With the cool weather nipping in at night, I can’t help but think about the sausages – specifically Braised Sausage with Sauerkraut! Those sausages will be beautiful – slowly simmered in a bed of delicate sauerkraut (and this recipe produces the best sauerkraut you’ve ever tasted.) I’ll serve them with red potatoes, boiled and roughly mashed with just a touch of butter and milk, and I won’t forget, as I was taught, the horseradish and mustard.
If you’ve never had Sauerkraut served this way, it’s mild, beautifully flavored, and you’ll be very surprised - and what it does to the flavor of the sausage is just unbelievable! My son told me “This is what sausage SHOULD taste like.”
I’ve mentioned the little “secret” in the recipe to others before and I’ve been “nay-sayed.” Friends have clucked, others have shaken their heads vehemently and made little negative noises, and one, bolder than the rest, incredulously said, “You do what?!” Here’s the heresy: I give the sauerkraut the just the barest of rinses and sprinkle about a heaping teaspoon of sugar over the top…
This “secret” was told to me years ago by an elderly German relative on my Grandpa’s side, and having no reason to doubt her, I’ve been making my Sausage and Sauerkraut that way ever since.
I came in slightly over budget for the cost of the meal: $5.01. See my strategies, below, for more information on pricing.
Braised Sausage and Sauerkraut, 4 Servings
- 1 package of sauerkraut
- 1/4 pound of bacon, sliced in 1/2 inch pieces
- 1 pound sausage, cut on diagonal
- 2 onions, peeled and sliced vertically
- 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 1/2 teaspoons black peppercorns
- 1/2 teaspoon of pickling spice (may omit if you don’t have on hand)
- 1/2 head of garlic, cut crosswise, cloves intact; if you don’t have whole garlic, use two or three chopped cloves
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of sugar
- 2 cups of chicken stock (beer may be substituted for about 1/2 cup of the stock)
- Whole grain or Dijon style mustard and horseradish for serving
Preheat oven to 325. In a non reactive Dutch oven, cook bacon till crisp and brown sausage pieces, cut on the diagonal, at the same time. Remove bacon and sausage, and most of the drippings. Add a little butter if there are not enough drippings. Add in the onion and cook till translucent and it begins to soften.
In the meantime, put sauerkraut in a colander and give a quick rinse. Be careful to just rinse quickly, or you will lose all the flavor – just enough so the water comes out the bottom, then drain, pressing out most of the liquid. Add to pan with onions.
Use a small bit of cheesecloth to make a bundle of the herbs and spices, or if you don’t have cheesecloth, a small bit of flimsy fabric. Nestle in Dutch Oven. If you aren’t concerned about picking out the spices, just dump them in.
Sprinkle sugar over the top of the sauerkraut, and pour in chicken stock. You should be able to see it just peeping through the sauerkraut. (The top should be dry, the liquid level should be about 1/2 inch lower than the top. Add a little water if necessary.)
Nestle in the sausage and sprinkle the top with the bacon and (if you wish to) any accumulated drippings. Cover and bake about an hour to an hour and a half, checking at around an hour, and frequently after that. The bottom should be nearly dry.
Serve with mustards, horseradish and “smashed” baby potatoes.
Note: Trust me on the quick rinse of the sauerkraut – you’re still going to have wonderful flavor, just a bit subtler. Trust me, too, on the sprinkle of sugar – both were hints from an Iowa German family, 2nd generation.
Let’s talk about how to save money/time on this recipe:
- Use a coupon matching site! One of my favorites in my area is Pocket Your Dollars, but every store has a group of enthusiastic Coupon Matchers. Do not discount the savings! I check their site every week, even if I don’t “need” to go to the store and often find bargains I can’t pass up.
- Follow my Strategies – You’ll see them all explained on the upper left tab of every page and how I apply them, below.
- Don’t get discouraged if your prices don’t match mine! Keep shopping at the best prices and your fridge/freezer and pantry will be stocked with sales priced ingredients.
- Read below for additional tips as well as throughout the recipe, for saving time and managing food.
- Sauerkraut: I bought Frank’s in the two-pound bag. I do think the bagged is a higher quality, and well worth it, but by all means, used canned if that’s all there is in your area. I often save a bit of Sauerkraut out to make Reuben Sandwiches with later, or if making Reubens, I save for Braised Sausage. Runza can also be made with Sauerkraut. Sauerkraut is best saved by straining into a bowl, then transferring the Sauerkraut to a clean jar and covering with the brine collected in the bowl. It keeps almost forever in the fridge. A low St. Paddy’s day special runs about $1.75, but a good sale price, around $2.09. About a quarter was used in the Reubens, so cost for this recipe (using the good price) $1.52.
- Sausage: Brand named sausage goes on sale regularly, often at the same time the producer issues coupons. Watch your coupon sites. I normally pay 50 cents to a dollar for a package of smoked sausage, and the “fancier” ones are aggressively marketed and sometimes free. Meat total: $1.00
- Bacon: Used to be an inexpensive ingredient, its price has risen with its popularity. Let’s face it, bacon isn’t the healthiest – we seldom use it here on its own as a meat, but do use it in small amounts in recipes, where I consider it as a “flavoring” rather than a protein. I buy on store specials and take advantage of coupons – my go to price is between $2.00 and $3.00 a package. I freeze until needed, partially thaw (until a knife will go through) and cut across the bacon from top to bottom. 1/16th is the same size as a strip. I wrap the bacon back up and freeze again.If we’re making something like a BLT, I’ll think about cooking a bit extra for something like this recipe. Cost for the bacon, $2.89 a pound, 4 slices (4 ounces) is 72 cents.
- Onions: They keep well, so try to buy on sale. Aldi’s is a good place to find reasonably priced onions. Always less expensive in the fall/winter months, the pricing in my area runs from 33 to 66 cents a pound. Store them in a dark, cool place but not near potatoes. If you’ve bought too many onions, don’t let them go bad.Slice or dice them, saute and portion into ziplocs labeled “onions” and freeze. You’ve just saved yourself a step for next time you make a dish. If you have enough, consider making French Onion Soup. If you use half an onion, consider if you can sauté the rest and put it in a Ziploc in the freezer. If not store in the door where you’ll see it when you’re cooking next. 3 onions run (at 56 cents a pound) about 38 cents.
- Chicken Stock: If you read me regularly, I make my own with scraps of vegetables and bones – here’s the basic recipe I use for Best Turkey or Chicken Stock - it’s not particular and though it simmers for a long time, the burner is barely on – I just count it as free. Water would work, too, but not be as flavorful.
- Sugar and spices: negligible
- Potatoes: I cooked up about 4 red potatoes (the larger ones, not the babies) and used about 2 tablespoons butter and a bit of milk. On a St. Patrick’s Day sale, about $2.49 a pound. Cost around a dollar.
- There are two things I really like to make with left overs from this dish. One is to finely chop the Sausage and mix a bit of the sauerkraut, the sausage, any bacon bits and a grated cheese of your choice. Roll a few tablespoons into an egg roll wrapper and fry. Incredible.
- The second is to make a pizza: I follow the standard dough recipe I normally use, but top with dabs of ricotta, tiny little mounds of sauerkraut, grated Swiss cheese. Sprinkle on the sausage and bacon (yeah, I usually pick it out of the left over sauerkraut so it can crisp on top of the pizza.) Bake as usual, 15 – 17 minutes. This is so much better than one might imagine.
(Not including mustards or potatoes) I was frankly a little surprised when I read the amount of fat in the recipe – why, I don’t know, considering all the sausage and bacon, but every once in a while you have to splurge. I certainly wouldn’t be serving this every day, at any rate.
Per Serving: 426 Calories; 32g Fat (32.3% calories from fat); 27g Protein; 22g Carbohydrate; 7g Dietary Fiber; 105mg Cholesterol; 400 mg Sodium. Exchanges: 0 Grain (Starch); 3 Lean Meat; 2 1/2 Vegetable; 7 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates.
Put your own spin on it:
- If you’re feeling flush, you can add lots of different meats; cook the sauerkraut with ham hocks, add in smoked pork chops, or regular pork chops that you’ve browned with the sausage, or a variety of different sausages.
- Try leaving out the pickling spice and adding a 1/2 teaspoon of caraway seeds.
- This is wonderful if you add a little amber or dark beer in place of one cup of the chicken stock, or you could add in a bit of apple cider or apple juice. Omit the sugar if using the apple juice.
My Pay Off
A hearty, warming preview to fall, without all the raking!
Many old recipe’s like this, recipes that got our families through hard times in generations past, passed on through the years have their places, even today. They do, however, often represent an “old-school” way of thinking about budgeting and cooking. They were developed at a different time, when goals were often to use up, make do, and keep a little meat on the bones in a time when people worked hard, lived without modern conveniences and often went through times of lean and plenty.
When compared to a more balanced meal full of vegetables, light on the meat and starches, Heritage recipes often fall short. While not necessarily “expensive,” Heritage recipes do not necessarily allocate our funds towards the most balanced, nutritious meals we can have for around the same price. Have them now and then, enjoy them, pass down cherished memories – but remember that a Heritage Recipe may not offer the most “bang for the buck” on the nutritional level.
Recipe for Braised Sausage and Sauerkraut made September 2011, priced at $5.01 – repriced March 2014 and priced at $4.62. The difference: I’ve become better at working ingredients into more than one meal – I divided the Sauerkraut into this meal and Reubens – in the past, I’ve been a bit at a loss as to how to handle the large amount of Sauerkraut this recipe made, and this has helped me to manage potential waste as well.
- Four Ways with Sauerkraut (nourishingresults.com)
- Sausage Recipes, Cooking With Sausage & Sausage Ideas (williams-sonoma.com)
- How to prepare a Wisconsin brat fry in your backyard (seattletimes.nwsource.com)