Like many who hail from New York, my relationship with pickled cabbage began with the unwanted advances of a man on the street. Let me clarify: a hot dog transaction was involved, and I had only requested mustard on it. I really should have spoken up, but I just paid and walked away from the cart with my sauerkraut-tainted treat. I thought of manually removing and discarding the soggy shreds into the nearest trash can, but I didn’t want to get mustard all over my fingers.
After much strategizing and deliberation, including tearing off an end of the paper wrapper and attempting to skim off a layer, I simply decided to eat it, kraut and all. That the food gods had twisted my fate in this way along with the valiant bravery on my part truly changed me.
Fat needs acid, a global culinary principle that has inspired classic flavor combinations like chicken and citrus, salmon and soy sauce, lamb and yogurt, avocado and lime, even the pickle on your burger. The fact that sauerkraut is made of two lowly yet humble ingredients, cabbage and salt, and hot dogs are made from various … well … they’re meat, does not exclude them from this fact.
Voila, me in Regensburg, Germany, a historic town in the eastern part of the country with a historic rivalry against neighboring city Nuremburg in the battle of the bratwurst. Hilarious mental images upon learning that. Those Germans do have their fun. Here, I learned the meaning of the Sausage and the Kraut. I loved it as a hot dog before, but I decree: lose the bun, mellow out the sauerkraut’s tongue-twisting bite, crisp up the sausage, ready the whole-grain mustard and keep good beer within arm’s reach. The best part: your favorite beer, regardless what kind, will work. Plus you can drink while you’re cooking and while you’re eating. Because it’s German.
Sausage with Sauerkraut Recipe
Serves 2, or 4 as an appetizer
1 lb. beef or turkey kielbasa
1 16 oz. package of sauerkraut (in the deli case), drained
½ white onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for brushing
1 cup apple juice
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
4 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
A bottle of your favorite beer
1. Drink half the beer. Prost!
2. Slice kielbasa into 3-inch sections, then slice lengthwise. Score (slice slightly into) the tops with the tip of a sharp knife and place flat side down on a baking sheet. Brush with olive oil.
3. In a medium bowl, mix the apple juice, vinegar, mustard and the other half of the beer.
4. Sautee the onion with the olive oil in the saucepan over medium heat until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the apple juice/beer mixture and bring to a boil, then add the sauerkraut and simmer for 45 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated.
5. Broil sausages on high for 5-7 minutes, until the top is dark red and crispy.
6. Drain sauerkraut and transfer to a plate. Top with sausages. Sausage and kraut go on fork together to your mouth. Serve with whole-grain mustard and boiled potatoes on the side, if you like. And, of course, more beer.