Thursday, January 7, 2010

Variations on a Theme: More on Pork und Kraut

This morning, my friend Linda sent me a link to a Salon article about pork and sauerkraut. Salon! Imagine, this lowly Dutchie dish being lauded in the virtual pages of Salon! Ian Knauer presents his family recipe and his "test" of its luck-bearing properties.

Knauer appears to be a Pennsylvania native, so he should know what he's talking about. (For one thing, he's more familiar with the lore behind pork-related good luck dishes than I am.) But if you look at his recipe, you'll notice it's very different from mine. His includes onions, Gala apples, and butter. Mine is a simple three-piece meal. So who's right?

In that way that "tradition" has of being lost in the mists of time (as I said to a friend who'd been hoping for more stories of occasions upon which my family ate this meal, it happened so reliably each year that it was just one of those things we did, without any real sense of occasion and thus, without associated tales), and of being all things to all people...we both are.

I've often heard of making sauerkraut, with or without pork, by including apples, so Knauer's version isn't a surprise. It sweetens the kraut and moderates some of the tang. Certainly, for many people, less of that strong sauerkraut zip is highly desirable. I would be lying, though, if I said it sounded at all good to me. I'm so used to sauerkraut plain and simple, for all its faults, that I can't even fathom the idea of someone sweetening it, even with something as innocuous as an apple. I don't know if this preference marks me as a particularly hearty (or perhaps particularly insane) Pennsylvania girl or not. (I'm pretty sure Grandma once said she'd had it with apples and didn't like it, and since Sweetie made her own sauerkraut, I'm going to imagine she was a purist until/unless I'm told otherwise.) I do suspect that, like so many things in life, the variations are not better or worse, just different.

If you poke around Google, you can find many variations on the basic recipe I presented here. Some are fancy; mine is decidedly not. There's one that includes beer, garlic, and dill weed, and another which purports to be from "The Food Channel" (which seems odd to me since they have their own website and call themselves Food Network, but no matter) that calls for thyme, brown sugar, and white wine. I know I saw one that included caraway seeds (and in fact, I've seen fresh Silver Floss kraut that comes with caraway seeds, so there must be a fair market for that version). I'm sure you can find as many variations on this recipe as there are families who cook it.

For my part, I'm sticking with my old familiar, though I wouldn't say no to a sample of someone else's, just for the sake of satisfying my curiosity. If you're inclined to experiment, there are plenty of options out there, but it might be interesting to start with the simple and work your way from there. :)

And whatever you do, I wouldn't recommend jumping over a bonfire whether you're testing your luck or not!

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