sauerkraut is increasing

The storks are wrong. Babies are not born in cabbage but… sausage. From Montbéliard and Morteau, together with their acolytes they smoke salted bacon and other oriental sausages. Not an Alsatian can say otherwise, since pickled sauerkraut is its trademark. “In my family’s restaurant, it is always cooked, as a starter, as a main course, sweet and savory, testifies Martin Fache, a retired chef at Agneau d’Or in Münster and has just written, and Pierre-Brice Lebrun, a. Sauerkraut recipe (Le Sureau notes, 14.90 euros). There are no set rules, each family has its own recipe! »

Without contradicting this honorable “sauerkraut maker-garnisher” from the Confrérie de la choucroute, which was created in Alsace in 1987, let us dare to say that you have to respect several points to cook this gargantuan dish. A good recipe depends first on the quality of the cabbage. It should be a head type, this type of green and white color, strong and “head”, its large smooth leaves are closed by themselves as if to hide the treasure.

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“It’s a great job to find the best things at the right time, says Olivier Nasti, two-star chef at Le Chambard in Kaysersberg and the adjoining bistro. There is a season in sauerkraut: fresh cabbage, bright green, is harvested in July and has salt for a very short time, so it is eaten raw, in a salad. Then, you have to wait a few months to find a yeast that has developed all its flavors. »

To be tender and delicious, the cabbage was cut into pieces and grated then put in brine, tightly packed in a tank, and salt. It has not been washed much to preserve its natural ferments, which gives rise to the fermentation process. “I remember that it was my grandmother, I prepared with cabbage from the vegetable garden, since I grew up in Grand-Est, recalls Laurent Mariotte, whose new recipe book celebrates our great past (French cuisine for allSolar, €21.90). Sauerkraut is a dish that is prepared and eaten alongside cabbage, potatoes and many cold cuts. »

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Lactofermentation has been revived

In recent years, the ancestral method of lactofermentation, which is used to preserve food for a long time, has returned strongly among chefs, reviving vegetable pickles, sourdough and drinks such as kefir. Sauerkraut is their ancestor (it would have been born in the 3rd century BC in China) and, with a little patience, you can make it yourself instead of buying ready-made. “Although there are many steps, it is not difficult, says Laurent Mariotte. The cooking itself is long, 2h15, but it is important to prepare your purchase in advance to have all the herbs. Just like that, in thirty minutes, it’s over! »

When the vegetables begin to ferment, you need to know the spices. A few secrets of cooking are not too much to get there. “As a family, we cook the cabbage at the same time as the meat, so that we can feel all the flavors, explains Olivier Nasti. But in a restaurant, since the cooking times are not the same as the loin or the blade, the meat is cooked differently. I’m gathering the sauce, with the taste of tobacco, to soak the sauerkraut.

Another chef’s tip: when you cook under a casserole dish with wine, onion and lard (or duck fat or oil), you add spices (juniper, caraway and coriander and black pepper) in a cloth bag, which is left to absorb throughout the cooking time .

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Then it’s time for “decoration” to come into play. A real parade especially when it comes to “royal sauerkraut”. “At the restaurant, I serve it with salted bacon, smoked bacon, pork belly, shank and blade, continues Olivier Nasti. On the sausage side, it can be creative [saucisse de Strasbourg]Montbéliard, sausage with cumin and even white sausage…” And, depending on where it is in Alsace, some local experts invite themselves to the party: white pudding in Bas-Rhin or around Kaysersberg, a liver extract called Lawerknepfla.

Sauerkraut is not always “seasoned” or meaty. In Germany, it is slightly sweet, with honey. At the New York deli, it goes into the famous Reuben pastrami sandwich. It is also found together with marine fish (Arctic char, will, carp, pike…) as in the legendary Kammerzell house in Strasbourg; garnished with white wine, beer, cider, crémant or champagne (depending on the taste and region) or accompanied by game, as is customary “Pheasant and Sauerkraut”.

Olivier Nasti decided to open the doors of his seafood restaurant to sauerkraut, by including it on his delicious menu. “It’s a very fresh bite, he explains. I burn a leaf of cabbage and dry it until it is smooth like a mess of potatoes. Below is a mouthful of kohlrabi and sauerkraut, both served with celery sauce. »

So, sauerkraut is a dish, but above all vegetables that can be used in a thousand. Martin Fache loves it to his heart’s content, as evidenced by the original recipes presented in the Petit Traité: he makes it into cromesquis, strudel with smoked trout, tarte flambée with munster cheese and lasagna, oriental style. surprise… sauerkraut creme brûlée.

Sauerkraut in brine from Laurent Mariotte

Preparation: 10 minutes,

maceration 30 minutes,

lactofermentation 1 month


2 kg white cabbage or head cabbage

40 g of salt (20 g per kilogram of cabbage)

1 C. to s. juniper berries

½ tsp. to s. black pepper

1 C. c. cumin seeds

Cut and discard the top of the cabbage leaves. Do not wash the remaining cabbage (the natural bacteria in the cabbage allow it to be absorbed), but wash your hands thoroughly.

Cut the cabbage into 8 and remove the heart and the middle ribs. Cut the cabbage into strips, if possible with a mandolin.

Mix shredded cabbage in a salad bowl with salt, juniper, pepper and cumin. Leave to drain for 30 minutes.

Transfer everything to jars, packing well, up to 2 centimeters from the edge. Cover them tightly and leave them for two or three days at room temperature, away from light.

After two or three days, check that the cabbage ribs are completely submerged in the brine. If not, add a mixture of salt and water (at the rate of 10 grams of salt per liter of water).

Store sauerkraut for one month at room temperature, always away from light, before tasting.

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