Friday, February 3, 2012

Beer Brats with Sauerkraut & Pear

Beer bratwursts with sauerkraut & pear
This simple but hearty crock pot recipe works best with all-natural bratwursts (or even turkey bratwurst) because they're lower in fat.  If you have a local butcher who makes his or her own bratwursts, you're in luck.  We get our bratwursts from the German butcher shop at the Weeping Radish in Grandy, NC, where the butcher uses naturally raised, hormone- and antibiotic-free pork from small local producers.  Their brats are not nearly as greasy as ordinary grocery-store brats and their meaty flavor is incomparable.

For this recipe, I used a package of Weeping Radish beer bratwursts and a light beer for cooking them (I saved the good beer for drinking!). I recommend using a simple pilsner or light beer for cooking so as to not overpower the dish.  The sauerkraut we used came from Germany, and was already seasoned with a little bacon fat and bits of bacon.  It wasn't as vinegary or watery as many American krauts and didn't require draining. A photo of the package is below, in case you want to try to find it in your area. If using regular sauerkraut packed in vinegar or water, make sure to drain and squeeze out as much liquid as possible.  You might also experiment with adding a couple of slices' worth of cooked, finely crumbled bacon if you can't find bacon-seasoned sauerkraut.
German sauerkraut with bacon
German Sauerkraut w/ Bacon

This recipe will serve two to four people, depending on how many bratwursts you want to serve per person.  And you should be able to double the recipe without any problems.  I set our crock pot (recently christened "Grandma Gert") on High and cooked everything within 3 hours.  If you prefer, you can start cooking this recipe in the morning at Low heat and it will be ready for dinner.

4 bratwursts, preferably all-natural or reduced-fat
Approx. 1 1/2 cups sauerkraut, well-drained (if you can find German kraut seasoned with bacon, use it)
1 cup beer (reserve the rest to add if necessary)
1/2 Tbs caraway seeds
1firm, barely-ripe pear

crock pot bratwurst & sauerkraut
Beer brats, kraut & pear simmering in crock pot
Combine all ingredients, EXCEPT the pear, in a crock pot or slow cooker.  Cover, set crock pot to High and cook for at least 1 hour.

Core and chop the pear into chunks, add to crock pot, stir, cover and continue to cook on High for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, checking after 1 1/2 hrs and adding a little more beer if the food is looking too dry.  Depending on your crock pot or slow cooker, this dish should be ready to serve after cooking on High for about 3 hours total, but it's very forgiving and you can keep it simmering on low until you're ready to eat.

Serve with your favorite German sides or with potatoes, rice or bread and a salad.  If desired, serve with some spicy mustard on the side.

Zestfully yours,

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