About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Monday, May 28, 2007
Sauerkraut with Wild Mushrooms

Still there? No one suffering because of food poisoning due to incorrectly preserving basil leaves?

Good news.

It makes you wonder how our ancestors survived at all, given that preserving food would have been high on their lists of things to do, but the old timers knowledge of what can go wrong certainly wasn't as comprehensive at it is today - witness all the new food rules being brought in. Lately in Australia, butchers can no longer make their own salamis unless they have a purpose built fermenting room and can now no longer display these products, they must be kept under certain conditions, which means no more displays of hanging salamis, another bit of tradition thrown out the window for artisan makers.

And unpasteurized cheeses, don't get me started.

Thankfully somethings haven't changed. Take sauerkraut for instance. It's easy to buy this delicious, healthy cabbage preparation in most shops specializing in continental foods. I still can remember my first taste of this made up as choucroute, the French word for the German dish of sauerkraut, which is the the German word for both the fermented cabbage and the dish made from it containing a variety of smoked meats and sausages. There is a wonderful marriage between smoked, fatty pork and sauekruat. The first time I had kaiserfleisch cooked long and slow with the cabbage I was immediately hooked on a dish that most definitely says winter food like no other.

Fermented cabbage is at once both salty and with a pleasant, slightly sour tang that comes from the fermenting process that gives sauerkraut the ability to be stored for lengthy periods of time, an essential feature for cold, hard European winters when no fresh vegetables can be grown. Even though we no longer need to preserve cabbage this way, many love the taste of it just for itself and sauerkraut continues to be made in vast quantities.

The French and Germans aren't the only ones with a penchant for dishes made from this vegetable, the Poles have also come up with a national dish, bigos, that differs mostly in the way the meats are all chopped small, rather than left whole and the finished dish is more like a stew. Mushrooms are also an integral part of this dish, which gives it a mellow earthiness, due to the use of forest or wild mushrooms.

A while ago when I was shopping at BJP International, there were the usual jars of sauerkraut and right next to them were jars of sauerkraut with fresh wild mushrooms already added, a real bonus if you don't have access to them or are too timid or uncertain to pick your own. From what I can gather, the mushroom used is from the Boletus spp. but not the first class porcini (Boletus edulis), it appears more like one of the birch types, with a less pronounced flavour than the porcini.

If you are a sauerkraut lover like me, I highly recommend you try one of these jars with the mushrooms added, we had some the other night cooked and served as a vegetable and it was really delicious. It was easy to prepare and we had it simply with plain boiled potatoes and some wonderful kassler that will have its own post shortly. You can call BJP International* to find the location of your nearest stockist, or you can purchase directly from them.

Sauerkraut with Wild Mushrooms Polish Style
Kapusta Kiszona z Grzybami Lesnymi

2 onions, diced
200 g kaiserfleisch or bacon, finely diced
2 tablespoons lard or oil
900 g jar sauerkraut with mushrooms, do not rinse
1 cup water

In the lard or oil, sweat the onions and kaiserfleisch until softened. Add the sauerkraut with mushrooms and the water, then slowly simmer for 1 hour, adding more water if necessary. Check for salt and season if necessary.

*BJP International, 21 Elma Road, Cheltenham, (03) 9553 5411


  posted at 8:25 am

At 4:26 pm, Blogger Pille said...

Sauerkraut is a wintertime staple in Estonia - we use it in soups, stews, and a Christmas meal without sauerkraut is unimaginable. It wasn't easy to find any in Scotland, however. After the EU enlargement in 2004, lots of Poles moved to Scotland and opened Polish food shops, which was wonderful, as I had a steady supply of good sauerkraut then:)

At 8:02 pm, Blogger MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

I used to serve sauerkraut all the time and haven't for a long time. My husband came in with a jar just two days ago. Between the two of you I'll probably be having a lot now.
Preserving is now something I'll be paying very close attention to.

At 11:23 pm, Blogger Kalyn said...

I love sauerkraut too, but I haven't ever seen any like this with the mushrooms. Salt Lake has some good import shops though, I'll have to look for it.

At 8:22 am, Blogger neil said...

Hi pille, that's interesting, I've never encountered it in a soup, though there is no reason why not, there is a very tasty fermented cucumber soup the Poles do.

Hi tanna, I'm with you on the preserving thing. If you like, try reconstituting some dried porcinis (ceps) and add them to your sauerkraut.

Hi kalyn, I was at the Runoland website and noticed they do export to the States, so you might be in luck. If not try adding dried porcinis to your regular sauerkraut.

At 8:59 am, Blogger Ange said...

I aboslutely love sauerkraut & both my Polish & Lithuanian grandparents would cook it up for us all the time, both made it pretty much the same & similar to your recipe though I seem to recall there was a lot of rinsing of the sauerkrat first. I miss their cooking so much, no matter who else makes it, restaurant or home made or in Europe I have never tasted any as good as theirs...

At 6:12 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi ange, the rinsing depends on how sour you like it. With this brand the sourness is to my taste and of course I wouldn't want to wash away any mushroom flavour...
Tradition is a hard thing to beat, maybe it's time to start your own.


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