Beyond hot dogs: Kraut finds itself in new dishes


Sauerkraut, by all odds the most popular cabbage preparation of all time, has been through a recent sophistication with chefs balancing the dish against many sorts of seasonings and enriching ingredients. There's a trend toward using cabbage for colorful salads and matching up the sauerkraut with fruits and more complex flavorings to produce garnishes and pickled cabbage delicacies.

Preparation need not heat up a kitchen. Here are some summertime sauerkraut ideas that include a basic make-your-own recipe, an appealing Reuben salad formula, a simple quickie braised kraut and a red cabbage and raisin garnish for cold dishes. Linda Merinoff contributed both the basic and a simple braised sauerkraut recipes, taken from the 1989 edition of "The Best of Food & Wine," American Express Publishing Corp.

Basic sauerkraut

2 pounds shredded green cabbage

1 tablespoons coarse kosher salt

1 teaspoon sugar

In a large bowl, toss the cabbage with the salt and sugar. Set aside at room temperature, until the cabbage has released about 1 1/2 cups of liquid, about 1 hour. If there's not enough brine, the sauerkraut will go bad before it ferments.

Using your hands, squeeze the cabbage over the bowl to catch the liquid and place the cabbage in a tall, 8-cup glass or glazed earthenware crock or canister. Using your fist, push down the cabbage to compact it. Pour in enough brine to cover the cabbage by at least 1 inch. Place a small plate in the crock to cover the cabbage and keep it submerged. Cover with a cloth and set aside at room temperature for 2 to 4 weeks, until it tastes like sauerkraut. Check the plate after a couple of days. If it is floating on the brine, place another small plate on top to weigh it down. Remove the plate or plates and store the sauerkraut, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.

Reuben salad

Serves 4.

1 large head red leaf lettuce or other leafy greens

3/4 pound cooked, lean corned beef, cut into thin strips

2 cups sauerkraut, rinsed and drained

1/2 pound Swiss cheese, cubed (2 cups)

1 cup Russian dressing

1 cup pumpernickel croutons

1 teaspoon caraway seeds

Tear lettuce into a large bowl (should make about 6 cups), reserving 4 large leaves to garnish plates. Add corned beef, sauerkraut and Swiss cheese; toss gently.

Divide mixture evenly and place on top of whole lettuce leaves on plates. Pour on Russian dressing, top with croutons and sprinkle with caraway seeds. To make pumpernickel croutons: spread 2 tablespoons butter or margarine on both sides of 3 thick slices of pumpernickel bread. Cut into half-inch cubes and bake 15 minutes on a baking sheet at 300 degrees.

Braised sauerkraut

Serves 4.

5 cups sauerkraut, homemade or store-bought

3 tablespoons lard or meat drippings

1 teaspoon celery seeds

1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds

1/2 cup apple juice

Drain the brine from the sauerkraut. In a large, non-reactive sauce pan, melt the lard over moderate heat. Add the sauerkraut, toss well and stir in the celery seeds and the caraway seeds. Add the apple juice and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the sauerkraut is heated through, about 15 minutes. Drain well and serve hot or cool.

Summery kraut salad

Serves 6 to 8.

4 1/2 cups sauerkraut, drained

1/3 cup sliced green onions

1 cup sliced celery

1 1/2 cups seedless red grapes, halved

1 1/2 cups diced peeled red apple

3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 1/2 tablespoons honey

6 tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Place sauerkraut in large bowl. Add onion, celery, grapes and apple. In a small bowl, blend vinegar, lemon juice and honey; gradually whisk in oil. Pour dressing over salad and toss with a large fork and spoon until well combined. Add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate for at least one hour or until serving.

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