Before there was refrigeration, people preserved foods by pickling or brining. It was one way to make the food supply last longer. Preserved vegetables also added vitamins and variety to a meat-based diet during those periods when foods could not be grown. While cabbage lasts quite a while in a cozy root cellar, sauerkraut could help a family get through a long, cold winter.
Sauerkraut has a distinctive tang; many people think that sauerkraut is made by soaking cabbage in vinegar. Thatís not the process that is used. For information purposes, I have included the basic method of making sauerkraut. This is an overview, and is not meant to be a recipe.
To make sauerkraut, cabbage is sliced thin and salted. Non-iodized salt must be used. If salt with iodine is used, the fermentation doesnít occur. Use Kosher, pickling, or sea salt. For every five pounds of cabbage, use three tablespoons full of salt. In making sauerkraut, more salt is not better. The fermentation process will be inhibited if more salt is used. The salt should be sprinkled over the finely shredded cabbage. It should be stirred until the salt is evenly distributed.
Put the salted cabbage into a non-reactive container. Ceramic or glass crocks are more traditional, but a food-grade plastic bucket may also be used. Pack the salted cabbage tightly into the crock. Do this a little at a time and press down. Some people use a jar to pack the cabbage tightly, others use a clean hand. Pushing on the cabbage helps release the juices into the crock. After all of the cabbage has been added, put a non-reactive lid that fits within the crock on top and weight it down.
Some people use a wooden lid, but these will swell and can be difficult to remove. Others use a non-reactive plate. You may use a clean rock to weigh the cover down. A large glass jar filled with water works, too. The Department of Agriculture has a pamphlet that shows a salt-water filled bag placed on top of the salted cabbage. The bag needs to be made for use with food. The juices from the salted, shredded cabbage should cover the cabbage at all times. It can take 3-4 weeks to make sauerkraut if the temperature is about 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Sauerkraut pairs well with both pork and beef. Reuben Sandwiches are well-known for their sauerkraut. Often, they are made around St. Patrickís Day to use leftover corned beef. I like sauerkraut with my leftover roast beef.
At our house, the Sunday roast is always a winner. My guys will eat as much roast as I will put on their plates. However, before the meat goes on the plate, I thin slice some for sandwiches and set it aside. Bar-b-que sandwiches, Hot Roast Beef with Mashed Potatoes and Gravy-served open faced, and Grilled Roast Beef, Swiss, and Sauerkraut on Pumpernickel are a few of the hot leftover sandwiches that we can make the next day. Hereís how to assemble a tasty hot grilled sandwich!
Roast Beef, Swiss Cheese, and Sauerkraut on Pumpernickel Sandwich
For one sandwich:
1 tablespoon of olive oil (or butter, if you prefer)
3 ounces leftover roast beef-thinly sliced
2 pieces of pumpernickel bread (I used Sara Lee.)
Baby Swiss cheese to cover the bread-about 1 ounce (I used Boarís Head)
ľ to 1/3 cup of sauerkraut. (I used Claussenís refrigerated. Itís not like home made, but unless you make your own, I havenít found any that tastes better.)
1 tablespoon full of Grey Poupon Mild and Creamy Dijon Mustard
1 teaspoon full of Inglehoffer Stone Ground Mustard (optional)
Using a heavy iron skillet, I like to grill my bread with some extra virgin olive oil or butter. Brush the oil or butter on the two slices of bread. If you are watching your oil intake, you may use a non-stick cooking spray. Just spray it evenly on the bread; add a good coat of the spray to the bread. Place the bread slices with the oiled sides down into a warm skillet. Place the cheese on one slice of bread. Cook, covered, on medium heat for about 3 minutes. Check it often! Turn the stove off, uncover the pan, and let it stand in the pan for another 2-3 minutes.
While the bread is grilling, get the meat ready. Place the roast on a microwave proof plate and cover it with the sauerkraut. Heat the meat and kraut through, about 1 minute. Lay the bread with melted cheese on the sauerkraut, cheese side down. Use a spatula to carefully turn the sandwich to place the bread side on the plate. On the second piece of bread, spread the mustard. Cover the beef side with the mustard to close the sandwich. Sauerkraut, mustard, brown bread and beef give this sandwich a bit of a German twist. Cut this juicy sandwich in half to make eating it easier.
Although many people in the world now have refrigeration, there is still a place for sauerkraut in our diets. Filled with vitamin C and healthy microbes, sauerkraut takes leftover roast beef and elevates it into a superb sandwich. Do you have original recipes for using sauerkraut in sandwiches? Please post your original creations on the Sandwiches Forum.
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