Homemade sauerkraut adds a thoughtful touch to Oktoberfest revelry. Crisper than store-bought varieties and easy to prepare, homemade sauerkraut merely requires salt, cabbage, a large container and some sitting time.
Sauerkraut is one condiment applauded by foodies and health advocates alike. Like yogurt or Korean kimchi, the German-based dish is considered a probiotic, or food with beneficial live bacteria. A report from Harvard Medical School's Division of Nutrition at its 2006 Annual Postgraduate Nutrition Symposium summarized the benefits of some probiotics, which include supporting gastrointestinal health and alleviating allergies and irritable bowel syndrome. From a weight standpoint, the condiment provides massive flavor for few calories.
In preparation for Broussard's Oktoberfest festivities, the restaurant's chef Gunter Preuss, prepares traditional German sauerkraut for an array of meats. He lightly sautes (but does not brown) bacon and onion, layers in sliced Granny Smith apples and adds sauerkraut, a garlic-salt mash, spices and chicken stock.
"Toward the end, you peel some fresh potatoes, preferably those big baking potatoes," he says. "Peel them but don't wash them ... grate them together. It will tie the whole kraut up."
When making homemade sauerkraut with a healthy bent, one can omit the bacon from Preuss' recipe or rely on bacon substitutes, but this approach is not much fun. Instead, veer in new directions: Employ pork's affinity for Asian flavors by blending jicama, ginger, carrot, garlic and sweet potatoes using Chef Preuss' techniques. Why replace bacon when you can transcend it?
Generally, I prefer to prepare a plain batch of sauerkraut in bulk and make creative ingredient additions to smaller batches. A ping-pong match between sweet and sour flavors transforms sauerkraut in the following dish: Pork tenderloin medallions are topped with traditional sauerkraut, drizzled with a balsamic vinegar reduction and finished with a raspberry garnish. Serve with sweet potatos and broccoli.
Formerly a 350-pound music critic, food writer Russ Lane lost (and kept off)more than 200 pounds by exercising, following a healthy diet and challenging his assumptions about weight, cooking and himself. See more recipes at www.ikeepitoff.com.
Pork Medallions with Sauerkraut and Raspberry
2-5 cabbage heads (2 heads makes one quart; 5 makes approximately one gallon)
3 tablespoons sea salt
1. Shred cabbage using a knife or mandoline and combine it with salt in a bowl.
2. Tightly pack salted cabbage into a Crock-Pot or stock pot in small batches, mashing each one with a heavy object (a can or the bottom of a wine bottle works well).
3. Once the cabbage is packed, place a plate inside the pot and weigh it down with cans or rocks. Cover and check every two or three days, skimming out impurities and bloom (mold) with a ladle each time.
Sauerkraut can be ready in a week, but a longer fermentation period will deepen the flavor. Once it has achieved its desired taste, can the sauerkraut and/or store in the refrigerator.
1 pork tenderloin, excess fat trimmed
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 cups sauerkraut, juice drained
2 cloves garlic, sliced (substitute roasted garlic cloves for a sweeter taste)
1 red onion, sliced
1 bay leaf
3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 baking potato, peeled, unwashed, shredded (optional)
Raspberries for garnish
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Lightly salt and pepper the tenderloin and let it rest at room temperature. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees until an internal thermometer reads 150 degrees. Remove pork from oven.
2. Add olive oil to a saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook 1-2 minutes until softened, then add onion and cook until softened and lightly browned.
3. Add sauerkraut, bay leaf and potato. Reduce heat to medium-low to allow flavors to meld.
4. While the sauerkraut cooks, add vinegar to a separate saucepan or skillet and cook over medium heat until its volume reduces. Then cook at high heat until the vinegar gains a syrup-like consistency. Remove from heat.
5. Remove the bay leaf from the sauerkraut. Adjust the flavor with pepper to taste.
To serve, slice tenderloins into medallions and top with sauerkraut. Drizzle sauerkraut with leftover pork drippings and the balsamic vinegar reduction. Top with raspberries. Reserve extra sauerkraut and vinegar reduction for another use.
Per serving (3-ounce portion of meat, with garnishes, potato omitted): calories 162, calories from fat 31, total fat 4g (saturated fat 1g, monounsaturated fat 1g), cholesterol 47mg, sodium 173mg . Total carbohydrates 16g (dietary fiber 3g, sugars 8g), protein 15g.