Poor sauerkraut. Too often it is overlooked in American society. Its limp and lackluster appearance on a hot dog doesn’t do much to excite the senses. Yet, this fermented cabbage has always been held in high esteem in German, Polish and other Eastern European kitchens. And today, thanks to its health benefits, it is making its way into more and more American kitchens, as well.
It’s one of the top dishes in Poland, according to Michael Ostros, the chef-owner of Giulia’s Kitchen in Cliffside Park. (The others are potatoes, kielbasa and pirogi.) His Polish mother passed down recipes for many traditional dishes — pirogi packed with sauerkraut and mushrooms; stuffed cabbage; and bigos, a hearty meat and sauerkraut stew — that he offers on his eclectic menu. “We put everything with sauerkraut,” he said.
At the restaurant, Ostros makes a quick, crunchy version of sauerkraut by fermenting cabbage — the process of preserving a vegetable in brine — in small batches for 24 hours. Traditional methods can take two weeks or more and require daily attention, because it is imperative to skim the scum that forms on top of the cabbage each day while the salt is turning the sugars in the vegetable into lactic acid. This process gives sauerkraut its characteristic tartness.
Gaspard Caloz, the chef-owner of Madeleine’s Petit Paris in Northvale, cooks choucroute garnie (French for garnished, or dressed, sauerkraut) only twice a year at his French restaurant. The dish consists of braised sauerkraut topped with smoked meats, sausages and boiled potatoes, and is typically served in winter in Alsace, the northeastern French region near the Swiss Alps.
Article from NorthJersey.com, December 10, 2014, by Nina Rizzo.