Recipe: Choucroute avec Palette de porc et saucisses (Sauerkraut with pork shoulder and sausages)
We’ve been visiting my wife’s family in Auvergne this week (central France—middle of nowhere), and one of her cousins visiting the family farm lives in Alsace. On Sunday, she treated us to a beautiful meal, traditional to that region: Choucroute avec palette de porc et saucisse. Luckily, she let me help and document the recipe.
Before getting to that, though, here’s what you need to know about this dish. It’s regional to the Alsace region, in Eastern France, which is next to Germany. When you look at the ingredients, the German influence is obvious. As such, it’s not vegetarian in the least (though I suppose you could do a vegetarian version). Not only does it have pork shoulder, but it also has bacon, smoked sausage, and knockwurst.
The flavors, ideally, are made by boiling everything together. However, because we didn’t have a cooking vessel big enough to hold everything (we were 14 people, including about 5 kids). Instead, we boiled some of the meats separately. What really surprised me was how flavorful the pork shoulder stayed, especially without any additional seasoning in the water (except salt). Generally, I’m not a fan of boiling meat, but I was really amazed how well this cut managed to keep its flavor.
The other thing that interested me is that we started with fermented cabbage that hasn’t been cooked yet. Apparently, in France you can buy fully cooked sauerkraut, but you can also buy it fermented but raw (which means it’s already sort of cooked). I suppose you could start with raw cabbage and fermented it yourself (here’s a recipe if you’d like to do that), but for the purposes of this recipe below, I’m following what my wife’s cousin did. As such, none of the measurements are exact (sorry about that), but that’s how this dish came together.
This dish is great for sharing with a big group of people. Serve with some good Dijon or country mustard on the side.
Choucroute avec Palette de porc et saucisse (Sauerkraut with pork shoulder and sausages)
- 2 lbs pork shoulder, bone in
- 4-6 smoked sausages
- 8-10 gourmet hotdogs (if you can’t find anything similar to knockwurst)
- 4 strips of thick-cut bacon (the thicker the better)
- 4 lbs raw sauerkraut (or you can get cooked, but you’ll need to adjust the boiling time and possibly boil the meats separately)
- 4-5 tblsps juniper berries
- 2 tblsps caraway seeds
- 3-4 bay leaves
- ½ lb potatoes, peeled
- ½ bottle sweet white wine (use an Alsatian wine if you can)
- 1-2 onions, thinly sliced
- Salt to taste (the smoked sausages are pretty salty so you may not even need any)
- Brown the bacon in a large stockpot over medium heat. Remove when browned on both sides.
- Add onions. Stir continually until well-cooked down. The onions should be beyond caramelized, but not burnt. Add olive oil if they start sticking too much. You should have a nice fond on the bottom of the stockpot.
- Once the onions are cooked sufficiently, add the sauerkraut, juniper berries, caraway, bay leaves, and wine. Cover and cook for approximately 90 minutes.
- Place the palette in a separate pot and fill with water just until the top is covered. Boil covered for 90 minutes on medium.
- To the sauerkraut, add the potatoes and mix so they are submerged sufficiently in the liquid in order to cook. Place the smoked sausages on top, cover, and cook another 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
- In a separate pot, boil knockwurst in water until cooked through (approximately 15-20 minutes). Drain.
- To serve:
- Drain all boiled meat and set aside.
- Remove the smoke sausages from the sauerkraut.
- Thinly slice the pork shoulder.
- Place the sauerkraut and potatoes on a large serving dish, and place the sausages, bacon, and sliced meat on top.
Ideally, you only need one big stock pot to boil everything in. But we did it in several different pots because we were 14 people!