Sauerkraut for Autumn, Braised with Apple and served with Bratwurst


Sauerkraut for Autumn, Braised with Apple and served with Bratwurst 

Sauerkraut is the traditional way plentiful summer cabbage was preserved for eating in winter in the old days in Central and Northern Europe when few fresh vegetables were available. Unbeknownst to those eating sauerkraut back then, essential Vitamin C was preserved along with the cabbage, and probably prevented a lot of scurvy in those populations. 

Sauerkraut and Bratwurst,  Parsleyed Potatoes
Cooking that pickled cabbage with smoked ham or sausage, and brightening it with ingredients like apples was a way to enjoy summer produce when the weather had turned cold. The cooking methods for garnished sauerkraut are numerous in Germany, German-speaking areas of Switzerland, and the Alsace region of France. Often some smoked pork, such as a knuckle or chunk of ham, is simmered in with the kraut, and sausage is added at the end. 

Here is an Oktoberfest apple-braised sauerkraut with bratwursts cooked in at the end. The sauerkraut in October would have been recently made and relatively mild in flavor. Bratwurst sausages, typically made of pork and/or veal and white to very light tan in color, are originally from Bavaria, the home of Oktoberfest. Good imported Bavarian bratwurst are available from Trader Joes. I also like Johnsonville Beer Brats, made in Wisconsin, the American Bratwurst heartland, which are available at supermarkets. I prefer cooking a white wine into sauerkraut Rhineland style, though in Bavaria cooking the kraut cooked with beer would be more common. 

The sausage and kraut can be eaten as a snack – with bread and beer as in southern Germany. Or the dish can be served with boiled potatoes or noodles if making a meal of it. Accompany with good mustard, or my favorite sauce made from equal quantities of Dijon mustard and sour creamplus a touch of horseradish. A Pilsner or lager beer pairs traditionally with this dish, but chilled white wine such as a fairly dry Riesling or a Grüner Veltliner does well. 

The recipe serves 4-6 people.


1 small onion, finely diced

2 tablespoons sunflower or other non-olive vegetable oil

1 medium apple, such as Granny Smith, peeled, cored and diced

1 (14-ounce) jar or can shredded sauerkraut, juice squeezed out

1/2 cup white wine (or lager beer)

3/8 teaspoon black pepper

8 juniper berries (optional)

1/4 teaspoon caraway seeds

1 tablespoon brown sugar

14-16 ounces bratwurst or smoked sausage, cut in 2-inch lengths.

Salt, if needed 

In stainless steel or enamel pot, fry onion lightly in 3 tablespoons oil until softened. Add apple. Fry several minutes, stirring frequently. Add drained sauerkraut, and stir and fry 2 minutes. 

Add wine and seasonings. Simmer, covered but stirring frequently, until sauerkraut and apple pieces are becoming tender, adding a little water only if dry. Taste and add a little salt if needed. Add the bratwurst or smoked sausage and simmer, covered but stirring frequently, until sausage is fully heated. Taste for salt once more, and add a little if needed. 

Serve alone as a snack, or as dinner accompanied by boiled or steamed small potatoes or buttered noodles. The condiment is mustard, such as brown or horseradish mustard (not the bright yellow American hotdog mustard), or a sauce of Dijon mustard mixed with an equal amount of sour cream and a small amount of horseradish.

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