Wild stories from the choucroute jungle.

Have you ever smoked cabbage?

Well, chum, let me tell ya something: It’s a high.

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Backtracking to yesterday’s mention of getting out the grill:

Because I still don’t know what the hell I’m doing, I always build grill-fires that are larger and longer-lasting than I need to cook my main dish. It’s become habitual, then, for me to buy something extra I can throw on the grill to soak up some of the heat after the main dish is done.

Eggplant for babaghanoush is a classic example. I’ve done halved peaches, too. Tofu, sometimes, for use later in the week.

My wife is working late several nights this week; she can’t eat cabbage so I bought some for my own entertainment. On a whim last night, I quartered one of the heads and put it on the grill with the eggplant for a good long while.

Nibbling an outside leaf afterward, I was afraid I’d oversmoked the cabbage into raunchiness. But I decided to save it in the fridge anyway, after peeling off and discarding the outermost leaves. Still seemed worth a shot.

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Tonight I made a quick and dirty choucroute garnie. It consisted of:

– Three-quarters of a head of smoked cabbage, chopped

-One-and-a-half small apples, chopped (I don’t peel apples unless honor is at stake)

-Most of an onion, chopped

-Three tablespoons apple cider vinegar

-A roughly equivalent quantity of apple cider — not in the recipe, but I had it in my fridge, and it seemed Alsatian enough. (Apparently the Alsatians add riesling sometimes, or maybe that’s the Lorrains)

-Several hearty squeezes of mustard — the recipe called for whole grain, but I had Dijon and ballpark-yellow, and that’s what I used

-A few good shakes of garlic powder

-A bay leaf that probably didn’t get enough cooking time to accomplish a damn thing

-About three-quarters of a rope of smoked sausage, sliced. Normally I would have used turkey smoked sausage, but the regular kind was on sale this week. Thrift being more important than the health of my arteries, I went with it

After I started it simmering, I thought it might not have enough liquid to prevent sticking, so I threw in another thwack of apple cider vinegar … and when I thought I might have added too much of that, I compensated with a thwack of cider.

Stir, simmer, cook a while, stir, simmer, cook a while. (The recipe said at least an hour, but I was hungry, and I figured the exposure to smoke had already enlimpened the cabbage to some degree. So, I et early.)

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I am here to testify that the combination of apple cider vinegar, apple cider, mustard, and smoke is a thing of beauty and a joy forever. They will not eat better anywhere in Vosges this evening, and perhaps not even in Pont-a-Mousson.

I hesitate to call it healthy per se, based on the presence of the sausage … but you’ll notice there’s no added fat at all (no oil, no butter), as well as no added salt or sugar beyond what exists in the cider and the mustard.

It’s a long way from the classic French add-a-quarter-cup-of-goose-fat territory.



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I am torn between the twin sentiments of “where have you been all my life?” and “I will probably only have the ingredients and circumstances on hand to make this once every 10 years, but I sure hope I remember it at those times.”

The cabbage is the wild card, I suppose. I have zero method of quantifying how much I cooked it, and every future batch would be a crapshoot. It may be that I owe some genuflection to the patron saint of beginner’s luck, whoever that might be.

You’ll find me on my knees, then, digesting.

2 thoughts on “Wild stories from the choucroute jungle.

  1. These sound somewhat like the kind of ingredients Dr. Mehmet Oz was ridiculed for purchasing in his local grocery store as part of an early campaign ad. Although – despite its Alsatian-Lorrainian name – your concoction reeks more of the common man…

    I will expect to be served this when we visit you next Spring!

    You do realize your great-grandfather who carried your family name came from Alsace-Lorraine, yes? Maybe this was his favorite dish, too!

    1. My concoction reeks of *something*, anyway.
      (Although I did have the kitchen fan running the whole time, so the effect wasn’t actually that bad.)

      You seem to have missed the part where I said this might not be replicable, but I’m certainly glad to attempt it again.

      Yes, I am aware of the Alsatian-Lorrainian branch of the family.
      I have come to think that the old narrative of the Blumenau family being German might be flawed; I think there might be more French in the lineage than has been acknowledged.
      (The Blumenau/German narrative also gives no shrift at all to Grandma’s side of the family, which as I recall was zero percent German. Ah, patriarchy.)

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