How to make traditional Choucroute Garnie.
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- Read on for relevant information and step by step pics and video (about 2 mins)
What is Choucroute Garnie?
Choucroute garnie is a slowly baked Alsatian dish combining sauerkraut, sausage and meats (frequently smoked), potatoes and spices.
One of the traditional ways to make the dish is with lager from Alsace, the other one with the dry Alsatian Riesling. Being partial to cooking with beer we demonstrate it here with our favorite beverage.
Origins of the Dish
The French of the Alsace region borrowed the idea of choucroute garnie from their neighbors, the Germans of Schwarzwald and Bavaria.
Choucroute means ‘sauerkraut’ in French and ‘garnie‘ translates to ‘garnished/dressed’. The correct pronunciation is shü-ˈkrüt garni.
The traditional method involves heating up the sauerkraut with beer or wine and pork or goose fat, then adding spices and charcuterie. The dish is also one of those where there are hundreds of variations of the main recipe, both in the method of preparation and the ingredients used, with everyone customizing it as they see fit.
It is a bit of an unsightly dish (perhaps more than a bit), but as soon as you smell it its unrefined appearance will cease to matter.
Ingredients for Choucroute Garnie
Alsatian dressed sauerkraut a fabulous dish in that it contains everything for a complete meal.
- sauerkraut, onions and red potatoes (you may also add white carrots and parsnips).
- a variety of meats – often smoked. We used easy to find salted pork, bockwurst (veal sausage), smoked bratwurst and smoked pork shoulder (substitute with thick cut smoked bacon).
- a variety of spices used in Alsatian cooking – bay leaf, caraway, thyme, juniper berries.
- malty beer or white wine to balance the sour flavors of the sauerkraut
Kitchen equipment wise all you need is a single heavy bottomed pot with a lid that can be placed in the oven. A Dutch oven works great, or use something similar.
How to Make Choucroute Garnie
Begin by heating the Dutch oven over medium heat and render the fat from the salted pork (or bacon), remove it and set it aside. Add the potatoes and onions in the fat and cook them until they become crispy.
Top with a generous layer of sauerkraut and half of all the spices and minced garlic, then arrange half of the quantity of the meats (including the salted pork) over it. Repeat – another layer of sauerkraut and the rest of the spices and minced garlic, then another layer of meats.
Finally, pour beer (or white wine) over everything, top with a bit more sauerkraut, close the lid and place the Dutch oven in the oven to slow cook.
What Beer to Use
Traditionally, the beer the French use in Choucroute Garnie is a crisp, clean lager from Alsace (influenced by the nearby German lager heritage).
The most popular representative is 1664, a pale lager brewed by Kronenbourg brewery in Obernai, Alsace. You can also use lagers from independent regional breweries such as Brasserie Du Pecheur if you come across them in the US.
Keeping things realistic, great alternatives are lagers like Munich Helles, Czech pilsner or amber ales. We used an amber lager this time around.
What to Serve with Choucroute Garnie
Rye bread is the type traditionally served with this dish in Alsace, along with brown mustard. But you will enjoy the dish with pretty much any fresh baked, crusty bread. Even an oven warmed hot dog bun will taste incredible with the flavored sauerkraut and smoked charcuterie of a choucroute garnie.
- 4 oz salt pork cut in cubes or 2 slices thick bacon
- 1 large onion, peeled and sliced thin
- 6 medium red potatoes, cut in chunks
- 1 1/2 lb sauerkraut
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 links bockwurst or knockwurst
- 2 links smoked bratwurst
- 1/2 lb smoked pork shoulder, sliced or cubed
- 12 oz amber ale or similar beer (white wine as substitute)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp corriander
- 1 tsp ground caraway seed
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 tsp ground clove
- juniper berries, to taste
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- Turn oven on to 300 F.
- In a deep heavy bottomed pan such as a Dutch oven over medium heat render the fat from the salted pork (or bacon). Remove the pork from the pan and reserve it to add it back along with the rest of the meats.
- Add the red potatoes and brown for about 5 minutes.
- Add the onion, stir and cook until it softens a bit, about 2-3 minutes.
- Add a third of the sauerkraut right on top of the potatoes and onion. Add half the garlic, 1 bay leaf, half of each of the spices and half of all the meats (including the reserved salt pork or bacon).
- Cover with another third of the sauerkraut. Add the remaining garlic, bay leaf, spices and meats.
- Add the last third of sauerkraut on top and then pour the beer over the ingredients. Cover with the Dutch oven lid and move to the preheated oven.
- Bake for an hour and a half. Remove from oven and serve.
You can choose to keep the sausage links whole and cut them in smaller pieces before serving.
Feel free to adjust spices to taste and exclude any you do not like.
Serve with rye bread or soft pretzels.
Serve with side of mustard.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 4 Servings
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 612 Saturated Fat: 12.1g Cholesterol: 63mg Sodium: 210mg Carbohydrates: 52.6g Fiber: 9g Sugar: 6.5g Protein: 25g