Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Bratwurst and Sauerkraut

Bratwurst and Sauerkraut

Back in the mid-nineties, I worked at a big firm with a bunch of guys from other countries. Every year, around Christmas time, there was always a few of us left behind, unable to afford to go home for the holidays and although there was always a lot of work to do and consequently a lot of overtime to be paid, it still sucked not being able to spend much needed r&r with our families back home, wherever that may have been.

After work, over a few beers, the conversation would turn to how each of us celebrated the holidays in our respective hometowns and what we missed most at that time of the year. (Hey, since we were all stuck in the same boat, we may as well commiserate, right?) My memories were of family and food of course, the Honolulu City Lights display and the Giant Santa that appears every year at Ala Moana shopping center.

One of the guys happened to be from Cologne, Germany and his recollection was, he would go into the decorated, lit-up, freezing downtown district after work to do his Christmas shopping and rather than stop for dinner, he would pick up a steaming hot bratwurst with spicy mustard on a roll from one of the street vendors and eat it while walking briskly to the next store. That image stuck with me. If I ever happen to be in Germany during Christmas season I'll definitely have to try one.

In the summer months, we cook bratwurst on the grill and enjoy them on a roll with a side of potato salad but during the fall and winter months I start thinking of bratwurst and sauerkraut. Maybe it has something to do with the imagery of October fest, maybe it has to do with my notions of what a traditional Christmas is like with it's Northern European origins.

I took a jar of sauerkraut, put it in a large pan and to it added some sliced apples and onions, caraway seeds, a little cider vinegar and a good slug of dark beer and let it simmer. In the meantime, the brats were grilled up under the broiler. Some folks prefer their brats cooked with the kraut but I like to give the casing on the brats a chance to crisp up first. The bratwurst was then added to the pan to soak up a little of the flavor and to continue cooking. We had them alongside some smashed red spuds.


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