Sunday, December 17, 2006

Hmmm, can't figure out why I can't get a title on this... but my theory is that this blog, despite its youth should have a recurring column called "Food of Our Fathers". Why? Because, we have all grown up with food that we thought sucked. For those of us who still tremblingly step up to the plate and try to recreate those dishes that we despised (perhaps as an effort to torture/and/or impart our heritage on our children.. or maybe it is just me...) and discovered that cooked correctly, the food of our forebearers wasn't as nasty as it was in our childhood memories.

How did I come to this conclusion?

I will tell you...

My childhood was filled with sauerkraut. Everything soaked in brine and cooked within an inch of its life. To top it off, it was always a sickly grey that is associated with the acid that spends too much time in close contact with protein.

How often was this kind of meal served?

Well not as often as it was eaten by my Great Aunt Mary when serving it to her baby brother, my Great Uncle Gus, i.e, twice a week. Yes, Aunt Mary was a conneisuer of Short Ribs and Kraut. In my family, the meat of choice tended to be pork... often included hot dogs or smoked butt (no laughing allowed.. smoke butt is a real food) No surprise there as my Dad was a salesman for Tobin Packing Company the best damn hot dog on the east coast along with everyother kind of meat, smoked or otherwise.

But sauerkraut? That was the German side of me.. or was it?

For many a year, I labored under the delusion that my father's family was German. This was easy as it matched the admittedly German side of my mother's family.. the Laiers or Layers as it was later termed. Lots of potatoes, pork and kraut for them.. In fact, my Mom has a story of getting sick eating too much kraut out of the barrel in the basement.

But my Miller family?

Well German is the simple answer. But it is incomplete. After years of listening to my grandfather, Gene sing "Silent Night" in German and "The Marseillaise" in French, it clicked in me.. that all this talk of Strasbourg as the "Auld Sod" meant one thing... We were not German, but Alsatian. And the quintessential meal for an Alsatian family is Choucroute Garni!

Now all the Kraut made sense!

Choucroute is the French version of Saurkraut! Chou meaning cabbage and croute.. well I guess means kraut.. whatever that means. Sauer? that is easy.. sour.. and that makes sense since the cabbage is pickled in a brine of salt.. Sauer Kraut is amazingly simple to make. It is shredded cabbage layered with salt. Really... it is that simple. The salt should not have iodine.. so pickling salt, or kosher salt are required. Sea salt, while generally my favorite salt to use in cooking will not work as that iodine is a natural part of sea salt. (Sorry being a nerd, I will no doubt have further to say about salts... and not just table salt (NaCl).

Now, have I tried this recipe? No.. but I mean too.. and I will, I promise.. so I will tell you if I manage to kill myself or actually make sauerkraut.

Now here is the trick.. when I ate kraut as a girl, it was out of a can or jar...poured right into a pot.

As it turns out that is considered wrong. At least according to the semi-French recipes that I have seen. In those recipes, the kraut is rinse in water.. squeezed dry, thrown into a pot with dry wine and spices (usually juniper berries) and cooked with the assorted pig parts of your choice.

Now, here is a news flash. I don't keep juniper berries in the pantry. Because I have never seen them? Fuck no.. cuz I hate the way they smell. They remind me of gin. A liquor I can;t drink.

Sadly though, Fun Daddy likes that crap so it is in the house.. As a result I put a splash in the cabbage... and by splash, I mean like a quarter cup. The rest of the liquid was dry vermouth, which I buy by the almost gallon most cheaply and should and could be substituted anytime you see the words "dry white wine".

So vermouth, gin, kraut... nice. ok fine, I added some French thyme too.. kill me, I can't help myself.. I like the way it smells. It makes me happy.

what else.. there should be meat too.. so I included smoked pork chops, and kielbasa. Oh and some boiled potatos. Serve them up with the mustard of your choice.

Holy cripes... this is not your mother's kraut!


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