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Dec 27, 2016
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WINE WITH…Sauerkraut and Polish Sausage

Some recipes are read simply for enjoyment, and often for the evocative pleasure of looking at another chapter in the history of cooking and dining. We were recently browsing through our ancient (1953) edition of Bouquet de France: An Epicurean Tour of the French Provinces by Samuel Chamerlain, with recipes translated from the French and adapted by Narcissa Chamberlain. Many recipes were fun to read about even though we had no intention of ever making them: eggplant stuffed with anchovies, filet of beef with artichoke hearts and foie gras, caramelized bread pudding. A recipe for Choucroute Garnie in particular caught our eye, for we had a bag of sauerkraut and some Polish smoked sausage in the refrigerator that we were planning to make for dinner that night.
Here’s how the Chamberlain choucroute recipe began:

“The first day melt down a good quantity of goose fat. Cover the bottom of a large earthen casserole with a layer of short ribs of beef.” Several other ingredients were then added, including Chablis, bacon, and smoked pork cutlets, and the mixture was simmered for 5 hours. “The next day,” the recipe continued, “add ½ bottle of Champagne and cook slowly for 3 to 4 hours. Cool. On the third day and great day…add ½ bottle of Champagne.” The dish was simmered another 4 hours, during which time a boned loin of pork and a variety of different sausages were added to the pot. “Then, 1 hour before presenting your masterpiece,” the recipe concluded, “add a few truffles.”

Here’s how we made our sauerkraut and sausage.

Sauerkraut and Polish Sausage
Serves 4

One 1-pound bag of sauerkraut 12 ounces smoked Polish sausage or Kielbasa 1 teaspoon juniper berries (optional) 1 cup white wine

Place the sauerkraut in a colander and rinse it lightly under cold, running water. Squeeze it dry and transfer to a large kettle. Cut the sausage in 1-2 inch pieces and add to the pot. Stir in the juniper berries if using, and pour in the wine. Cover the pot and simmer for 5 minutes, then uncover it and continue simmering for 5-10 minutes or until most of the liquid has been absorbed. The dish may be made ahead of time and reheated.

* * *

This is a tricky dish to partner with wine because its two ingredients are in many ways opposites. The sauerkraut tastes sharp and bracing, while the sausage is rich and satisfying. They dance with on your palate without ever fully embracing, and the wrong wine will disrupt the choreography. Tannin proves disruptive, which explains why white wines generally fare better than reds. You’ll want a wine with noticeable acidity (to stand up to the kraut), though we were pleasantly surprised by how well a fairly lush California Chardonnay worked with the dish. It made for a comfortable match, and this is comfort food at heart.

More recipes and wine pairings:    Wine With...  
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Approx. Price


Edna Valley, Edna Valley (California) Chardonnay “Heritage”



A rich rendition of America’s favorite white wine, this creamy wine provided a counterpart for the piquant sauerkraut while complementing the equally rich sausage. We didn’t think the match would be as tasty as it was.

Left Coast Cellars, Willamette Valley (Oregon) White Pinot Noir



Tasting of peaches and pears, with vibrant acidity, this clear-colored wine (made with red grapes but with minimal skin contact) has enough verve and vivacity to stand up to the sauerkraut.

Martin Ray, Russian River Valley (California) Pinot Noir



The one red we are recommending, this is a bright but genuinely dry Pinot. While it didn’t love being paired with sauerkraut, it certainly found a happy partner in the smoked sausage.

Villa Wolf, Pfalz (Germany) Pinot Gris


(Imported by Loosen Bros.)


A fine bargain, this Pinot Gris tastes fairly delicate but has a steely backbone, which is what enabled it to succeed with this dish. Unlike many wines made with this grape variety, it does not taste sweet.

Weingut Robert Weil,

Rheingau (Germany) Riesling “Tradition”


(Imported by Loosen Bros.)


An outstanding partner for this dish, “Tradition” Riesling is slightly off dry but also crisp and vibrant. Though light-bodied, it fills your glass with peach and apple fruit flavors, and finishes with a streak of enticing slate-like minerality.