One of my most favorite – favorite – winter dishes (ok, I’ll eat it no matter the season!) is Beer Brats & Kraut. I was first introduced to this method of cooking brats and kraut by my college boyfriend who was the stereotypical Johnny America. Tall, blond hair, blue eyes, and from small town USA; Keokuk, Iowa to be exact. I was never a big fan of bratwursts until he made them for me this way. Apparently, this is the main way they make bratwursts in Keokuk, Iowa (he also taught me how to eat steak but that’s another story for another day. Apparently my whole life, up until I met him, I was eating steak the wrong way and was he ever right. Those Iowa boys know two things very well: corn and beef!)
It’s very easy to make this dish. It’s basically a one pot meal. First you want to poke holes in your brats all over with a fork. Then, in a large pan, dump in your can of sauerkraut, a bottle/can (12oz) of beer, and nestle your brats on top of the kraut. Cover and simmer, low and slow, anywhere between 30 – 40 minutes. After they have simmered, you want to place the brats under your broiler – or grill them up. The brats are already cooked so all you want to do is brown them up. While the brats are browning, turn the heat on the beer & kraut on high and let the beer boil out; this makes the kraut super flavorful.
You don’t need much for a yummy meal: beer, brats, & kraut.
To assemble your meal, slather toasted bread (in this case beer bread) with your most yummiest mustard, top with a wonderful layer of kraut, and top that with your brat! Enjoy!
Beer bread, beer kraut, and beer brats. Did I mention beer?
Beer Brats & Kraut
1 pint of sauerkraut
1 bottle/can (12oz) of beer
1 package of bratwursts
- Poke bratwursts all over with a fork
- In a large pan with sides, dump in the sauerkraut, beer, and nestle the bratwursts in the sauerkraut. Cover and simmer for 30-40 minutes.
- Once brats are done simmering, remove from the pan and brown under a broiler or grill (or even pan fry).
- While brats are browning, turn heat on the sauerkraut and beer on high and boil until the beer has evaporated.
- Toast bread, slather with mustard, top with beer kraut, and top that with brats.
I hate sauerkraut.
The sauerkraut I always knew was the sauerkraut that came out of the can from the grocery store. The way it smelled, the way it looked, the way it cooked. I just never understood what everyone loved about it. I also didn’t understand what it was. What the heck was it? I mean, I knew it was cabbage but what the heck made it so limp and awful?
Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage. You massage cabbage with salt so that the cabbage leaches out it’s own water. Then you let the cabbage sit in the brine and work it’s magic. When I started preserving my own food, I kept turning to the sauerkraut recipes. They looked so easy…but, I hated sauerkraut so I wasn’t sure I wanted to try it.
Finally, I decided to jump in feet first and I’m glad I did. Turns out I don’t really hate sauerkraut at all. In fact, I love it! The stuff I hated was the grocery store canned garbage. Homemade sauerkraut is completely different. It’s tangy and crispy with layers of sweet and salty. It’s wonderful!
Now I can say that I *used* to hate sauerkraut. Now I can say I love it! I really do. I’m a sauerkraut eating machine!
There are several steps in making sauerkraut and it may seem like a lot of work but it really isn’t. Time does all the work for you.
Part 1 – The Fun Part: Thinly slice the cabbage and place in a large bowl. Add a couple tablespoons of kosher salt and a tablespoon (or so) of caraway seed. Now start massaging the salt into the cabbage. You want to massage the cabbage until it starts to leach out it’s own liquid. You want to massage it for about 10 minutes, sometimes more. The easiest thing to do is to get one of your kids, or your neighbors kids to do this, what kid doesn’t like playing with food?
Once the cabbage is finished being massaged, place it in a food grade bucket or in a mason jar. Fill a plastic bag with salt water and place it on top of the cabbage. let this sit on your counter for 24 hours. After 24 hours, check the level of the brine. The cabbage should have created enough of it’s own brine to be completely submerged. If not, make a brine solution with water and kosher salt and pour it over the cabbage. Replace the baggy and let the cabbage sit on your counter.
Always place on a plate. Trust me on this. If your cabbage is really fresh,
you’ll wake up with brine all over your counter if you don’t…
Part 2 – Fermenting Time: It will take the sauerkraut at least 2 weeks to completely ferment. I usually let mine ferment for about a month before I can it. At first it will smell very strong and you will wonder what I talked you into. This is a good thing, this is the bacteria doing it’s fermenting job. They are busy working away at turning cabbage into sauerkraut. Once the ferment starts to settle down, that’s when it will start to smell sweet. At this point it is finished and you can taste the sauerkraut to see if it’s at the flavor that you want.
Part 3 – Storage: At the point that the sauerkraut is finished, you can put it in the fridge and eat it within a couple months or you can it. I prefer to can it because it’s more shelf stable to can and I don’t want to take up any more room in my fridge than I have to.
The jar with the ring still on never sealed so that is going in my fridge!
Yield: 4 pints
Adapted from Well-Preserved and Canning for a New Generation
1.5 pounds cabbage (about 1 head)
3 Tablespoons kosher salt (plus more as needed)
1 teaspoon Caraway Seed
- Core and finely slice the cabbage. Combine cabbage and 1.5 tablespoons of kosher salt in a deep non-reactive bowl. Start massaging the cabbage until it starts to leach out it’s juices.
- Combine 1 quart water with remaining 1.5 tablespoons kosher salt in a 1 quart resealable plastic bag. Place the plastic bag over the cabbage to weight the cabbage down below the brine.
- Let the cabbage sit for 24 hours. After 24 hours, check the level of the brine. If the cabbage is not submerged in brine, make a brine mixture using 1 quart of water and 1.5 tablespoons of salt. Pour this over the cabbage until it covers the cabbage. Replace plastic bag filled with brine.
- Let the cabbage rest for a minimum of 2 weeks. After 2 weeks, check that the fermentation is over and that the sauerkraut is at the flavor you desire.
- Once the sauerkraut is at the flavor you desire, prepare BWB and 4 pint jars
- Boil the sauerkraut for about 10 minutes.
- Pack into scalded jars and cover with brine leaving 1/2 inch headspace.
- Process for 10 minutes.