Monday, December 31, 2012
Great Balls of Sauerkraut!
The holiday season always brings a lot of talk of food. Most families have special dishes they make for the holidays, and here in Northeastern Ohio that means, amongst other things, sauerkraut balls. As a matter of fact, the city I live in, Akron, Ohio, is widely considered the sauerkraut ball capital of the world. Credit the many German immigrants who settled in the area, but instead of being a New Year's treat, but a specialty of the house in many NE Ohio bars and restaurants all year round.
As a kid I didn't know this. I only knew that every year on Christmas Eve we had sauerkraut balls. Years later when I asked my mom why we did this she said that my dad's mom, who was Hungarian, always served sauerkraut on Christmas Eve, along with fish, pierogies, and poppy seed rolls. But her grandchildren didn't much like the taste of kraut back then (I love it now, especially with kielbasi), so my mom bought the sauerkraut balls. Sauerkraut balls on Christmas Eve became a family tradition, one I shared with my husband when he came into the family and we started spending Thanksgiving with his family and Christmas with mine.
All this time we were still buying sauerkraut balls from the store. Then my husband decided to try a recipe he had acquired along with a new food processor. It was a revelation. The premade ones are fine, but when you start from scratch and assemble your own ingredients, its a revelation. With a certain hesitancy, he brought them to my family one Christmas Eve. People who are used to a certain recipe don't always like a new one. My family was delighted, however, and he has become the official maker of sauerkraut balls to my relatives. About 6 years ago he made them for a niece's graduation party and they were a huge hit with his family as well.
One of the nice things about sauerkraut balls is they can be made ahead and frozen, and then simply baked or briefly popped back into the fryer again. They are time consuming but easy to make too.
There are numerous variations, but what we make requires a pound of sausage, a block of cream cheese, a bag of sauerkraut, bread crumbs and an egg. Drain the sauerkraut, pressing the excess moisture out. Cook the sausage, then mix it, the sauerkraut and the cream cheese together, and let sit in the fridge overnight. Next day, form into small balls, dip in the egg and drop in the bread crumbs, then deep fry till golden brown. Serve right away, or freeze them till you need them.
And New Year's Eve and Day are great days to serve them as pork and sauerkraut are traditional fare in many parts of the country. One reason I have heard to have pork on New Year's is because it was the richest dish most people could afford, so you were eating well on New Year's hoping it mirrored how you would eat the rest of the year.
And however you choose to celebrate have a great New Year!!!