My mother had zero tolerance for picky eaters.
Hers was a simple philosophy: She made it; we ate it. Food was not
wasted. I’m sure it stems from the Depression, but we didn’t waste.
(Funny, how so many people are learning that again….)
There were no alternative meals offered; no peanut butter sandwiches for the kids; no mac & cheese.
To be fair she rarely made anything unusual, and, if it was
something new, there were normally familiar foods in the same meal.
only had to try a small amount to satisfy her.
But we had to eat that small amount.
That is how my older brother became my hero.
We didn’t have a dog, you see.
On two occasions, as a child, I was left sitting at the table well
into the evening. The rest of the family was in the living room,
watching T.V. I was in the dining room at the table.
My mother was stubborn.
So was I.
The first time the uneaten food was a buckwheat pancake. If I
didn’t like it hot with melted butter and warm maple syrup you can
imagine how it was tasting 4 hours later: a cold, soggy mass in the
middle of my plate.
My big brother took pity on me. When our mother went outside for a minute he came over and ate it.
She was suspicious, but she couldn’t prove anything so I was allowed to leave the table.
The second time it was sauerkraut
It was on a Friday night. My father was popping popcorn for a
treat. My mother was watching my brother and I was sitting at the
table with ONE forkful of cold sauerkraut on my plate.
Did I mention that I was stubborn?
Did I mention my big brother is my hero?
He laid on the floor to watch T.V. Slowly, over the course of, say,
30 minutes, he edged into the dining room, close to my chair. Finally
the moment came: he ducked under the table and I lowered the fork with
Unfortunately my mother saw us. I was allowed to leave the table but I didn’t get any popcorn.
Neither did my brother.
She never made the buckwheat pancakes again.
The next time she made sauerkraut I ate it, hot, and loved it.
When I started cooking on my own I had an epiphany the first time I
tried to make sauerkraut: One has to do more than just open a can and
heat if one wants edible sauerkraut.
I learned another thing after moving here: In France, sauerkraut
doesn’t come in a can, or a bag. It’s made at the shop and you buy it
either raw or cooked.
Either way, when prepared properly, with herbs and spices, a bit of meat or not, it’s delicious….
Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage.
That doesn’t mean that the finished dish has to be overly salty or
sour. If you are using sauerkraut from a bag or a can (like Frank’s)
rinse it with cold water before using. Then taste it. It should have a
light fermented taste to it. If it’s still too salty/sour, rinse it
Raw sauerkraut may even have to be soaked in cool water for 5 minutes if it is quite salty.
My mother always used pork ribs in her sauerkraut. I like to use
sausage. A traditional Alsatian Choucroute Garni would have both, plus
some bacon. Use what you like. Serve with boiled potatoes, dumplings, or pasta.
Sauerkraut with Sausages
16oz (500gr) sauerkraut
2 cloves garlic
1 rib celery
1 tbs olive oil
1/2 – 1 cup white wine
1/4 cup beef stock
2 bay leaves
2 whole cloves
5 juniper berries
Rinse the sauerkraut and drain
well. Chop the onion, celery, carrot and mince the garlic. In large, deep skillet
sauté the vegetables until onions are tender 8 minutes. Move to the
side and add the sausages. Brown on both sides. Remove the sausages
and add the sauerkraut, 1/2 cup wine, 1/4 cup stock, the herbs and
spices. Stir to mix well. Place the sausages on top, cover and simmer
for 30 – 60 minutes, the longer the better. Depending on the kraut you
may have to add the remaining wine; raw
sauerkraut will absorb more liquid than cooked.
Note: I first told this story a few years ago…. But I think of it, and my big brother, every time I make kraut.
It makes me smile – maybe it will make you smile, too. ;-))