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beer-braised brats with quick apple and onion sauerkraut

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I’ve mentioned here before that I’m pretty much your classic American mutt. I’ve done a little bit of ancestral digging, and the recorded history on my family lines go back so far in this country that we’re about as pure-bred stars and stripes as you can be (including a solid Native American line).

I don’t have some Greek grandmother who came over from the old country and barely speaks English. I don’t have any not-so-distant cousins living in beautiful cottages in Tuscany that I could go visit on a backpacking trip. There certainly aren’t any family estates in the hills of Sweden with my family name emblazoned on the gates (hello, brunette hair? green eyes? olive skin?).

Part of me feels like there is something very cool about being so ingrained in the history of this amazing country of mine, but sometimes I’ll see other Americans who can be both American and something else and get so jealous of that kind of history and uniqueness. They can so strongly identify with being an American—and all that means—and also so solidly be German or Irish or Italian or Greek or Mexican or whatever. And that’s something I’ve never really had.

So that’s probably why I latch so strongly onto what I do have—the German side of my lineage. Maybe it’s because, without a doubt, being “German” is the closest tie I have to any heritage beyond my American roots. And even that’s a stretch. My identification with an entire culture is created solely out of stories from my Dad about his mom and his grandmother cooking from German recipes and him speaking some broken German as a child. It’s crazy that this grew into a deep-seated identity that I am German. When in actuality, I’m just as much German as I am Irish, Native American, British, and pretty much everything else that was mixed together in the melting pot.

But I’m running with the German thing.

And one way that I (and my family as whole) embraced our tiny bit of Germanity is through food. For the longest time, I’ve turned my nose up to sauerkraut. It probably has something to do with the giant, stinky bowls of it always on the dinner table growing up. My parents (and specifically my Dad) are big sauerkraut fans—and it just isn’t much of a kid food. And it’s amazing how hard it is to shake your childhood food aversions. My bias against kraut continued up until a few weeks ago. Other than on a really good Reuben, I just couldn’t be bothered to get on the sauerkraut train. But a few weeks ago, we were having brats, and my Dad finally convinced me to try some kraut on top of a brat with a hefty squeeze of spicy, grainy mustard.

Holy crap, it was delicious!

I’m not sure I’m ready to get behind kraut by the forkful on its own, but piled on top of a warm, savory, well-spiced brat with a big line of spicy mustard? That is where it’s at. It seems silly, but I could totally see the German pride in my Dad’s eyes when I took that bite. It’s like, by accepting the kraut, I’ve done my German ancestors good.

And, only a few weeks later, and I’m making my own sauerkraut. The times, they are a changin’.

If you’re hesitant about sauerkraut like I was, this quick, stovetop version might be a good stepping stone to get you in the kraut-loving door. It isn’t nearly as sour or…um…pungent as its straight-from-the-jar cousin. The apples and a touch of brown sugar add a sweetness that pairs really nicely with the acidity of apple cider vinegar. This is basically sauerkraut for people who don’t like sauerkraut. While you’re at it, put it on a Reuben. You’ll love it, I promise. Or I’ll pay you back for your head of cabbage.

Okay, probably not, but if you don’t love it, I will be very, very surprised.

beer-braised brats with quick apple and onion sauerkraut

beer-braised brats with quick apple and onion sauerkraut

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

If you're hesitant about sauerkraut like I was, this quick, stovetop version might be a good stepping stone to get you in the kraut-loving door. It isn't nearly as sour or...um...pungent as its straight-from-the-jar cousin.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 4 large, uncooked bratwursts
  • 2 bottles of beer, divided (whatever you like to drink)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups shredded cabbage (about half of a small head)
  • 1/2 cup shredded tart apple (about one apple)
  • 1/2 cup shredded onion (about one small onion)
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. In a large skillet or dutch oven, melt butter over high heat until skillet is very hot. Add in brats and brown on both sides to impart some delicious, seared flavor. Once brown, reduce heat to medium-low and and one and a half of the bottles of beer. Cook until brats are cooked through and about half of the beer has evaporated—about 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, for the sauerkraut, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add in the cabbage, apples and onions and cook until cabbage begins to wilt—about 5 minutes. Add in remaining kraut ingredients plus remaining beer. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until cabbage is very tender and the liquid has been reduced into a thick sauce—about 20 minutes.
  3. Serve by putting a thick layer of sauerkraut over a brat on a bun. Slather in spicy mustard. You can also serve it without the bun by slicing the brats and serving with mustard for dipping.

Are you a mutt? Or can you trace your ancestry to one country?

Cassie is the founder and CEO of Wholefully. She's a home cook and wellness junkie with a love of all things healthy living. She lives on a small hobby farm in Southern Indiana with her husband, daughter, two dogs, two cats, and 15 chickens.

Leave a Reply

9 Responses
  1. I’m in the same boat – my parents just told me that I’m American, since our family’s been here since the 13 colonies and before that it’s all over the place.

    I loooove Sauerkraut, but I’ve never made my own. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Your lineage sounds so much like mine, including the German and Native American roots. My family doesn’t really cook German though, favoring southern food above all others, but I do love a good brat and a good beer. Maybe it’s time I took the kraut dive too?

  3. Lol I love the ” if you don’t like it, I’ll pay for your head of cabbage, okay probably not” lol I am also a mutt, with a supposed Native America line. I’m hoping to do some research to prove it.

  4. Julie

    Hey, I am half Swedish and I have the same physical stats you listed! Haha. But my Dad is a mutt: half Mexican with German, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, Polish, English, and Italian. I wish I knew more about his side, so maybe someday I’ll go digging.
    That’s it, I am calling in a favor from my Mom. I need to make this, but can’t buy beer yet. I have no real desire to drink beer or wine, but I so want to cook with it!!!

  5. Rob

    Seven comments, and everyone is so interested in their ancestry. Your recipe is for braised cabbage, not Sauerkraut. You might be interested in Wirsing, a German recipe using fresh Savoie cabbage. I don’t doubt your recipe is very good, but Sauerkraut is lacto-fermented without refrigeration before it is ready to eat, and has no vinegar. The fermentation can be stopped early for a mildly flavored Kraut, which might be more pleasing to you.. when you like the taste, just bottle it up and put it in the fridge. It keeps for months, or can be canned. I like the texture better when refrigerated.

    This is not criticism, just a clarification. Your recipe sounds good.

  6. Jess

    Made this and it was the bomb diggity. Delicious sauerkraut, better than any canned, jarred or bagged product you’d fine in your general grocery store. I used smoked kielbasa bratwurst, went really good with the spicy brown mustard and sauerkraut. 5 stars

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