|Sauerkraut slaw with red cabbage. © Ryan Schierling|
Sauerkraut is, in American culture, a tough one when it comes to palatability. You either love it, or you hate it.
I'm not ashamed to admit that my love for sauerkraut knows no bounds. I enjoy the sour taste and squeaky texture so much that I've been known to take a two-fingered pull out of the kraut jar and put that gigantic pinch between my cheek and gum, just to savor the juicy deliciousness. It's like the best cabbage chaw you can imagine. And those Frank's Sauerkraut singles? So portable. Okay, I might have a problem.
But come on, what's not to like? Historically, sauerkraut goes back – way back – a few thousand years B.C. It's rich in vitamin C, high in fiber and low in calories. It was used to prevent scurvy. It's good for your eyeballs (uhm... taken internally, not as a topical ointment) and has been used as a treatment for stomach ulcers and canker sores.
Whatever name you have for fermented cabbage – in all its glory – it is celebrated worldwide. The Dutch make mashed potatoes with it. The French, choucroute garnie. Russians use it in soup. Koreans have kimchi. Germans serve it with everything, from what I hear. There is always sauerkraut in our refrigerator. Always.
But most of the sauerkraut cole slaw recipes out there have sugar in them. A lot of sugar. It's not necessary if you truly like sauerkraut, or even fresh cabbage. If you want loads of sugar paired up with some pucker, go buy sour gummy worms.
This treatment is very simple, and almost a little plain. But that's the way I wanted it, to let the cabbage and kraut be exactly what they are. Apple juice brings the tiniest bit of sweetness to the sour, and the caraway seeds and black pepper bring the slaw back around with a nice tight, bright finish. This slaw also works very well on top of… smoked meat sandwiches. Pulled pork, sliced beef brisket, chicken with bacon… it's a nice addition.
1/2 head of red cabbage, chopped fine
16 ounces sauerkraut, drained
1 shallot, minced
a good, solid two-finger pinch of kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon caraway seeds
1/2 cup apple juice
freshly-ground black pepper
Combine all ingredients except the apple juice and black pepper and refrigerate overnight or at least 8 hours. Before serving, add the apple juice, stir well and crack some fresh black pepper on each portion of slaw.