29 July 2009

The Best Kielbasa and Sauerkraut with a Family Secret

This past Sunday was my nephew's Baptism. I was honored by my younger brother and his wife when they asked me to be his Godmother. It was a very nice ceremony (not that I have much experience with these things!) but the best part of the day was the reception afterward. My sister in law went above and beyond in preparing delicious homemade food. We had a large buffet laden with her family's traditional celebration foods: Kielbasa, sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, fruit salad, sweet rolls, cauliflower salad, and three desserts! The star of the buffet was Kielbasa and Sauerkraut. The sauerkraut bakes down to this rich, browned stew, and the flavor of Polish sausage permeates everything. It is in a word amazing. In another word? Rich. I think her family's version of this dish should be tried by everyone - even if you don't think you like sauerkraut. The long, slow-roasting process and the secret ingredient mellows the sauerkraut flavor into something a little less shocking to the palate.

This is a picture of the original version, served at the Baptism.

Of course the minute I got back home from the Baptism, I had to email my sister in law and demand the instructions for the Kielbasa and Sauerkraut. I already knew the secret ingredient because her dad had spilled the beans earlier in the day - oatmeal. Yep. Old fashioned oats mixed into the watery sauerkraut mixtures turns it into more than the sum of its parts. I never would have guessed there were oats in the sauerkraut; they are completely undetectable. They melt into the juices given off of the sausage, mushrooms, onions and sauerkraut.

The secret ingredient being added to the crockpot.

Once I got the instructions emailed to me, I hit my local grocery store to buy the ingredients that I didn't have on hand. I was stumped when it came to the kielbasa though. My sister in law's family has a local butcher shop where they special order their kielbasa. She found a local butcher where she lives as well, so she wasn't sure how the standard grocery store kielbasa would work. I decided to diverge from the recipe significantly with the sausage and use a low fat turkey smoked sausage instead of traditional kielbasa. I figured if I wasn't going to have the delicious locally made kielbasa, I might as well save some fat and calories. I can honestly say that my sister in law's was much better, this was pretty darn good too. It was still rich and decadent, and I am happy to know I can eat this meal for more than special occasions. Of course, I will still look forward to those special occasions where I get my sister in law's version as well.

My imitation served over mashed potatoes with homemade bread.

Of course, I am submitting this family recipe to Laura and HoneyB's monthly event: Family Recipes: Memories of Family, Food and Fun. Thanks to HoneyB for hosting this month's round-up and extending the deadline so I could get something made for it! Thanks also to my sister in law, Alyssa, for sending me the instructions for this dish. I am including her original instructions plus my notes.
In Alyssa's words, cooking for about 15-20 people and using fresh kielbasa...
Here's what I did...I know that it can be a little different when it's not for such a huge group.. Saute one onion and about 2 lbs of sliced mushrooms in butter In roaster oven add sauerkraut (I buy Klausen's Polish Sauerkraut...my parents/grandma use old fashioned) Add a about 4 handfuls (enough to thicken) old fashioned oatmeal and stir Set at 300 degrees In separate roaster I added about 1/2 in of water and all the kielbasa Heat to 300 for 1 hour Add kielbasa to sauerkraut and stir occasionally. Adjust heat for how long you want to roast them together...I lowered it to 200 and cooked it for about 5 hours...it just gets better with the longer cooking
As far as amounts...I had about 9 lbs of kielbasa and 4 jars of sauerkraut...

Alyssa added if you're using the fresh kielbasa and cooking it separately first, drain it off before adding it to the roaster with the sauerkraut. Since I didn't use fresh sausage, I sliced the sausage and sauteed it in the butter before adding the mushrooms and onions to get a little color on the meat. Then I added the sausage, mushrooms, onions, sauerkraut and oatmeal into my crockpot. I set the crockpot on high for about 3 hours and then turned it down to low for about 3-4 hours. I used a lot of mushrooms because I had a lot that needed to be used up and used a locally made sauerkraut. Here are the ratios I used, which made enough for about 4-6 people:
14 oz smoked turkey sausage
32 oz sauerkraut with juices
32 oz mushrooms
1/2 large onion
2 handfuls old fashioned oats


Alyssa said...

Thanks for the compliments! For the record, Sophie ate leftovers for dinner the past two nights and is definitely a Polish Girl! (Asking for more sauerkraut every time!) Not bad for a toddler! I'm glad it turned out well for you with the turkey sausage although I'm sure great grandparents are rolling over in their graves :)

Laura said...

Awesome use of oats-I approve. And thank you for your submission of course--double points for using an in law dish! ;)

HoneyB said...

Thanks for participating Josie!

I love Alyssa's comment. he he.

Bethany said...

This is insanely good! I CRAVE it! And I grew up absolutely detesting sauerkraut. I just ate a bowl of leftovers straight from the fridge. Thanks for the recipe!

Josie said...

I am so happy you love this recipe! I crave it regularly myself - I love it for breakfast with mashed potatoes :)