Guest Post: Grammee’s Sauerkraut

Editor’s note: Today’s post is from my sweet friend and former college roommate Marie who blogs about a little bit of everything at Life Beyond Silicon.  She’s a wicked smart engineer and lives in the Silicon Valley with her husband and Tillie, the cutest Australian Shepherd you will ever meet. 
Thanks to Heather for graciously inviting me to write a guest post!  To guarantee a quality recipe for you readers, I’ve turned to my most-trusted recipe resource.

Heather and I were college roommates, but at some point during a summer she came to visit me in the Western suburbs of Chicago, where I grew up.  We ended up stopping by my grandparents’ house.  Although she passed away in 2009, my grandma is still my role model today for her sense of humor and her get-things-done-attitude.

Since Heather and I lived together most of the year, she knew that my grandmother was proud of our (White) Russian heritage.  I had never heard Grammee speak Russian to anyone other than her Russian friends.  Despite this, it just spontaneously occurred to me to mention on the drive that my grandma spoke perfect english (Heather must’ve known this anyway).  Lo and behold, we showed up and Grammee opened the door with a warm Russian greeting just to mess with Heather!  We all laughed – it is so cool to have a grandma with a great sense of humor and one so like your own that you can guess a practical joke before it happens.

Another major specialty of (both of) my grandmas was cooking.  Every year we would have Polish sausage at one grandmother’s house, then trek to Grammee’s on Christmas day for Russian sausage!  Russian sausage always came with Grammee’s sauerkraut, which is a little less sour (oxymoron?) than German kraut.  

It does seem that she cheated just a little bit by starting with some pre-made sauerkraut, but her recipe is still the only one I know that matches smorgasbords or Russian church events and I’m not going to fault her for saving us all several days!  
Posting a sauerkraut recipe is risky since many folks have a love-hate relationship with sauerkraut, but 1) it’s not something you usually find a recipe for and 2) my husband commented that the house smelled good before he really knew what I was up to, then he enjoyed it.

Grammee’s sauerkraut

*Serves ~10 depending on serving size
  • 2 jars of plain, boring sauerkraut, rinsed
  • 1 shredded head or bag of cabbage
  • 6oz salt pork*
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 28 oz can tomatoes
  • 1 tsp sugar**

*I have never bought salt pork for anything else.  I could’ve subbed bacon, but I am glad I found this ingredient at my normal grocery store because 1) it was cheaper than bacon and 2) I think this is the key ingredient that gives Grammee’s sauerkraut it’s flavor.  It did not come in strips here, so I cubed it.  This would be easier after about 30 minutes in a freezer

** The original recipe did not call for this sugar, but upon tasting I wanted to cut the acidity just a tad to match my memory.  I was unable to find Grammee’s specified brands of Red Gold tomatoes or Frank’s sauerkraut in California circa 2014

Cook and render the fat from the salt port in a dutch oven.  Remove and drain the salt pork on a paper towel.  Saute the onion until soft in the drippings, removing any fat that you feel is excessive.  Put the salt pork back in the pot.

Add the kraut and the cabbage to the pot.  Just barely cover with cold water, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for one hour.

 Add the tomatoes and their juice, breaking them up with your hand as you add them.  Do not squirt tomato juice on your kitchen or clothes.  Simmer for another hour or until your pot looks like this:

On our awesome induction stove, this took closer to 1.5 hours instead of 2.  Serve with mashed potatoes and Russian/Polish sausage with horseradish.  
You can see some giardiniera on the plate which my dad flew all the way from Chicago with the frozen polish sausage.  While not entirely appropriate for sauerkraut and sausage, we did not have any horseradish on hand and this was a Chicago-themed meal after all.  Not everything about California is sunshine and flowers in our hair – I have found that many Chicago-style foods, still the best in the world to this Chicagoland native, are most authenthic when made in our own kitchen.
By the way, Heather’s post on her own grandma was quite touching.