Faux Kraut

Several months ago I came across something absolutely addictive. It was last November at Wurstfest, well, not exactly, but close enough. And it was serendipitous. Like we were meant for each other. I've eaten it twice, thanks to the chef, and I am now making this dish at home for the second time.

It's so spectacular I decided it's time to unveil one of my new favorite things to you.

Sauerkraut. Ta-da!

Don't give up on me now...I promise you that this is not the traditional fermented stuff, nor is it sauerkraut in a bag, a jar or, gasp! from a can. It's basically cabbage with bacon and onion braised in apple cider vinegar. And I can't get enough of it.

The way I stumbled upon this sauerkrautlet's just call it sauerkraut, for lack of a better wordis a long and jumbled story, but suffice it to say that it included a lot of begging. Begging the chef for the recipe, that is.

One Saturday at the New Braunfels Farm to Market, the chef of Liberty Bistro strolled by. I immediately recognized him as "the-man-who-served-us-that-spectacular-sauerkraut-on-the-opening-night-of-Wurstfest" and I am sure I ogled and cooed like a baby, giggled and pointed to him like an idiot.

After regaining my composure, I introduced myself and told him how we had his sauerkraut that night and were still dreaming about it. Really. Collin just nodded, smiled and thanked me and kept walking.

Then I saw him again a few Saturdays later and I once more told him how much I loved his sauerkraut. This time he promised to make me some and walked away.

"Yea, right," I thought. "That will never happen. He probably just said that to shut me up." But it was a nice gesture and I did appreciate that.

The following Saturday, there he is at the market. I wave and he says hello and tells me he made me some sauerkraut and he'll bring it to me before the market is over.

OMG, I am beside myself and I hug him! When he brings me the sauerkraut, I offer him a bag of Cowgirl Granola...as a mere token of my appreciation. It's the least I can do.

So, a few weeks later, when he's at the market one Saturday as the demo chef, I tell him how amazing the sauerkraut was and start asking questions, like, "It's not like sauerkraut, but it's more like you use fresh cabbage, right?"

His sous chef, Abby, smiled and nodded and Collin said, "Actually, Abby's the sauerkraut maker."

Collin, chef of Liberty Bistro, and sous chef Abby

There you have it! She's the genius behind this utterly fantastic concoction. We talked a bit and she indicated that perhaps at the end of the day they would share the recipe with me, because, "it's really easy," she says.

And it is. We bought a Markey Family Farm cabbage last week and since I try to eat everything I buy before the next market, sauerkraut was on the menu Friday tonight.

If you're not up for making this, stop in to the Liberty Bistro in New Braunfels and have some for yourself.

Buen provecho!

Braised Cabbage with Bacon and Onions (Sauerkraut)
The Cowgirl Gourmet (http://www.thecowgirlgourmet.blogspot.com/) got this recipe from Liberty Bistro in New Braunfels, Texas

Print recipe

Now this is not for the faint at heart. It calls for plenty of bacon and then you saute the onions in the bacon fat. But, as you can imagine, that's what makes it so damn good. The apple cider vinegar is what makes it a cousin to sauerkraut.

Serves 4-6

1 head of green cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
5-6 slices of applewood smoked bacon (please get the best quality bacon you can find or afford), chopped
1 Tablespoon caraway seeds, toasted (toss the seeds in a medium hot skillet for just a minute or so until they start to smell fragrant)
2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup water
2 Tablespoons sugar
Perhaps a bit more vinegar and/or sugar to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Half the cabbage and remove the core.

Then thinly slice cabbage and place in a colander.

Sprinkle 1 teaspoon salt over the cabbage and toss to coat. Set aside.

In a big soup pot, cook the chopped bacon until it's fried to perfection. Add the sliced onions and saute until softened.

Add the cabbage and caraway seeds and stir well.

Add 2 cups apple cider vinegar and 1 cup of water. Sprinkle in 2 Tablespoons sugar and stir well. The smell should really get you excited at this point and should permeate your entire house as it cooks.

Let cook over medium heat about 30-40 minutes until everything is softened and the flavors meld.

When it is cooked, taste it to check for the right balance of flavors adding a bit more salt, vinegar and/or sugar if needed.

Serve and try not to eat it all! Remember that it's even better the next day.

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