Monday, April 16, 2012

How to cook the best Sauerkraut in the World…

Well at least per Uté (Ooo-tah) Hiltman.  And who is Uté Hiltman?  Well back in 2001, we had the opportunity of hosting a foreign exchange student from Germany – and you guessed it, she was Uté.

Having her as part of the family for just 8 months, we wanted to give her as many of our American culture as we possibly could.  We brought her up to Michigan (my home State) for my Sister’s wedding and during the week we managed to go to Mackinaw Island, cross over the “Big Mac” bridge and spent to wonderful day enjoying Cedar Point.

My family! (In back, left to right) Kami, Ute' and Jim (Front) Amy, Alex and Me

While Uté was enjoying life and school here in Indianapolis, I did not want her to feel too homesick.  So I decided to make dinner one night that I believe every American thinks is a German favorite, Sauerkraut and Kielbasa (of course the kielbasa is Polish, but the sauerkraut is definitely German).  I prepared the dinner just as my Mom did when we were little, cooked all day in the crock pot, with her secret ingredient.  When it came time for dinner, Uté asked what we were having.  I was shocked to find out that she did not like sauerkraut!  I thought every one back in Germany loved sauerkraut.  She said that her Mom did make it a lot, but she never acquired the taste for it.  A little disappointed, I urged Uté to at least put a little on her plate to try – if she did not like mine she did not have to eat it.  So we all filled our plates and made our way up to the loft (where the TV is – we wanted to make sure she experienced the American way of eating dinner: in from of the TV!) and we all ate our dinner.  Now I love my sauerkraut and kielbasa – it is one of my favorite things to eat, especially the leftovers, so I really wasn’t paying attention to what Uté was eating on her plate.  We all finished and Uté (being a very polite and courteous young lady) took all our plates downstairs to the kitchen.  When she returned back upstairs, she had another plate filled with more sauerkraut and kielbasa.  I looked at her surprised and she said, “This is sure better than what my Mom makes” and finished her second plate.  I told her it was my “secret” ingredient and laughed.

It was about a month or so I decided to make this dish again for dinner, but this time I just made it quickly on top of the stove.  As I was putting all the ingredients into the pot, Uté came into the kitchen just as I had cracked open a beer and started pouring it into the pot.  “Now I know why I like your sauerkraut”, were the words that came out of her mouth.  It hit me funny and snickered.  She was going to make sure she told her Mom when she got back to Germany about my “secret” ingredient.

I made sure Ute had the recipe to share with her Mom and now here it is for you to enjoy also.  My “American” recipe for Sauerkraut and Kielbasa.

·         2 – 32 oz. jars of Sauerkraut
·         2  - 14 oz. packages of Turkey Polska Kielbasa
·         2 ½ cups of packed Brown Sugar
·         2 to 3 Tablespoons of Red Hot (omit if you don’t like the slight heat0
·         2 – 12 oz. bottles (or cans) of your favorite beer
·         Black Pepper to taste

Rinse and drain the sauerkraut in a colander.  While the sauerkraut is draining, slice the kielbasa links into ½” slices.  Put the kielbasa slices in a large skillet and brown.  (I had some bacon grease left over and adding a tablespoon for extra flavor.)  I squeezed the sauerkraut to get out all the juices and dumped into my slow cooker.  I then add the brown sugar, hot sauce and beer.  I used an Indiana Beer from Upland Brewery – try something different.  Again, make sure you are cooking with a beer you enjoy to drink – it makes all the difference.  Stir your ingredients all together and add the browned kielbasa.  Pepper to taste and set the slow cooker on High for 4 to 6 hours.  The longer you cook this dish, the deeper the flavors are.

We had such a wonderful experience with Uté and I know she loved her Indiana home.  I cannot help but remember that time when Uté “caught” me pouring beer into my sauerkraut – she was so surprised and I have a heart warming memory!

Until next time – Keep your Foodie Fluids Flowing, and AG Me On!


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