I am made of considerable German stock -- my father was a Reitz, and my mother was a Schuster. But for whatever reason this heritage did not make it to my dinner table. We ate like the rest of America while I grew up.
The only time our table was graced with anything remotely German was New Year's Day. My mother would roast pork, reheat prepared sauerkraut and whip up some mashed potatoes with a hand mixer. We'd watch football all day and eat till we popped.
As I've carried on the tradition, I've upped the ante a little. I'll buy a case or two of German beer and bratwursts I'll slowly simmer in water or beer before browning them in a pan. I'll buy a big pork roast, too, and stud it with garlic and roast it. Some years there's spaetzle laced with black pepper and tossed in butter and fresh chives. But there's always a huge assortment of mustards and too much food. It's the last day to indulge the holidays before those resolutions kick in.
Here in Dallas, I intend to carry on the tradition. And while sausage, potatoes, pork and a boat load of mustard have proven easy to find, I may have to go without handmade sauerkraut.
If you've ever had the stuff freshly made, you'll know that kraut served from a bag or can is limp and flaccid by comparison. The flavor is muted, too. When freshly fermented in a barrel on-site, the cabbage maintains a hefty chew and a clean, natural flavor offset by a musky funk.
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A few weeks ago I talked to Inga Bowyer, president of the germandeli.com, which has an online presence to supplement its traditional store in Colleyville. No luck. They sell a lot of kraut but don't make any on-site -- it's all pre-packaged. Bowyer did talk me into considering Rouladen for my next German feast. Check out this recipe.
No luck at Kuby's either. They told me they made it on site on the phone, but when I asked how, they pulled back a little. Turns out they take pre-packaged kraut and doctor it up with wine, vinegar, and bacon. I'm sure it tastes fine, but I'd like to tweak my own at home, with spices like caraway and juniper.
Bolsa Mercado, however, delivers. Matt Balke started a 22-gallon Lexan container of shredded cabbage and salted water a few weeks ago. Balke says the kraut is pure, no seasoning other than the natural flavors of sweet funky fermentation, which allows me to doctor things up at home however I see fit. They've also got house-made bratwursts in the deli case. I'll probably hit up Kuby's and Rudolph's, too, for a German sausage showdown.
My feast is saved.