This is a very manageable version of Alsace’s gift to the food world. Served with either smoked pork chops (delicious) or weisswurst (also delicious), this is fragrant and wonderful. The grated apple adds sweetness, the grated potato gives body and flavor, and both dissolve into the sauerkraut juices as they cook. Baking the meat right in the prepared sauerkraut infuses both their flavors together in a delectable symbiotic exchange.
4slicesbacon, cut into 1-inch squares
2onions, halved through the root end and sliced crosswise
2garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2pounds prepared sauerkraut, rinsed in a colander under cold water for several minutes, then drained well
2 small-medium sweet apples, such as Golden Delicious, peeled, quartered, cored, and coarsely grated
1potato (all-purpose or russet), peeled and coarsely grated
1cupdry white wine, plus more if needed
½cupapple cider or apple juice
½cupchicken broth or water
8juniper berries, bruised with the back of a knife, or 1tablespoongin
Salt, if needed
4 smoked pork chops, cut 1inch thick (10 to 12ounces each), or 8 weisswurst (about 1½pounds total)
#1½teaspoonsvegetable oil or butter, for weisswurst
freshly ground black pepper, to taste, for weisswurst
Place the bacon in a nonreactive, large, heavy casserole or Dutch oven over medium heat; cook, stirring, until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate, letting all possible fat drain back into the pan.
Pour off all but a thin film of fat from the casserole. Add the onions and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the onions soften but are not browned, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and toss until fragrant, 1 or 2 minutes. Add the sauerkraut, apples, and potato, stirring with 2 large wooden spoons to combine. Add the wine, cider or juice, broth, thyme, bay leaf, juniper berries, and cloves. Add salt if needed (it probably won* be). Cover the casserole and bring the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer steadily, covered, stirring from time to time, for 35 minutes. Stir in the reserved bacon.
The sauerkraut is now ready. If not cooking it with the meat right away, let it cool completely and then refrigerate. If you’d like to freeze some of it, cool that portion; freeze in a tightly sealed, labeled container.
To serve with smoked pork chops:Preheat the oven to 350°F. Choose a baking dish in which the chops will fit in a single layer. Spoon a bed of sauerkraut (it’s okay if it’s still cold) with its juices into the pan. Place the chops on top; top with the remaining sauerkraut and juices. Cover the pan tightly with foil. Bake until the chops are very hot and tender, 45 to 50 minutes (add 10 minutes or so if the sauerkraut came right out of the refrigerator). Serve the chops with the sauerkraut alongside, with boiled potatoes, mustard, and cornichons.
To serve with weisswurst:Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prick the weisswurst all over with the point of a paring knife—this prevents split or burst skins. Heat 1½ teaspoons vegetable oil or butter in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Place the sausages in the pan and sauté, turning several times with tongs, until golden on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes. Tuck the sausages into the sauerkraut in the casserole (or in a shallow baking dish), covering them completely. Cover the casserole and bake for 30 minutes. Add black pepper, to taste. Serve the sausages with the sauerkraut alongside, with boiled potatoes, mustard, and cornichons.