Comfort from Alsace: 5 Recipes for Choucroute Garnie

If you come from Alsace, choucroute garnie probably tastes like home. For the rest of us, this French dish is all about warmth, comfort and abundance: sauerkraut simmered with wine and juniper berries and studded with various cuts of pork, piled high on a platter and surrounded by a ring of boiled potatoes. Have you ever tried making it at home?

Choucroute garnie is not a quick weekday type of recipe and it does require assembling a sizable number of pork products, but the exact amount and cut of each meat is forgiving. In his 1989 essay "True Choucroute," Jeffrey Steingarten — ever the intrepid eater — traveled to Alsace to research the components of authentic choucroute garnie and discovered that nearly every recipe includes smoked bacon, salted bacon, smoked or salted pig's knuckles or shanks and a few different types of sausages.

With so much smoky meat going on, it seems like the dish would be overwhelmingly heavy, but the bright zing of sauerkraut keeps it from tasting monotonous. I love making sauerkraut at home and choucroute garnie is the perfect use for an overabundant supply. It's also a great dish for a party, because there is no way one person could (or should!) eat all that pork alone.

Choucroute garnie gatherings: a new holiday tradition?

Get the recipes:
Choucroute Garnie: This basic recipe from Bon Appetit mixes apples with the sauerkraut for added sweetness.

Jacques Pépin's Choucroute Garnie: The French chef's take on the classic.

Quick Choucroute Garnie: A weeknight-friendly, loose interpretation of the original.

5-Week Choucroute Garnie: If you want to go all out, check out these instructions from the blog No Recipes, which has you ferment the sauerkraut, stuff the sausages, smoke the pork and finally assemble everything in a DIY extravaganza.

Read the essay & get the recipe:
The Man Who Ate Everything by Jeffrey Steingarten: $10.12 on Amazon

Have you ever made choucroute garnie at home? Do you find the dish as comforting as we do?

Related: Favorite Ethnic Comfort Foods: What Are Yours?

(Images: No Recipes, used by permission.)