Enjoy a bit of culinary gemütlichkeit with sauerkraut recipes

Colleen Kottke
Wisconsin State Farmer
An implement used to pound shredded cabbage rests atop the large crock during the process to make sauerkraut at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Gluckstadt.

My great grandparents were among a wave of German immigrants that flooded into Wisconsin in the early 1800s. While they were eager to learn the customs of their new homeland, they held steadfast to many of the food traditions passed down by their ancestors.

Among those traditions was fermented cabbage, best known as sauerkraut. While the name is made up of the German words sauer (sour) and kraut (cabbage), the tangy concoction is really a Chinese invention dating back 6000 years, which both the Germans and Irish hold dear.

Sauerkraut is an integral part of many dishes that appear on menus across Wisconsin. And why not? Nearly 45 percent of Wisconsinites claim German roots and the state is home to the largest kraut company in the world—GLK Foods. The company boasts that it produces more sauerkraut than Germany.

Here are some recipes to put that sauerkraut to good use and in turn give us a bit of culinary gemütlichkeit.

RELATED: Simmering sauerkraut brings back memories for Jerry Apps

Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake with pecans.

Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake

Courtesy of Old Farm Country Cookbook by Jerry Apps and Susan Apps-Bodilly (Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2017)*

2/3 cup butter

1 1/2 cups white sugar

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup water

2/3 cup rinsed, drained and chopped sauerkraut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9 x 13-inch pan. Cream sugar and butter together in a large bowl. Add eggs and vanilla. In another bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add flour mixture to the sugar and egg mixture, alternating with the water and ending with water. Stir in the sauerkraut. Pour into prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

Ring Bologna and Sauerkraut Oven Stew*

1 large onion, chopped

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1 Tablespoon oil

1 3/4 cups diced tomatoes, undrained

1 1/2 cups (or one 14-ounce can) sauerkraut, undrained

6 small potatoes, peeled and halved

1 teaspoon of sugar (optional)

1 pound ring bologna, sliced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a pan, saute onion and garlic powder in the oil until tender. Transfer the mixture to a 2-quart baking dish. Add the tomatoes, sauerkraut, potatoes and sugar. Mix gently. Bake for 30 minutes. Place ring bologna slices on top of the vegetables. Cover and bake until the potatoes are soft, about 20 minutes.

Fried Sauerkraut and Wieners*

2-3 tablespoons of butter

2 cups of sauerkraut, drained

salt and pepper

4 cooked and cut up wieners or sausages

Melt the butter in a frying pan. Add the drained sauerkraut. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Saute until browned. Add the cooked wiener pieces.

Sauerkraut Casserole

3-4 cups mashed potatoes

3/4 lb. hamburger

1 medium onion

1 pint or 14-ounce can of sauerkraut

2 Tablespoons  butter

Brown hamburger and onion until done. Place half of mashed potatoes into the bottom of a greased casserole dish. Spoon hamburger mixture on top of potatoes. Add a layer of sauerkraut on top of hamburger. Cover with remaining mashed potatoes. Dot with butter. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. 

Homemade sauerkraut is among the most popular items at GermanFest festivities across the state of Wisconsin.

Pork Steak and Sauerkraut

4 pork shoulder steaks or chops

1 teaspoon salt

pepper to taste

1 Tablespoon horseradish

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard

1 1 lb. can sauerkraut

2 medium apples, chopped

1/2 cup diced onion

1 teaspoon caraway seeds (optional)

Brown steaks/chops in vegetable oil. Season meat with salt and pepper. Combine mustard and horseradish and spread over browned meat. Combine sauerkraut, apples and onions. Place seasoned meat in shallow baking pan in single layer; top with sauerkraut mixture. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Uncover and cook for 30 minutes more.

Kraut Krackers

Use extra or overly soft sauerkraut for this recipe.

3 cups flour

1 teaspoon black pepper

3/4 cup lard or shortening

2 cups sauerkraut

Preheat oven to 425°F.Grease two large cookie sheets. Measure flour and pepper into food processor and pulse to mix. Add shortening and continue pulsing until mixture is crumbly like cornmeal.

Add sauerkraut gradually, blending after each addition, until entire 2 cups has been added. The mixture should be a dough ball in the processor now.

Turn the dough ball out onto a floured surface. Pull off Tbsp.-sized balls and roll them smooth. Place balls on the greased cookie sheets and flatten with the bottom of a drinking glass, to about 1/4-inch thickness.

Bake 10 minutes, watching closely and turning crackers as necessary. After 10 minutes, reduce oven temperature to 350°F and bake 10-15 minutes more.

Remove crackers from oven, scoop onto a cooling rack and cool undisturbed. Once cooled, store in an airtight container.