and a lot of them have carrots on the ingredient list. Est-ce un indice? Est-ce que j'aurais été contaminé ou trompé par les Lorrains ? Je ne parle pas de Jeanine...

      Et puis qu'est-ce que ça peut nous faire s'il y a ou s'il n'y a pas de carottes dans la choucroute ? Toi tu fais ce que tu veux et moi aussi. Peut-être que les Alsaciens ne connaissaient pas les carottes. Faut pas être trop doctrinaire ou trop obstiné. Change is our friend, as we used to say in the software business. Traditions schmaditions.

  6. We also cook sauerkraut with white wine. It does not include carrots but has apple. Carrot sounds good to me.
    Carol G

    1. I have never tried cooking apples in sauerkraut. Something to look forward to. Carol, I haven't forgotten your book. I will get it back to you soon.

  7. I think the carrots add a nice touch of color to a basically brown and white dish. Eye appeal is always important.

  8. My mom who lived during the two world wars was so prejudiced against the Germans that I grew up without sauerkraut, so I can't comment about the carrots except to say that I like the color they add to the dish. I remember smelling sauerkraut in my school cafeteria- it was a long time before I dared taste the stuff lol. It is great on hot dogs with mustard for sure.

    1. The smell of the raw sauerkraut cooked in white wine is not strong at all, nor is the taste. It's something to try. I've bought sauerkraut in cans and jars here to try it, but I don't like that smell either.

  9. Ken this food all looks wonderful. I think the apples in sauerkraut is more Czech or Bavarian. Where they also add shredded potato and applesauce to the mix. ;-)

    1. That's interesting. I'll look for some recipes. I bet sauerkraut with apples would be good served with boudin noir that also has apples in it, or boudin noir aux oignons. I have that on my mind and my menu because I bought some boudin noir at the store yesterday.

  10. I must be weird, because even as a kid I liked sauerkraut, the horrible store kind. Now that I know what the good stuff is, I like it even better. Also kimchi. And carrots.
    Those are both very good for your innards, too.
    Ken, how do you store the bulk of the unused sauerkraut before it's cooked, frozen or fridge?

    1. The raw sauerkraut is in the freezer. It freezes just fine, and I've never noticed any ill effects. Some other vegetables don't freeze well — carrots for example, which have to be cooked of course before freezing. I think their texture suffers in the freezer. Did I mention that the raw sauerkraut cost me 60 cents a kilogram at Intermarché last week. What a steal.

  11. 60 cents. Such a deal! :-)

    1. There must be a choucroute surplus in France. Or maybe it's just a loss leader to get people in the store to buy a lot of expensive smoked meats and sausages.


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