Sausages and sauerkraut are intrinsically associated with the German food culture, so much so that they have effectively become stereotypes. The choice of sausages available to buy in Germany is staggering but conversely, sauerkraut couldn't really be any more basic. It is simply cabbage fermented with the aid of salt. The one drawback of making sauerkraut at home is that it normally takes a couple of weeks or even longer before it is ready to eat.
What I did here was try to speed up the process of making sauerkraut with the aid of some vinegar as well as the salt and some heat. I was absolutely delighted with the results and will definitely make the preparation again, perhaps in larger quantities for storing in jars.
German bratwurst with reiberknodels (potato dumplings) and homemade sauerkraut
When I saw these particular bratwurst in a local German supermarket, I was surprised by how light they were in color. They immediately reminded me of weisswurst, a type of sausage native to Bavaria in Southern Germany and particularly the city of Munich. I have visited Munich many times and always make a point of enjoying weisswurst at least once during each trip. These sausages are unusual in that they are traditionally eaten only for breakfast and they are reheated in very hot water rather than in a frying pan. It was for this reason that I chose this particular cooking method.
Ingredients (Serves 1)
- 3 medium sized white cabbage leaves
- 1 tablespoon vinegar
- 1 teaspoon salt, plus a little extra for dumplings
- 1 medium to large baking potato
- 1 tablespoon farina or semolina flour (cornstarch/corn flour can be used at a push)
- 1 tablespoon fresh breadcrumbs
- 1 egg
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- White pepper
- 3 bratwurst
- Finely chopped fresh dill leaves to garnish
Wash the cabbage leaves, roll like cigars and moderately finely shred. Add to a medium sized pot along with the vinegar and teaspoon of salt. I used malt vinegar here which accounts for the slightly darker color of the served sauerkraut but white wine vinegar would also be a good option. Add around three or four tablespoons of cold water to the pot, just enough to almost but not quite cover the cabbage. Stir well and put the pot on to a medium heat until the liquid starts to simmer. Cover and allow to simmer for about fifteen minutes until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Turn off the heat and leave to cool completely.
Peel the potato and chop it in to large chunks. Put the chunks in to a pot of lightly salted water and bring the water to a simmer for about fifteen to twenty minutes until the pieces are just softened. Drain, return to the pot and leave for a few minutes until they stop steaming. This is essential to get rid of the excess moisture or your mash will be soggy and the dumplings won't have the right texture.
Use a hand masher to mash the potatoes, cover and allow them to cool.
The cooled mashed potatoes should be added to a suitable mixing bowl with the flour, breadcrumbs, nutmeg and some salt and white pepper. Break the egg in to a cup and lightly beat it with a fork. Add half of it only to the potato and accompaniments and use your hand to combine the mix in to a dough. This will be a bit messy at first but will become less so as the dough forms. You may or may not need more of the egg but be sure not to make the dough too wet.
A large pot of water should be brought to a boil. Divide the dumpling dough in to three equal portions and roll between the palms of your hands in to balls. A slotted spoon is best used to carefully lower the dumplings in to the hot water. Reduce the heat and let the dumplings simmer in the water for fifteen minutes.
If you have more conventional bratwurst and are going to be frying them, you should start them frying very gently in a little oil as soon as the potato dumplings are in the hot water, turning them on a regular basis. In this instance, though, I poached the sausages as would be weisswurst in Munich. I brought a second pot of water up to just below a simmer before carefully adding the sausages and cooking them in this way for ten minutes. It's imperative that you don't let the water boil or even properly simmer or the skins will be likely to burst.
Lift the reiberknodels (potato dumplings) from the poaching water to a small plate or flat bottomed bowl. Allow them two or three minutes to steam off and dry out.
Arrange the cooled sauerkraut on a plate in the form of a bed for the potato dumplings. Sit the dumplings on top and garnish with the freshly chopped dill leaves. Lift the bratwurst on to the plate alongside, either with a slotted spoon from poaching water or with a spatula from frying pan.
Additional Serving Suggestion
It is by no means authentically German but there was one further little step I took when serving this meal. In the name of cutting down on food waste and adding a little bit of extra visual appeal to the dish, I deep fried some of the potato peelings taken from the potato used in this recipe and served them on top of the reiberknodels.
To do this, I submerged the peelings in a bowl of cold water immediately after I had removed them from the potato. They need to be at least an eighth of an inch thick. When the meal was a few minutes away from coming together, I patted them dry with kitchen paper, deep fried them in hot oil, drained them on fresh kitchen paper and laid one on top of each potato dumpling immediately prior to service.