Monday, February 9, 2009

Liberty Cabbage (Ham n' Sauerkraut)

When I was a kid, my dad used to get a whole bunch of wursts and pork from the German butcher and cook them with sauerkraut in a Romertopf - a semi-porous clay roasting pan and lid. Today, I use my slow cooker. It's pretty much the same idea.

Any collection of pork products will do, particularly the large or fatty pieces that need slow cooking like shoulder, hock, etc. Cured sausages and franks are great too (uncured ones will dry out). In this case, I used some ham that's been in the freezer since Thanksgiving (to make way for a new ham) and some German-style franks that were getting a little freezer burned.

I also added potatoes and a few herbs and spices which really add to the flavor, mainly coarse mustard, caraway seeds and savory. The latter two are rumored to reduce the social liabilities of cabbage. I don't know if that's an issue with a fermented product like sauerkraut, especially after six hours of cooking, but they are mighty tasty.

I'm not much for these raw food people, but raw sauerkraut is loaded with vitamin C. Canned sauerkraut is not, so I suspect cooking reduces the vitamin. That is why I reserve 1/4 of the kraut to stir in after slow cooking the rest with the pork. At minimum, it adds a little crunch that is lost in the cooking. If it wards off colds and improves your digestion, even better.

1 32 oz. bag sauerkraut, 2 lbs diced potatoes, 1 sliced yellow onion, 1-3 lbs of pork, 1/4 tsp. caraway, 1/2 tsp savory, 1 tbsp coarse grain prepared mustard.

  • Put potatoes and onions in bottom of slow cooker
  • Drain sauerkraut and put 1/4 aside for later
  • Layer kraut with the meat and herbs and spices
  • Cook on medium (autoshift) for 8 hours or so
  • Stir in reserved raw kraut.
Serves 6

Frugal Factor: Hard to say. The kraut was on sale for $1 (that's why I bought it) but usually it's $1.50. I went lighter on the meat - 3 franks and 1 lbs ham. That's $5 or so. The mustard, savory and caraway would probably be about $0.50. Potatoes about $1.60. So you're looking at about $8.60 for 6 servings. That's $1.43/serving. You could do it for less or more.

Note: One nice variation if you have more time is to make buttery mashed potatoes separately instead of cooking the potatoes w/ everything else. If you really want to go nuts, fry up some crispy diced bacon and sprinkle on top. That's how you change this from a weeknight meal to Das Sonntags-Abendessen. And hey, if you have a Romertopf, break it out (just remember to soak it in water and put it in a cold oven).

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