With autumn approaching, we are all yearning for some comfort food: warm as well as warming, full of strong flavours and hearty goodness. In other words: calories. This dish is as comforting as it gets, in fact sauerkraut is so popular in Germany that ‘Krauts’ became the derogatory term for German soldiers in World War I. That is not to say that we are the only ones eating it: it’s also a vital component of many Eastern European dishes and nobody visiting the Alsace region should leave without sampling choucroute garnie. Unless you’re vegetarian, obviously, because the ‘garnie’ bit means a massive pile of bacon and sausages…
This dish, which originates in the Allgäu region, is not only hearty but also quite pretty, in that the dough is wrapped around the filling forming a swirl, almost like a savoury version of a chelsea bun. Children are often put off sauerkraut due to its slightly sour taste, but by simmering it with apples (and white wine…) the final dish is much milder than you might expect and is usually a great hit with kids. The caraway seeds are used in many German dishes, most notoriously in the Frankfurt dish ‘Handkäs mit Musik‘, which translates as ‘handcheese with music’: the cheese that is formed by hand (hence its name), with the raw onions and caraway seeds that accompany it providing the music. Just wait for it. It’ll come.
Sauerkraut, I hasten to add, is renowned for its health benefits: made of nothing but cabbage, water and salt, the mix is left to ferment. Traditionally that was done in large earthenware pots, and you had to pound the cabbage every other day or so with a wooden club, breaking up the cells and releasing the bacteria needed for the fermentation process.
Unpasteurised sauerkraut is full of ‘good’ bacteria, such as the ones you might be looking for in yoghurts. Due to its high vitamin C content, cabbage is supposed to boost your immune system, which is probably at its most vulnerable during the winter months. Sauerkraut is known to aid digestion and is often described as a cancer-fighting food. To reap the full health benefits, you should be eating it raw, though …
With this being my 100th post, I am in quite a celebratory mood – and how better to celebrate than by joining in with the fun at Angie’s Fiesta Friday, which she hosts every week at The Novice Gardener?
I have been watching the fun from a distance for a while now, always wishing I had something to bring along to this pot luck fest. So today’s the day: happy partying!
Sauerkraut Dumplings – Allgäuer Krautkrapfen (serves 6)
For the filling:
- 200 grams of pancetta or streaky bacon, diced
- 1 apple, peeled and diced
- 500gr Sauerkraut (or whatever is in the glass…)
- 4 juniper berries
- 1 teaspoon of caraway seeds
- 1 1/2 – 2 l of broth
- 1 tsp clarified butter
For the dough:
- 3 eggs
- 300g flour
- 1 tbs vegetable oil
- some water
Heat the clarified butter in a medium-sized pan; add the pancetta and sauté until it becomes a little see-through. Add the sauerkraut, apple pieces, juniper berries and the white wine; simmer for around ten minutes, then set aside.
This is how I make any Sauerkraut, whether I intend to eat it the Alsatian way, with bacon and sausages, or with other kinds of dumplings: by simmering the shop-bought sauerkraut with apple, wine and a few spices I take out its acidity and turn it into a lovely mild autumn dish.
Now it is time to make the dough, by combining the flour, eggs, oil and water to produce a relatively stiff dough, like a pasta dough. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and rest it for around 30 minutes.
For the next step you need to drain the sauerkraut, but collect the juices in a pan. Add the broth and heat up the liquid. Set the drained sauerkraut aside.
Roll out the dough very thinly – almost like a strudel dough. You can do this on a floured kitchen towel, which will help you to roll the roulade. Spread the sauerkraut evenly and begin to roll it up, then cut the roulade into slices of about 4-5 cm / 2 inches. Place the swirls into an ovenproof dish, pour the hot liquid over the swirls and bring to boil.
Then close the lid and place the dish in the oven. Bake for around 40 minutes.
Towards the end you will hear a crackling sound: as the broth has been soaked up by the dough, the dumplings are browning at the bottom of the pan, which will give them a lovely crust. Don’t wait for too long, though: you don’t want them to burn!
Enjoy with a side salad (to make it look more healthy) and a glass of beer, to feel completely comforted.