When I was little, I hated sauerkraut; eating it was absolute punishment. Unfortunately, my family made a lot of it, especially during the long winters when fresh fruits and vegetables were not available. Every time I made a face at the sauerkraut, my dad would tell the story of Admiral Nelson and how he used to carry sauerkraut on his ships to fight scurvy. Then, over the years, I warmed up to it. In my mind, sauerkraut evokes the flavors of something sweet to fight its sometimes harsh acidity. It calls for herbs and garlic. A touch of caramel from long baking in the oven. When I feel really indulgent, it calls for bacon. And that is how I arrived at this dish. (I did not include bacon in the recipe below, but it can be a great addition.)
Note that the sauerkraut needs to sit in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days before serving, so do plan ahead. —QueenSashy
Test Kitchen Notes
This is the kind of dish Bert Greene or Julia Child would have made: ingredients that rarely shine on their own are turned into something bold, yet luxurious and comforting. Caramelizing sauerkraut renders it viscous and sweet, and the fresh thyme and prunes mellow it further. You can make the whole dish ahead of time, making it a perfect choice for cold weather dinner parties. The melange of sour and sweet is a reward for the adventurous palate.
I needed a much longer cooking time, but that may just have been my sauerkraut. This is a wonderful recipe. However, I wouldn't recommend it as a winner for the honey contest, if only because the honey seems to add more texture than flavor here; the taste of the honey is overwhelmed by the onion, prune and (of course) sauerkraut. —epicharis
In a large casserole or Dutch oven, combine the oil with the onions over medium heat (alternatively you can heat the oil first, but starting the onions in cold oil will give them a mellower taste). Simmer the onions for about 10 minutes, until soft.
Add the sauerkraut, garlic, prunes, thyme, and 1 cup of the wine to the casserole. Mix well and simmer for about 10 minutes, until all the liquid has been absorbed. Add the remaining 1 cup of wine and the honey and bay leaves and simmer on the stove for another 25 minutes, until all the liquid has been absorbed and the sauerkraut acquires a deep golden color.
Add a cup of water to the casserole, season with salt and pepper, and transfer to the oven. Bake for about 45 minutes to an hour, until all the water has evaporated and the top layer is nicely caramelized. (If it becomes dry during baking, feel free to add a bit more water.)
Let the sauerkraut sit in the refrigerator 1 to 2 days before serving. (This is absolutely critical, so be patient).
Aleksandra aka QueenSashy is a scientist by day, and cook, photographer and doodler by night. When she is not writing code and formulas, she blogs about food, life and everything in between on her blog, Three Little Halves. Three Little Halves was nominated for 2015 James Beard Awards and the finalist for 2014 Saveur Best Food Blog Awards. Aleksandra lives in New York City with her other two halves, Miss Pain and Dr. V.