Long before the recent fermentation revolution, sauerkraut had been an important Thanksgiving tradition for generations of Baltimoreans. Eastern European families, upon arriving stateside, injected an Old World influence into this otherwise wholly American holiday. For those of us with cabbage-imbued bloodlines, sauerkraut and apples remain a sentimental favorite come holiday time.
It doesn't matter if you're pandering to fermentation lovers or upholding a beloved tradition—in this instance, sauerkraut actually makes culinary sense. Its tang perfectly counters the round, hearty flavors of such Thanksgiving staples as mashed potatoes, stuffing, and turkey. And when fortified with local, seasonal ingredients, sauerkraut and apples earn a rightful place among more conventional holiday fare.
If you're not planning on fermenting at home, the next best option is buying a jar of HEX Ferments sauerkraut from Belvedere Square (or a number of other Baltimore-based grocers). The team at HEX traditionally ferments locally sourced vegetables at its Belvedere Square headquarters, all by hand. For the beer, we like Union Craft Brewing's Balt Altbier—it's only fitting to incorporate a beer brewed using an old-school German approach. Aside from that, its pleasant sweetness beautifully balances sauerkraut's distinctive bite.
Local Sauerkraut and Apples
1 tablespoon butter
1 small onion, julienned
2 local apples, medium chop (Fuji, Pink Lady, or Jonagold preferred)
Salt and pepper to taste
8 ounces Union Craft Brewing Balt Altbier
16 ounces HEX Ferments Original Sauerkraut
1 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard (optional)
1 tablespoon caraway seeds (optional)
Melt butter in a stockpot over medium heat. Once liquefied, add onions and apples. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and cook until onions are translucent.
After cooking onions for about 10-15 minutes, add the beer and use a wooden spoon to scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Once the pan's surface is sufficiently deglazed, add entire jar of sauerkraut, chicken stock, and, if desired, the Dijon mustard and caraway seeds.
Simmer the contents until the liquid has reduced by a third. If you'd like your kraut to be thicker, simmer longer.
Serve warm. Serves 6-8.