Spareribs Braised with Sauerkraut and Cabbage, an Old-Fashioned Dish


 Spareribs Braised with Sauerkraut and Cabbage, an Old-Fashioned Dish


At Kroger the other day, as I was seeking an idea for dinner -- and meat bargains to prepare it with -- I found pork spareribs on special. It’s a little past the season for BBQ ribs on the grill, which is probably why ribs were marked down. But it brought to mind a dish from my childhood. I picked up a meaty rack of ribs, a jar of sauerkraut. a small cabbage, and some red creamer potatoes.


I grew up in Southern New England in a family with Irish and Italian ancestry. We didn’t cook anything like this. I learned this“foreign” dish from our neighbors, whose kids were my best friends. They were of fairly recent German and Polish background and had moved to our town from central New York State. Pork ribs braised with sauerkraut and cabbage is substantial Central European fare, and in New York State and Pennsylvania and Ohio it was part of old-fashioned German-American cuisine. I was a little nostalgic as I prepared, then enjoyed, this recalled dish from many decades ago.


The recipe will serve four to six people heartily. The side to accompany the braised ribs can be small potatoes boiled or, nowadays, quickly roasted in a microwave. Or it can be buttered noodles, like Spätzle (available at Aldi and Trader Joe’s) or narrow flat egg noodles. This meal, to me, calls for a cold, dry Riesling or Grüner Veltliner or, as would have been more common back when I first learned of the dish, a Lager or Pilsner beer.


1 large rack of meaty pork spare ribs, about 3 pounds

1 teaspoon salt for the ribs plus more later

A little oil, as needed

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 Granny Smith type apple, peeled, cored and chopped

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Aromatic whole spices, such as 10 juniper berries or allspice berries

1/4 teaspoon celery seeds, dill seeds, or caraway seeds

2 whole cloves

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

1 cup water, plus more as needed

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1/2 of a small cabbage, cored and coarsely shredded


On a cutting board, using a chef’s knife cut the spareribs between the bones into individual riblets. Sprinkle the ribs all over with 1 teaspoon salt. Heat a large pot to medium hot. Fry the ribs in their own fat, or add a little oil if ribs are very lean, stirring frequently with a spatula and tongs, and turning the ribs often to brown them on all sides. Add the onion and apple plus the pepper and whole spices and cover the pot. Continue to fry over mediun-low heat, stirring often, until the onion is lightly browned.


Add the partially drained sauerkraut and a cup of water and simmer, covered, but stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. Add a little water as needed to keep the mixture juicy. After 20 minutes, add 1 more teaspoon salt and the sugar, plus water as needed. Continue to cook until the rib meat is tender, another 10-15 minutes. Add the cabbage, stir it in and continue to simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, and adding a little water as needed, until the cabbage is tender. Remove the whole spices as you see them. Taste and add a little salt if necessary.


Once the cabbage is cooked, the dish can be served, or cooled and reheated later. Serve with boiled or microwaved small potatoes or buttered egg noodles.

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