Serves 4 to 6
Humble ‘kraut simmers to magnificence with wine, stock, bacon, and aromatic vegetables and herbs. This preparation is the basis of the famous Alsatian dish choucroute garnie, in which sauerkraut (choucroute) is “garnished” (garnie) with mounds of smoked meats and sausages.
The porcine extravagance of the classic will defeat most modern appetites, but braised sauerkraut still makes a delightful accompaniment to more modest portions of grilled sausages, smoked pork chops, or duck confit. Simply brown the meats well and add them to the sauerkraut to finish cooking/warming during the last 15 to 20 minutes of the braise. There are even fish versions of choucroute garnie, in which fresh fish is gently steamed, and smoked fish warmed, atop the ‘kraut as it simmers.
(For any of these preparations the sauerkraut can be made up to several days ahead and reheated.)
2 packed cups sauerkraut, preferably home-fermented
3 ounces slab or 3 slices thick-sliced bacon, in ½-inch cubes
1 small leek, sliced
1 onion, sliced
1 large carrot, sliced
1 cup unsalted chicken stock
½ cup dry white wine or dry vermouth
6 whole juniper berries
2 bay leaves
3 sprigs fresh thyme
Coarsely ground black pepper
Salt if needed
Rinse the sauerkraut in two changes of water, drain it and then squeeze out excess water. In a heavy Dutch oven or large saucepan, cook the bacon gently until the fat starts to render. Add the leek, onion, and carrot and cook over medium-low heat until the onions are translucent and wilted, about 5 minutes. Add the sauerkraut, stock, wine, juniper berries, bay leaves, thyme, a few coarse grinds of black pepper, and a good pinch of salt. Simmer, partly covered, stirring occasionally, for 45 to 60 minutes. Add water or additional stock if the ‘kraut threatens to cook dry. Taste and adjust for salt. Pick out and discard the bay leaves, thyme stems, and juniper berries before serving.