Sauerkraut is growing

Storks is wrong. Babies aren’t born on cabbage but on… sausage. From Montbéliard and Morteau, with their acolytes smoked and salted bacon as well as other regional sausages from the east. It is not an Alsatian who would say the opposite, since the decorated sauerkraut is his symbol. “In my family restaurant, it has always been cooked, as a starter, as a main course, sweet and savory, Testifies Martin Fache, retired restaurateur of Agneu d’Or in Münster and who recently wrote with Pierre-Brice Lebrun, Short treatise on sauerkraut (Le Surro Edition, 14.90 euros). There are no rules for preparing it, every family has its own recipe! »

Without contradicting this venerable “sauerkraut maker-garnisher” of the Confrerie de la Choucroute created in Alsace in 1987, let us dare to say that you still have to respect a few principles to cook this great dish. A good recipe depends first on the quality of the cabbage. It must be the head type, this variety of green and white, tight and “headed”, its large smooth leaves closed in on themselves as if sheltering a treasure.

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“It takes a lot of work to get the best product at the best time. says Olivier Nasti, the two-star chef at Le Chamberde in Kaiserburg and the adjoining bistro. Sauerkraut has a season: new cabbage, tender green, is harvested in July and salted for a very short time, so it is eaten raw in salads. Then, you have to wait months to get a long-fermented product that has developed all its flavors. »

To be tender and tasty, the cabbage was cut into strips and grated and then packed tightly in a tank with salt and kept in brine. It is not washed too much to preserve its natural fermentation, responsible for said fermentation. “I remember that with my grandmother, I made it with cabbage from the vegetable garden, since I grew up in Grand-Est, Remembering Laurent Marriott, whose new recipe book celebrates our great classics (French cuisine for everyoneSolar, €21.90). Sauerkraut is a dish that is prepared and eaten in a variety of ways, including large amounts of cabbage, potatoes, and cold cuts. »

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Lactofermentation is revived

In recent years, the ancestral method of lactofermentation, used for long-term food preservation, has come back into use among chefs, in vegetable pickles, sours and drinks such as kefir. Sauerkraut is their ancestor (it originated in China in the 3rd century BC) and, with a little patience, you can make it yourself instead of buying it ready-made. “Although there are many steps, it’s not that complicated, Laurent Marriott says. Only the cooking is long, 2h15, but the important thing is to prepare your shopping in advance so that all the herbs are available. That way, in thirty minutes, it’s done! »

Once the vegetable is fermented, you need to know how to season it. A few secrets of chefs are not too much to get there. “As a family, we cook the cabbage at the same time as the meat, for full flavor, Olivia explains Nasty. But in restaurants the meat is cooked separately as the cooking time for loin or blade is not the same. I collect their broth, with a smoky flavor, to moisten the sauerkraut.

Another chef’s tip: when you cook it in the bottom of a casserole dish with wine, onion and lard (or duck fat or oil), you add spices (juniper, caraway but also coriander and black pepper seeds) in a cloth bag, which is throughout the cooking. is covered.

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Then it’s up to the “garnishes” to come into play. A real parade especially when it comes to “royal sauerkraut”. “At the restaurant, I serve it with salted bacon, smoked bacon, pork loin, shank and blade, Olivia’s breakfast continued. On the sausage side, it can have knack [saucisse de Strasbourg]Montbéliard, a sausage with cumin and even a white sausage…” And, depending on the location in Alsace, some local specialties invite themselves to the party: white pudding around Bas-Rhin or Kaiserburg, liver dumplings called Lowerknepfle.

Sauerkraut is not always “dressed” or meaty. In Germany, it is slightly sweetened with honey. At the New York delicatessen, it falls into the famous Reuben pastrami sandwich. It is also found by freshwater fish (Arctic char, will, carp, pike…) like the legendary Kamerzel House in Strasbourg; Paired with white wine, beer, cider, cremant or champagne (depending on taste and region) or game, as per recipe “Pheasant with sauerkraut”.

Olivier Nasti even decided to open the doors of his gastronomic restaurant to sauerkraut by including it in his tasting menu. “It’s a very fresh little bite, She is explaining. I ferment a cabbage leaf and then dry it to make it crisp like a potato chip. Hidden beneath is a palate of candied kohlrabi and sauerkraut cabbage, all served with celery stick sauce. »

Sauerkraut is therefore a dish, but it is above all a vegetable that can be worked in a thousand and one ways. Martin Fache loves it to his heart’s content, as evidenced by the original recipes in his Petit Treats: he transforms it into cromesquis, strudel with smoked trout, tarte flambé with Münster cheese and even lasagna, oriental style or even dessert. Amazing… sauerkraut crème brûlée.

Sauerkraut in samples from Laurent Marriott

Preparation: 10 minutes,

Maceration 30 minutes,

Lactofermentation 1 month


White cabbage or head cabbage 2 kg

40 grams of salt (20 grams per net kilo of cabbage)

1 c. Juniper berries on s

½ tsp. Black pepper seeds in s

1 c. c. cumin seeds

Trim and discard the top leaves of the cabbage. Do not wash the rest of the cabbage (the natural bacteria in the cabbage will allow it to lactoferment), but do wash your hands thoroughly.

Cut the cabbage into 8 pieces and remove the heart and thick center ribs. Thinly slice the cabbage with a mandoline if possible.

In a salad bowl, toss shredded cabbage with salt, juniper, pepper and cumin. Let drain for 30 minutes.

Transfer everything to the jar, packing well up to 2 cm from the edges. Close them tightly and keep them at room temperature away from light for 2 to 3 days.

After 2 to 3 days, check to see if the cabbage strips are completely submerged in their brine. If not, add a mixture of boiled salt and water (at the rate of 10 grams of salt per liter of water).

Store sauerkraut at room temperature for 1 month, always away from light, before tasting it.

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