Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Traditional Thanksgiving Sauerkraut???


 Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage

Traditions abound across the U. S. when it comes to holidays and foods.  Having lived outside of Baltimore, MD for so many years (now in Pittsburgh), perhaps one of the oddest traditions I've encountered is that of serving sauerkraut with turkey.  Sure, it sounds unusual, but when you really ponder the combination, it makes sense...sauerkraut cuts the richness of the turkey quite nicely! 

It was back in the 60's in a typical, traditional Baltimore rowhouse in Peg's kitchen that I had my first experience with Thanksgiving sauerkraut.  Peg cooked her sauerkraut on top of the stove.  She nestled the turkey neck, and the rest of the stuff that comes in the bag inside the turkey, right down into the kraut, added some onions, too.  She let it simmer for several hours while the turkey roasted in the oven and added a little water if the sauerkraut started to get a little dry.  The turkey flavors mellowed out the sharpness of the kraut and it all melded together into a very nice dish that somehow worked with all the rest of the meal. I really liked it!

Since moving back to Pittsburgh, I never did sell the Pittsburghers on the sauerkraut dish. But, since all my relatives come from good old German stock, it wasn't difficult to substitute our family favorite sweet and sour red cabbage to get the same effect...and it's prettier!  

And that common Baltimore/Pittsburgh German connection?  My guess is the Baltimore tradition originated when a homesick German immigrant decided American Thanksgiving needed just a little bit of the Old Country.  And so, in the form of familiar sauerkraut, he gussied up dinner to make Thanksgiving his very own blend of old and new traditions.  And thus, theoretically, a New World Baltimore tradition was born...and still exists today.

Here's my traditional recipe:

Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage

  • 2 slices bacon
  • 1/2 head red cabbage, shredded (the food processor disk is great for this!)
  • 1/4 C. cider vinegar
  • 1/4 C. light brown sugar 
  • 2 T. water
  • 1/2 t. salt

In a large skillet (I love my electric skillet for this), fry the bacon until crisp and all fat is rendered into the pan.  Remove the bacon and use for something else - a snack perhaps?

To the bacon fat in the pan, add vinegar and brown sugar, water and salt.  Stir well.

Add the shredded cabbage and mix so that all cabbage is coated.  Cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until cabbage is tender.  I usually do it until it turns a beautiful dark red color - it seems to get sweeter the darker it gets.  

Serve warm.  I like it cold the next day!

NOTE:  You can double this easily! Print this post

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