Several months ago I came across something absolutely addictive. It was last November at Wurstfest, well, not exactly, but close enough. And it was serendipitous. Like we were meant for each other. I’ve eaten it twice, thanks to the chef, and I am now making this dish at home for the second time.
It’s so spectacular I decided it’s time to unveil one of my new favorite things to you.
But, don’t run away because I promise this is not the traditional fermented stuff. Nor is it sauerkraut in a bag, a jar or (gasp!) sauerkraut in a can. It’s sauteed cabbage with bacon and onion braised in a lot of perfectly tangy apple cider vinegar. And I can’t get enough of it.
The way I stumbled upon this sauerkraut—let’s just call it sauerkraut, for lack of a better word—is a long and jumbled story, but suffice it to say it included a lot of begging. Begging the chef for the recipe, that is.
One Saturday at the New Braunfels Farm to Market, the chef of Liberty Bistro strolled by. I immediately recognized him as “the-man-who-served-us-that-spectacular-sauerkraut-on-the-opening-night-of-Wurstfest” and I am sure I ogled and cooed like a baby, giggled and pointed to him like an idiot.
After regaining my composure, I introduced myself and told him how we had his sauerkraut that night and were still dreaming about it. Collin, the chef, nodded, smiled and thanked me and kept walking.
I saw him again a few Saturdays later and once more told him how much I loved his sauerkraut. This time he promised to make me some and, again, walked away.
“Yea, right,” I thought. “That will never happen. He probably just said that to shut me up.” But it was a nice gesture and I did appreciate it.
The following Saturday, there he is at the market. I wave and he says hello and tells me he made me some sauerkraut and he’ll bring it to me before the market is over.
OMG, I am beside myself and I hug him. When he brings me the sauerkraut, I offer him a bag of Cowgirl Granola, as a mere token of my appreciation. It’s the least I can do.
So, a few weeks later, when he’s at the market one Saturday again as the demo chef, I tell him how amazing the sauerkraut was and start asking questions, like, “It’s not like sauerkraut, but it’s more like you use fresh cabbage, right?”
His sous chef, Abby, smiled and nodded and Collin said, “Actually, Abby’s the sauerkraut maker.”
She is a Genius
There you have it and the truth as to why he was so shy to accept the glory. She’s the genius behind this utterly fantastic concoction. We talked a bit and Abby indicated that perhaps at the end of the day they would share the recipe with me, because, “it’s really easy,” she says.
And it is. We bought a Markey Family Farm cabbage last week and since I try to eat everything I buy before the next market, sauerkraut was on the menu Friday tonight and I was in heaven.
This faux kraut is an easy dish to make and combines beautifully with sausage or pork chops or a mixed green salad. The permeating aroma that fills the house reminds me of my German grandmother and I know she would definitely approve of this version of sauerkraut.
Braised Cabbage with Bacon and Onions ( Faux kraut)
- 1 head green cabbage cored and thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
- 1 yellow onion halved and thinly sliced
- 5-6 slices applewood smoked bacon please get the best quality bacon you can find or afford, chopped
- 1 tablespoon caraway seeds toasted (toss the seeds in a medium hot skillet for just a minute or so until they start to smell fragrant)
- 2 cups apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup water
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- Perhaps a bit more vinegar and/or sugar to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Half the cabbage and remove the core. Then thinly slice cabbage and place in a colander. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon salt over the cabbage and toss to coat. Set aside.
In a big soup pot, cook the chopped bacon until it's fried to perfection. Add the sliced onions and saute until softened.
Add the cabbage and caraway seeds and stir well.
Add 2 cups apple cider vinegar and 1 cup of water. Sprinkle in 2 tablespoons sugar and stir well. The smell should really get you excited at this point and should permeate your entire house as it cooks. Let cook over medium heat about 30-40 minutes until everything is softened and the flavors meld.
When it is cooked, taste it to check for the right balance of flavors adding a bit more salt, vinegar and/or sugar if needed.
Serve and try not to eat it all, because, like soup and sauces, it's even better the next day.