When the wind blows now, it's the sound of summer's end. It blows away the fatigue of summer heat - it blows away the piled up years - it makes the heart young - going back to school, football games, dancing, falling in love, hayrides. Some call this the "bittersweet" time of year for it brings with it a twinge of sadness - another year has passed - it is the turning point of the year.
It is now that Oktoberfests are enjoyed in small towns all over. When one thinks of Oktoberfest, one thinks of a feast for the senses - festive Bavarian music, steins of German beer, rich aromas of hearty sauerkraut dishes.
The original Oktoberfest was held in Munich in 1810 as a wedding party for Bavaria's Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hidburghausen. It still takes place there and attracts 6 million visitors who drink 5 million liters of beer and eat more than 200,000 pork sausages.
Kraut is as much a part of German culture as Oktoberfest itself. And for the most genuine German flavor it is recommended that an authentic, barrel-cured kraut be served. Few people bother to make it any more, but it is sold in some markets. Canned sauerkraut is limp and less vibrant tasting
Kraut is a special form of cabbage, shredded to varying degrees. Salt is added to it and then it ferments in the brine. The method was forgotten by Europeans until the conquering Tatar hordes brought it from China. In 200 B.C., history records that sauerkraut was served to the laborers working on the Great Wall of China. The technique of making it has changed little since it was recorded by the ancient Romans.
It was reintroduced to Austria in the 13th century. They called it "sour plant" and passed it on to their German neighbors. No country welcomed it more warmly than did the Germans.
Immigrants from both countries brought it to America. It is a Pennsylvania Dutch staple and has been celebrated in sermons, songs, poetry and quite a few tired old jokes.
There are so many ways to use this versatile food.
In a large bowl combine 2 cups drained sauerkraut, 2 cups peeled and chopped tart apples, 1 cup chopped celery, 1/2 cup coarsely shredded carrots, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup vinegar, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, 1/4 cup chopped scallions, 2 sprigs fresh parsley, minced, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Mix well; cover and refrigerate at least one hour. Serves 8-10
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion, coarsely diced
1/4 pound chuck steak, cut into 1/3-inch cubes
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
pinch of red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
1 link Polish sausage, sliced, then quartered
3 tablespoons Hungarian paprika
4 medium potatoes, diced
2 carrots, julienned
1-2 (14-ounce) cans beef broth
1-2 cups sauerkraut
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 tablespoon white vinegar
Heat oil in large pot, add onion and sauté until light brown. Add meat, caraway seeds, pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Cook until meat is browned. Add sausage; sauté another 5 minutes. Remove the pan from heat and add the paprika. Do not burn the paprika or it will become bitter. Return the pan to the heat and simmer, stirring, for 2 minutes. Stir in potatoes and carrots. Add broth, at least one can and up to two, depending on desired consistency. Bring soup to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook until ingredients are tender. Stir in sauerkraut; simmer 5 minutes. Just before serving stir in marjoram and vinegar. Garnish each serving with a dollop of sour cream. Serves six.
1 large onion, diced
2 cups sauerkraut
1 cup dry white wine
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 pound Kielbasa sausage, sliced
Combine onions, sauerkraut, wine, bay leaves, caraway seeds and peppercorns in heavy pan. Cover and simmer mixture 30 minutes; add sausage and simmer 20 minutes. Discard bay leaves and serve to four. Potato pancakes go well with this dish.
And finish the meal with this unexpected CHOCOLATE CAKE.
1 (16-ounce) can sauerkraut, rinsed, well drained
2/3 cup butter
11/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
21/4 cups flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup cold water
Squeeze sauerkraut until dry; place in food processor and process until finely chopped. In large bowl of electric mixer, at high speed, beat butter until fluffy. Gradually beat in sugar until mixture is light. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla.
Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. To egg mixture add a quarter of flour mixture, then one-third of the water; continue to alternate, beating lightly until all flour mixture and water are added. Stir in sauerkraut.
Pour batter into greased 13- x 9- x 2-inch baking pan; bake in preheated 350-degree oven 35 minutes or until tests done. Cool cake in pan on wire rack. Dust top with powdered sugar.
Note: Because of sauerkraut's high salt content, it should be rinsed thoroughly in a colander under cold running water, then drained well.
Fall has arrived and part of fall is the harvest. Besides being such a festive occasion, Oktoberfests are dedicated to the fall harvests and here in our valley this coming weekend there are harvest festivals. Put it all together - Oktoberfests, sauerkraut, beer and the harvest - all you have to do is add lederhosen and the sound of "oom-pah-pah."
Check out the new Friends of the Fields Web site at www.friendsofthefields.org. Click on Local Gourmet to find two great recipes by Magdalena Bassett using fresh local ingredients. Local ingredients are healthier, fresher and make your meals taste better! Make sure you have the best local ingredients from our productive local farms by supporting Friends of the Fields in its efforts to preserve local farmland.
Marian Platt's column appears the first and third week of each month in the Sequim Gazette. She can be reached at 683-4691 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Sequim Gazette is located at 147 W. Washington Street in Sequim.
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