Today, I’m sharing my favorite sauerkraut recipe, doctored up with juniper berries, bacon, caraway seeds and applesauce for a unique and authentic German flavor.
Every year, thousands of Americans celebrate Oktoberfest with festivals, parades, oompah-pah bands and, of course, lots of sauerkraut, sausages and German beer.
Traditionally, Oktoberfest begins on Sept. 25 and ends on Oct. 6. The celebration originated on Oct. 12, 1810 when Bavaria’s crown prince Ludwig of Bavaria (who was later King Ludwig I) married princess Therese of Saxon-Hildburghausen, said Heidelberg-born chef Edwin Scholly of Johnson & Wales University, Rhode Island.
“The military organized a big celebration with horse races in honor of Therese,” said Scholly. “Over the next years the horse race was repeated and the Oktoberfest, also called ‘Wiesn’ was born.”
Germany is home to more than 1,400 breweries — 800 of them are in Bavaria — and it is the world’s largest beer pro- ducer and consumer. Among the country’s exports are dry lagers such as Beck’s and St. Pauli Girl (popular choices in America) to the more exotic Berliner Weisse, bockbier, alt- bier, rauchbier and kölsch.
“The first guy who started the tapping of the beer keg was the mayor Thomas Wimmer, in 1950,” said Scholly. “As of then, it’s always been the mayor of Munich’s job to open the first keg at noon on Saturday of the Wiesn.”
Scholly said that traditional German Oktoberfest foods include roast chicken, beef, pigs on a spit, and pork knuckles. “The foods are fatty because everyone is drinking a lot of beer,” said Scholly. “We do eat sauerkraut and bratwurst, but that’s not a typical Oktoberfest food in Germany.”
If you’re not a beer drinker, there are plenty of terrific German wines to choose from. One of the best is Riesling, which ranges from sweet and fruity versions to the new drier styles.
Following is an Old World-style German skillet supper. This Sauerkraut with Bacon, Apples and Caraway recipe is typical of American Oktoberfests. My sauerkraut recipe makes enough to cover 6 to 8 bratwurst sausages or sandwiches.
Sauerkraut with Bacon, Apples and Caraway
- 32 ounces sauerkraut rinsed and patted dry
- 1/2 cup applesauce
- 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
- 1 cup diced onion
- 3-4 strips bacon diced
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon juniper berries crushed
- 1 cup Riesling wine
- Heat slow cooker or Crock Pot on high.
- Place the sauerkraut, applesauce, caraway seeds, and bay leaf into the cooker.
- Saute bacon in a pre heated pan for one minute. Add diced onion and cook for two more minutes. Then add the garlic and crushed juniper berries and cook for two more minutes.
- Add the Riesling wine and let that cook down for a minute or two. While the wine is cooking, scrape the bottom of your pan with a wooden spoon.
- Pour this mixture into your cooker and cook on high for at least one and a half hours.
- Serve with roasted chicken or grilled Bratwurst sausages.