The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Meat and Potatoes, Choucroute-Style

Posted on | July 2, 2010 | Written by Tina Benitez | No Comments

Choucroute, you say it like this: “shoo-croot.” The word, meaning “sauerkraut” in French, is a typical dish throughout Germany. Essentially, choucroute is a mélange of meats—pork, sausages and cured meats—cooked with potatoes and covering a lavish foundation of sauerkraut. Since its inception in Germany when the first barrels of cabbage made their way into Magdeburg in the eighteenth century, the dish has slowly made its way into neighboring Alsace, France, into regions of Eastern Europe, as well as into Italy. It’s hearty, flexible, delicious and fairly healthy.

Today’s Alsace chefs make their choucroute garni of sauerkraut topped with meats, potatoes, and juniper berries. The French prepare it with goose or other gamey meats, while Hungarians add stuffed cabbage leaves to the dish. Regional chefs add their own interpretations to the dish and create a variety of different choucroute. In Italy and France, scallops, mussels, salmon, shrimp and other seafood make an appearance on top of the ever-present sauerkraut.

Regardless of where the chef resides, or what spin he or she puts on the dish, no choucroute is complete without white wine, the perfect pairing to this hearty dish—and an easy-to-find element in Germany, Alsace and throughout Italy. Try a rich, spicy Gewürztraminer or a fruity, steely Riesling, both of which can match the acidity and zestiness of the sauerkraut and balance the rich meats. Grab a glass of Zind Humbrecht or Joh. Jos. Prum or any other regional white when dining on this piquant dish. And if you have one open in the fridge, you can even use a touch of Riesling or Sylvaner to cook the sauerkraut.

The beauty of choucroute is that there are no rules. Choucroute doesn’t require any age-old recipe. There are no specific measurements or ingredients—other than the sauerkraut. In the end, good choucroute, like a favorite wine, comes down to what your tastes best on your palate.

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