Choucroute garnie (French for garnished cabbage) is a famous dish from the Alsace – Lorraine region on northeast France. Alsace borders Germany along the Rhine river. Reaching all the way back to Julius Caesar, this region has changed hands more times than than a card player. The political “swap” game continued all the way through 1918 when it went back again to France, playing a major role in starting World War II.
It’s 1648 that really matters here. When Alsace-Lorraine went back to France as part of a peace treaty, it combined preserved and smoked pork of the local farmers and the German’s love of cabbage into the hands of French chefs and, viola, the rest is culinary history.
Traditional recipes call for three types of sausage, fatty and salty cuts of pork, including ham hocks, pork knuckles and shoulders, back bacon, and salt pork. All these inexpensive cuts of meat combine with fermented cabbage (sauerkraut), and local Riesling wines to create one of the great elevated peasant dishes in the world.
Choucroute Garnie a l’Alsatian – Sauerkraut with Pork and Wine
- Large Dutch oven with cover or large heavy pot
- Cheesecloth bag, instant read thermometer, rimmed baking sheet
- 1 lb Boneless pork loin
- 1 lb Boneless pork shoulder
- 1 lb Slab bacon, 1 slab
- ¾ lb Smoked ham hock (1 piece)
- 10 oz Frankfurters with casings
- 10 oz Bratwurst or knockwurst
- 10 oz Smoked kielbasa
- ¼ cup Vegetable oil
- 2 tbsp Butter
- Kosher salt
- 2 medium Yellow cooking onions, sliced thin
- 2 cups Dry Riesling or Silvaner wine
- 1 cup Chicken Bone broth
- 1 Cheesecloth bag holding 10 juniper berries, 2 crushed garlic cloves, 2 cloves, 2 bay leaves, and ½ tsp caraway seed)
- 4 lb Good quality sauerkraut
- 1 Dijon mustard
- 1 Grainy mustard, like Pommery
- 5 small Yukon gold potatoes, quartered and microwaved in ¼ cup water for 4 minutes
- 2 tbsp Kirsch (cherry brandy), optional
- 2 Smoked pork chops
- Preheat oven to 250°F (130°C). In a large Dutch oven or pot, heat oil over medium-low. Add onions and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 10 minutes. Add stock, cheesecloth cloth with spices, and wine to onions. Add pork shoulder, slab bacon, and ham hock and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cover pot and put in oven for 1½ hour.
- Season pork loin and put in the oven at the same temperature for 1 hour on a baking sheet. Remove and set aside. Lightly rinse sauerkraut in a colander under running water. Squeeze dry of excess water. After 1½ hours, remove pot and stir in sauerkraut. Raise oven temp 300° and cook,, covered, for another hour.
- Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Immediately reduce heat to medium and heat sausages until tender, about 10 minutes. While sausages are cooking, heat 2 tbsp butter over high heat in a small pan and add reserved pork loin. Sear until browned, about 5-6 minutes. Cut into ½ inch medallions.
- Uncover pot and add pork loin medallions, smoked pork chops, and potatoes. Put back in oven without cover to warm for another 10-15 minutes. When done, remove from oven and discard cheesecloth bundle. Transfer meats to a rimmed baking sheet. Season sauerkraut with salt and, if using, Kirsch.
- Transfer sauerkraut with tongs or a slotted spoon from pot to the middle of a large serving platter, shaking off excess liquid. Arrange potatoes, meats and drained sausages over and around the sauerkraut. Bring to the table with a serving spoon with a large knives so guests can cut whatever meats they want. Serve with mustards, French bread, and a good Riesling, Silvaner or Pinot Gris wine from Alsace. Finish the meal with an equally impressive Black Forest Cake.
- Everything up to the point the pot is removed from the oven may be done in advance, refrigerated, and the finishing the recipe right before serving.