Monday, May 28, 2007
Sauerkraut with Wild Mushrooms
Still there? No one suffering because of food poisoning due to incorrectly preserving basil leaves?
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
Labels: sauerkraut with mushrooms