Mother’s Choucroute Garnie (Braised Sauerkraut and Meats)

Sauerkraut in Mother’s Choucroute Garnie is mellowed by long cooking and the sugars in slow-cooked onions and apples. If you like sauerkraut with a punch, this recipe may not be for you. On the other hand, if you want to turn sauerkraut haters into sauerkraut lovers, Mother’s Choucroute Garnie will do it every time. For sauerkraut, I like Claussen’s brand, found in the grocery store refrigerator case; Mother preferred Steinfeld’s. Normally, the Garnie (garnish) is made up of pork products; mother used assorted sausages (German, Polish, Italian, Knockwurst, and Garlic), pork chops, bacon, and ham, but any mix of cured pork will do. She also didn’t add poultry, though dark meat, slightly gamy guinea fowl  makes a great addition. Guinea fowl may be hard to find (I ordered mine from D’Artagnan); substitute chicken hindquarters or pork chops. Pancetta is often sold in packages of very thinly cut pre-sliced meat. Although pre-sliced will do in a pinch, I prefer buying pancetta from the deli counter. I ask for either a chunk of pancetta, which I hand slice and dice at home, or have deli staff cut pancetta into thick slices. Cut recipe in half if you don’t have a crowd.

  • 64-ounces sauerkraut, preferably from refrigerator case
  • 1/2 pound diced pancetta, 1/2″ dice
  • 6 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 8 cups sliced onions, 3/8″ thick (approximately 2 large onions)
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1 Granny Smith or other tart apple, peeled and finely chopped
  • 750 ml bottle Reisling or similar white wine, divided
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 12 juniper berries
  • 1 Tbsp. dried thyme, crushed
  • 10 guinea hen legs or chicken hindquarters, or 4 pounds pork chops
  • 5 links bratwurst or other sausages
  • 2 lbs. ham, cut in 2″ chunks
  • 1 cotechino or other cured pork sausage
  • 2 Tbsp. minced fresh thyme

Rinse sauerkraut well and put in colander to drain thoroughly.

Saute pancetta in 2 Tbsp. olive oil until it’s nicely browned. Add onions, lightly seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and cook until onions are translucent. Stir in rinsed sauerkraut, garlic, apple, 1/2 bottle wine, bay leaves, juniper berries, and dried thyme. Bring liquid to a boil, cover pan, turn heat down to low, and simmer for 1 1/2 hours, or until sauerkraut has cooked down and most liquid has cooked away. From time to time, stir sauerkraut and add more wine (or chicken stock), as needed to prevent scorching.

While sauerkraut cooks, wash guinea hen, chicken, or pork chops. Remove excess fat and dry well. Season on both sides with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat remaining 4 tablespoons olive oil in skillet and cook legs or chops until well-browned on both sides. Remove to platter. In same pan, brown bratwurst on all sides and remove to platter. Cut bratwursts into 1″ lengths.

After sauerkraut has cooked for 1 1/2 hours, gently stir all meats and their juices into pot. Cover and simmer for 1 hour. Heap serving dish with sauerkraut, with meat arranged on top. Sprinkle with minced fresh thyme.

Serve with a variety of mustards and boiled potatoes tossed with salt, pepper, and chopped parsley.

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