Story submitted by Terry L. Beech, one of our professional sharpeners at the farmers markets.
I remember tasting sauerkraut when I was about 6 years old, which would have been around 1949. My grandfather Victor Dry stored his kraut in my family's springhouse* which was below ground, dark, and maintained a constant temperature in the low 50s year around. Ever year in late October, he'd show up at our house with his 20 gallon crock of kraut and he'd come by every couple of weeks to do his little maintenance routine until it was ready.
I accompanied him a couple of times when I was about 10 to the springhouse as he did his maintenance tricks. He removed the heavy rock holding down the lid that fit just inside the walls of the crock. He'd take out the moldy cheesecloth covering the top of the kraut and replace it with a clean one. He'd clean the lid and place it back on top of the crock. And then he'd replace the stone that kept the lid tight down on his prized kraut. To this day I remember that pungent, but slightly sweet cabbage smell mixed with the smell of potatoes that we also kept in the springhouse.
Grandpa Dry's sauerkraut made its debut every New Years Eve in a dish we called Grandpa’s Sauerkraut and Dumplings.
Here's a photo of my grandfather Victor Dry and his new bride Daisy Mae, taken around 1910. He worked for the gas company (natural gas) in western Pennsylvania most of his life maintaining the large pumping engines. They raised 9 children, including my mother Phyllis.
— Terry L. Beech
Grandpa's Sauerkraut and Dumplings
Terry says, "The outcome of this dish is highly dependent on the quality of the sauerkraut. Locally handmade kraut will be more flavorful and healthier than canned national brands. Herbs and spices are often included in the handmade varieties eliminating the need for additional salt, herbs and spices in this dish. Prepare this dish with three pints Farmhouse Culture’s Classic Sauerkraut and one half pint Holy Smokes with smoked jalapeño peppers.”
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 – 2 1/2 lbs. boneless pork shoulder roast, cut into 1-inch slices, across the grain
1 1/2 quarts quality sauerkraut (Farmhouse Culture)
2-12 ounce bottles of your favorite dark beer (I like to use Samuel Smith Nut Brown Ale)
2 cups self-rising biscuit/dumpling mix (Bob's Red Mill Whole Wheat Buttermilk biscuit mix)
1 egg (for dumplings)
1/4 cup cooking oil or butter (for dumplings)
Season pork slices on both sides with pepper. In an 8-quart heavy pot, heat the olive oil over high heat, and just as it begins to smoke, add the slices of pork. Sear pork on both sides until slightly browned, about 15 minutes, allowing the liquid from the meat to reduce to form a flavorful meat juice.
Add the sauerkraut all at once to the meat, stir the kraut in and reduce the heat to low.
Add the beer to the pot one bottle at a time to just about cover the kraut and pork. The beer provides liquid for cooking and mellows the sauerkraut bite. Reduce heat and cook, uncovered, for 30 to 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the dumplings. Follow the directions on the package for preparing biscuits plus adding the egg and oil (or butter). Add additional liquid to the dumplings if the dough is too stiff.
After the pork and kraut have cooked for 30 minutes, use a large spoon to place dollops of the dumpling mixture on top of the simmering sauerkraut mixture. Distribute the dumplings all over the top of the kraut. Cover the pot so the dumplings can steam for about 15 minutes.
The pork, sauerkraut and dumpling can be served on a plate or in a bowl. Leftovers are excellent!
YIELD: 6-8 servings
SOURCE: Recipe courtesy of Terry L. Beech of Quick-Sharp
*A springhouse was a small building used for refrigeration once commonly found in rural areas before the advent of electric refrigeration. It was usually a one-room building constructed over the source of a cold spring and was used to store meat, dairy products, fruit, and vegetables.