My Dad was crazy about this; it's what I recall him craving the most. He always happily obliged my mother as chief taster when she was in the kitchen trying to get the flavors just right.
I know my Dad was smiling down from heaven the other day as he watched us make his prized Sauerkraut.
However, sauerkraut is not what we called this dish, being Polish, we referred to it as kapusta (kah-POOS-tah), a word meaning cabbage. It just sounds wrong.
Anyway, I grew up on this stuff. Just the aromatics alone take me back to my childhood kitchen. I can still see the pot my mother cooked it in and my Dad standing there, waiting to inform her if it was sour enough or needed more salt.
It's a good memory but one that leaves me a bit emotional.
My Mom and I made this the day we made pierogi, let's just say it was quite the kitchen marathon. This is one of those dishes that gets better every day it sits in the refrigerator. It also freezes very well.
The flavor is incredible and tastes nothing like the sauerkraut we put on our hot dogs. It's nothing short of amazing.
You should try it.
Mom's Sauerkraut (Kapusta)
3-1/2 pounds pork, neck bones
3 large onions, divided
3/4 pound smoked or regular hamhock
1 head of green cabbage, shredded
2 twenty-four ounce jars sauerkraut
1 eight ounce package sliced mushrooms
Salt and pepper to taste
To make kapusta, you are going to start by making a stock. You will need 3-1/2 pounds of pork neck bones, they will have some meat on them. These are easily found at the grocery store or from your butcher. Just ask, if they don't have them right then, it will not be a problem getting them by the next day.
Place them in a roasting pan, on a rack (sprayed with PAM) and place them in a 350 degree oven for one hour, turning them over after thirty minutes.
In a large, heavy pot (I used my Dutch oven), place the roasted neck bones, one large, yellow onion, quartered, and a 3/4 pound hamhock. Fill with enough water to cover the ingredients. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, for three hours. When done, strain the stock, reserving separately the neck bones and the hamhock. Pour the liquid back into the pot and spoon off any fat accumulated on top. Reserve this fat, you might need a little later.
Remove meat from the pork neck bones. It will pull off and shred so easily. Set aside.
My Mom uses a mixture of fresh and jarred sauerkraut in this recipe. It really gives it a good flavor.
Chop I head of green cabbage and open two 24 ounce jars of store-bought sauerkraut. Drain the jarred sauerkraut, reserving the juice.
Bring the stock back to a boil, adding the cabbage, the jarred sauerkraut and the meat from the pork neck bones. Let simmer while you prepare other ingredients.
The inside skin of the hamhock you reserved from the stock has a layer of fat. With a knife, remove that fat and begin to fry it up in a nonstick pan.
To the same pan, add 2 large chopped onions and one 8 ounce package of sliced mushrooms. As you cook this there might not be enough fat in the pan to cook the onions and the mushrooms so slowly add the fat you skimmed off the top of the stock that you reserved. Use only as much as you need, this will really give it flavor. Cook until the onions are soft and translucent.
Add the mushroom-onion mixture to the simmering sauerkraut. Continue to simmer the sauerkraut until the onions almost melt in your mouth, about an hour to an hour and a half. Leave the lid 3/4 on top, allowing for some release of steam. As it cooks, periodically taste and decide if it is sour enough for you. If it is not, add back the sauerkraut juice you reserved from the jars to make it as sour as you like. Also, you will need to salt and pepper it to your liking.
This makes a big pot and can feed a crowd with leftovers. It freezes well, so enjoy.
Cathy is currently in the development stages of her vineyard and winery in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. She is a food writer for Davis Life Magazine and blogs daily about wine, food and everyday living. She lives with her husband and two sons. You can visit her at noblepig.com.