Posted by: Rachel | January 16, 2011

the “b” word

OK, now if you’ve been following this blog at all, or if you know me, you know that I love olive oil. I have too many different kinds, probably, but I use them all and love each and every one of them. I also love schmaltz, chicken or goose, and will happily sauteé potatoes and other vegetables therein. But, butter, oh butter, there is nothing like it!

If I am cooking anything savory I tend to shy away from butter. Not because of the calories necessarily, or the “kind” of fat, but I do (see above) love my olive oil. Sometimes, though, a dish just cries for butter, and today I made one.

My father used to make choucroute garnie once or twice each winter. In western Pennsylvania it made good sense; winter was a long, cold, dismal season, and keeping the oven and stove hopping was fine. And I have a good friend whose mother made a wonderful simple baked sauerkraut and kielbasa dish with brown sugar. Oh my!

I have my own spin that incorporates both of these recipes and works for me. This recipe is one of the few where olive oil will not do (in my opinion). I think that is because this dish is both slightly sweet and “northern”; olive oil tastes truly Mediterranean, no matter its point of origin.

[A word on making your own sauerkraut. Should you decide to try it (and it isn’t hard, its just painstaking) try to plan the roughly six-week fermentation time around any company you may be expecting. I have lived in a house where sauerkraut was fermenting and it is not for the faint of heart. Gaaaack. The end result was well worth it, but it smelled awful to me. Not a nice yeasty beer-y smell, and certainly not like anything I’d like to eat (and I eat ‘most everything!). Happily there were no close neighbors; they’d surely have called the cops or coroner. So… you have been warned.]

Apples and onions are a happy pairing, and this dish uses both. You could easily leave the meat out entirely and simply make an apple, onion, and sauerkraut baked dish and I’d love that as well! But, I wanted to chase the flavors (that Proustian thing again, ah winter food) that I remembered, and so here goes:

Kraut ‘n’ Meat (Sweet!)

3 T butter
1 onion, chopped
1 large tart baking apple, cored and chopped
1 C unsweetened applesauce
1.5 lb kielbasa-type sausage cut in 1/4-inch rounds
1.5 lb sauerkraut, drained
1/4 C cooked bacon, crumbled*
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 C brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 325F.

In a large enameled or glass Dutch oven, melt the butter. Add the onions and sauteé 10 minutes. Add the chopped apple and cook another 5 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside. Add the meat and cook until slightly browned on each side.

Add the onion/apples back in, add the crumbled bacon and apple sauce and mix well. (I get cooked bacon from the salad bar at my grocery. Since I use it so infrequently it makes sense I think.)

ready for the oven

hot 'n' sweet!

Add the sauerkraut and mix well again. Crumble the brown sugar over the top, sprinkle with the ground cloves (just a pinch, really), cover and bake for 2 hours, stirring every half hour. If liquid is needed, add it sparingly. If it seems too “juicy” uncover it for the last half-hour in the oven.

Understand that all amounts above are approximate, some like it sweeter, some less so. Some may prefer less meat, no meat, or a variety of meats. Smoked pork chops are really good in this as well. This is a fine pot-luck dish, tastes better the second day, and will keep well in the fridge or freezer. Enjoy!
Tell me, what are your winter food dreams and memories? Favorite winter dishes? Share, please!



  1. This sounds wonderful. I love anything with sauerkraut (unfortunately my husband doesn’t so I often only get it on hotdogs).

    I know what you mean about the smell! My parents had a Ukrainian restaurant when I was growing up and they made their own sauerkraut. There were pails and pails of the stuff, and man that smell! Thankfully, it was often masked by the glorious scent ofcabbage rolls roasting in the oven.

    • Cabbage rolls? Do you mean cabbage leaves stuffed with beef or some other meat or rice or something, or cabbage and beef baked inside of yeast/wheat rolls? I’ve had both kinds and loved them. Do you have the recipe? And would you share it? Mmmmmmm…!

      • I was talking about the rice and beef (or pork) mixture rolled into cabbage leaves and baked (holubtsi). But they did also make and sell pyrisky, the yeast buns filled with different things, including sauerkraut but sometimes seasoned beef or prunes.

        As to recipes, I don’t think my mom would let me share the bun recipe. The houbtsi is more about method than recipe. I’ll search around for a youtube video or something that shows how.

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