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Mamma's Estonian Sauerkraut

This sauerkraut recipe is not your typical mouth-puckering experience, but a wonderful goulash that will make you a star during the holiday season.


Ever since I began making my mom's traditional Estonian sauerkraut for potlucks and friends, I've been asked to share this recipe. Because, even though it has a tiny bit of tang, it's mostly a savoury and delicious side dish that's hard to forget. It's so yummy I have to admit, I've made it a main course on more than one occasion.


But be prepared, this recipe is labour intensive and takes many hours. However, ask anyone who has tried this dish, whether its worth the effort. I'm certain you will receive an enthusiast, "Yes!"


We typically serve this dish at holiday dinners and other special occasions. Most notably, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's. Because these holidays are so close, when I make a batch of sauerkraut, I make a big batch and freeze the left overs in separate oven/freezer-safe containers. This way when the next holiday rolls around, it can be defrosted and heated up in the oven at 375°F / 190°C.

 

TIP: If this sauerkraut is intended for the following day, it can be transferred into a slow cooker once it is complete. Let it continue cooking on low overnight and right up to the time you wish to serve, stirring occasionally. This really makes all the meats fall apart and allows the flavours to fully develop.

 

Ingredients

(Makes 12 servings)

  • 2 large green cabbages, sliced thinly

  • 2 large sweet onion, sliced thinly

  • 2 tablespoon caraway seeds

  • 1 jar sauerkraut, rinsed and drained

  • 2 large carrot, peeled and thinly shaved (optional)

  • 1/4 inch water

  • 6 to 8 packages cured pork belly, rinsed and cubed

  • 4 large white or yellow potatoes, peeled and cubed

  • 2 tablespoon butter or margarine (can be plant-based)

  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, or to taste (can be Monkfruit sweetener)

Pork Back Ribs (optional):

  • 1 rack pork back ribs, cut into 2-bone pieces

  • 1/4 cup coarse sea salt

  • water, enough to cover

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 5 whole allspice

 

Directions

If adding the pork back ribs (optional):

Cut the rack of pork back ribs into pieces that contain two bones each. Rinse under cold water for several minutes trying to squeeze out as much blood as you can before putting them into a large pot. Add course sea salt and fill the pot with cold water until it covers the meat. Place on the stove on high heat and bring the pot to a boil.

As it heats up and comes to a boil, foam will appear on the surface. Remove the foam as it forms and discard. Reduce the heat to medium and continue removing any foam that continues to form. When it comes to a gentle rolling boil and the foam is no longer forming, cover and let boil for 3 hours. You may need to reduce the heat to medium-low if it continues to boil too vigorously.


[At this point, begin making the sauerkraut - instructions below.]


At the 2, 1/2 hour mark, add the bay leaves and whole allspice. At this time, it is safe to test a small portion of the meat for saltiness. The meat should be savoury, but not overly salty. If the meat tastes bland, add additional salt. If it tastes a bit too salty, add additional fresh water and bring it back to a boil. Allow to cook the remaining 30 minutes covered.


Once the pork is tender and falling off the bone, it is ready. Remove the meat from the water, debone, chop into 1" pieces and set aside, covered.


Sauerkraut:

In a large stockpot, over high heat, add the 1/4 inch water to cover the bottom of the pot, sliced cabbage, onion, carrot (if using), and caraway seeds. When the water comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and let steam until the cabbage begins reducing in volume. Stir occasionally to shift the top cabbage to the bottom.


Meanwhile, drain and rinse the sauerkraut well using a sieve. Press out as much liquid as you can and set aside.

Quarter the packages of cured pork belly, rinse (If you are unfamiliar with cured pork belly, it is important to see our cabbage soup recipe for full details on how to control the level of salt.), then place in a bowl filled with cold water and set aside.


Peel and cube the potatoes and set aside in a bowl filled with cold water.


When the cabbage has reduced by half its volume, add the rinsed sauerkraut and mix. Cover and allow the cabbage to continue steaming. 30 minutes later, drain the cubes of cured pork belly and add it to the pot. Mix and cover. Allow the cabbage and meat to cook until the meat becomes tender (approximately 1 hour). Stir once every 10 minutes.


Test a piece of the meat. If it is tender and not chewy, remove all the cured pork from the pot and set it aside in a covered dish. Add the potatoes to the cabbage, mix and allow the cabbage to continue to cook for another 40 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.


As the potatoes cook with the cabbage, take the cubes of pork belly and cut each cube into smaller pieces - in haves or quarters depending on how big they are.


[Don't forget the pork back ribs - add the seasonings as described above.]


Once the potatoes are tender and the cabbage is thoroughly cooked and soft, assess the level of liquid there is in the pot. You should not see a lot of water on the surface. If there seems to be an excess of water, using a ladle, remove the excess and discard.


Add the butter and sugar and mix. Take this opportunity to test for saltiness and sweetness. If the cured pork was not very salty, you may need to add salt to taste.


Remove from the heat and return the cured pork to the pot (along with the pork back ribs if using) and mix thoroughly. Allow it to sit for 30 minutes covered then serve.


Enjoy!

 
 

Nutritional Information Per Serving - with pork back ribs

total calories = 303 | total fat = 18.26g | saturated fat = 5.4g | cholesterol = 45.25mg | sodium = 341.83mg | carbohydrates = 21.18g | dietary fibre = 3.82g | sugars = 7.92g | protein = 13.99g


Nutritional Information Per Serving - without pork back ribs

total calories = 233 | total fat =11.76g | saturated fat = 2.86g | cholesterol = 24mg | sodium = 320.58mg | carbohydrates = 21.18g | dietary fibre = 3.82g | sugars = 7.92g | protein = 9.49g

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