Happy New Year!! …to all of you reading this. I hope 2019 was kind to you and that 2020 will be even better. I don’t know about you reader but I am old enough to have traditions, both those passed on to me from friends and family and those I have acquired over time myself.
Today presents an opportunity to not only observe a tradition but embrace change with it. What’s that you say? You can’t do both… it’s a contradiction in terms!
Nay, fare reader. List whilst I bring plainer words to the fore.
Traditionally, my family makes Kielbasa and Sauerkraut every New Year’s Eve or Day depending on when we are getting together. We’ve been doing this for over forty years. A tradition I actually started. Now over the years I have been perfecting the recipe some by varying some of the added ingredients. When I came home from the Air Force I added beer to the recipe, when I moved to South Florida I began adding some salt and pepper, when I moved to North Florida I added some sweet onions (preferably Vidalia). Not all of these alterations have been successful and to be truthful some were born out of circumstance.
One year a cousin staying with me watched the pot while I had to go into work for a bit. He added so much salt that by the time I came home the water had boiled out of the pot and the only thing I tasted was salt. He loved it but it was ruined for me.
Another year I had forgot to buy some lager at the store so I used a bottle of festbier and a bottle of old ale to cook it with… Not the best tasting kraut I ever made.
Now I believe I have discovered the best combinations of ingredients to date, at least for my taste palette. The combination is an even balance of sour from the kraut, sweetness from the beer and onions, and savory from the added spices and the kielbasa. The texture of the kraut and the kielbasa are pleasant. You can serve this with a hard roll or with mashed potatoes and it make s a great meal. Or you can serve it like I do and have a fantastic meal. Served on a roll with cheddar cheese and topped with mustard and you have a delight of gourmet proportions.
Here is the recipe:
4 medium (or two large) sweet onions sliced and halved
3 lbs of Polska kielbasa sliced in sections and halved
2 packages of sour kraut
4 garlic cloves minced or a tap of garlic powder
1/2 tsp of Tony Chachere’s creole seasoning
1/2 tsp of black pepper
2 – 12 oz cans of Hefeweizen beer (I used First Magnitude’s Wakulla)
Slice the onions and spread over the bottom of a large crockpot or Dutch oven.
Make a pocket in the center to hold the kielbasa sections then drain the kraut and place it around the kielbasa. The kielbasa meat should not be touching the pot sides.
Once the Kraut is distributed sprinkle the garlic, creole seasoning and pepper over the top.
Open both beers and poor slowly over the so you he’ll spread the spices throughout the pot.
Add water until it gets the liquid level to the top of the kraut. Cover with a lid and cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 6 hours.
To “Change” this up a little bit this year I decided to do a beer pairing with my kielbasa and kraut sandwich. Because of the taste profiles of some stronger and darker beers I decided to eliminate them from the pairing and try the pairing with the lighter lager and IPA styles.
I decided to try five different beer styles: a Pilsner, a hefeweizen, a festbier, a pale ale and a hazy IPA.
Pavo Pilsner – First Magnitude Brewing, a nice light beer with the slight bitterness that a pilsner is known for. I kike this beer as it is normally a good clean starter for either a beer dinking session or a refresher for a hot day’s work. But the normal bitterness seems to be fighting the sweetness of the kraut. I like the combination but don’t love it.
Wakulla Hefeweizen – First Magnitude Brewing (and the beer I used to cook the kraut) is a great example of a hefeweizen beer. Light fruit and wheat in the nose and a nice light flavor. The combination of this with kraut though makes the wheat scent and flavor even stronger in the beer. And while I like it I know that would not be suited to a lot of folks taste.
Weihenstephaner Festbier – Weihenstephaner Brewery (Germany, is one of the best festbiers you can find and it should be as this is the oldest operating brewery in the world, so they have had plenty of practice. Not as hoppy as a lager or ale, slightly darker than both and definitely sweet like a lager. Pairs well with the kraut but also increases the sweetness of the beer so again it may not be for everyone.
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale – Sierra Nevada Brewing, is one of the best examples and probably the most popular example of a pale ale on the market. The light flowery and pine scents give you a quick flash of mountains in spring time. Nice clean and smooth with a slight bitterness in the finish. This also pairs wells with the kraut and seems to enhance all the flavors of the sandwich. I think this would please a lot of folks.
Bell’s Official Hazy IPA – Bell’s Brewing, this is a great example of Hazy IPA and most likely one of the best available at the national level. Very drinkable with fruit and pine in the notes but it also brings it to the flavor with the slight bitter trailing. Again this brings out all the flavors of the sandwich, even gives it a juicy mouth feel, and helps with clearing the mouth for the next delightful bite.
I ate some kielbasa and kraut on a plate without the bread, cheese and mustard and the results for pairing were the same. Overall I would pair any of these beers styles with the kraut for myself easily. Though for others with different tastes palettes I would recommend only certain beer styles. For most folks I would either recommend a Pale Ale, or Hazy IPA. The flavor combinations of those beers brought out the best flavors of the kielbasa and kraut. I would probably give a bit more of an edge to the Hazy IPA because of the juicy factor, but then that is my preference.
So, you see how I kept up tradition and embraced change at the same time. Change can enhance a tradition and benefit others as well. And this is Tucker approved.
As always, your taste may vary.