Saturday, March 10, 2012

0 Pork Spare Ribs with Sauerkraut and Spaetzle

I've mentioned before how much I love pork, while this meal isn't necessarily a comfort food for me I still really enjoy it. I recently discovered that Pork Ribs and Sauerkraut are eaten by Germans and the Pennsylvania Deutsch on New Year's Day for good luck. Apparently, since pigs are fat they represent prosperity and since they can not look backwards without turning around – they have to look forward all the time - they also symbolize progress. Now, Sauerkraut is made from cabbage and eating cabbage is considered good luck/prosperity in many cultures – the conclusion is that pork and cabbage is a good meal to be eaten on New Year's Day if you want luck, progress and prosperity. Go figure! I'll have to add this to my New Year's Eve/Day dishes, along with bagels, soba noodles, corn bread fritters, kale and black eye peas....

Now, Spaetzle on the other hand are a comfort food for me, they are a tradition in my family going back several generations... They're kind of a cross between a home made egg noodle and a dumpling. Personally, I hate egg noodles, and Spaetzle are so easy to make that I can't even imagine keeping egg noodles in my pantry. Spaetzle originated somewhere in the Bavarian and Baden-Wurttenburg region of Germany during the middle ages. It's believed that the name Spaetzle is derived from the word Spatzen, meaning little sparrow – which is what these noodles look a little bit like when you make them the “old-fashioned” way. Traditionally they were made from scraping the dough off of a wooden chopping board or “Spaetzlebrett” into boiling salted water. Today many people use colanders, strainers, graters or potato ricers to make the noodles. I still cut mine off of a board, but you are welcome to use the other methods if you prefer, they are faster – but I don't think the end product looks as nice.

Back to the Spare Ribs – traditionally these would be baked in the oven, layered in a pan sauerkraut/ribs/sauerkraut at 350 degrees for about 1 1/2 - 2 hours. Or, you can make them in a crockpot/slow cooker, put them in when you go to work on low and they're done when you get home (8-10 hours) or you can make them in a pressure-cooker in about 20 minutes. Needless to say I prefer the pressure-cooker method.

If you don't own a pressure-cooker, you should look into purchasing one – they can be purchased for between $30 - $70 depending on size and manufacturer. Foods cook much faster with a pressure-cooker, require less water, use less energy and it preserves more of the natural vitamins and minerals in food. They also kill more micro-organisms than boiling and can be used to sterilize canning jars, glass baby bottles and jam pots. I use my pressure-cooker when canning vegetables that are low acid because I can put them in there for about 10 minutes instead of boiling 30 minutes, I also use it to “cheat” when making teriyaki spare ribs because it's faster than broiling them, a lot of people use them to cook beans because you can cook the beans in about 10 minutes vs 5 hours! I don't care for pot roast but if you do, a pressure-cooker will cook it faster and make it more tender than the traditional method.

Spare Ribs & Sauerkraut
3-4 lbs country style spare ribs
1-2 cans sauerkraut (depending on how much you like sauerkraut)
1 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp pepper

Method 1:
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together sauerkraut, garlic powder & pepper. In a roasting pan spoon a layer of sauerkraut mixture, put a layer of ribs on top (fat side down), spoon remainder of sauerkraut mixture, cover with foil. Bake for 1 ½ – 2 hours.

Method 2:
Mix together sauerkraut, garlic powder & pepper. Spoon a layer of sauerkraut mixture into slow cooker, put ribs on top, spoon another layer of sauerkraut mixture. Turn on low, cook for 8-10 hours.

Method 3:
Put 1 Tbl oil in bottom of pressure-cooker, over medium heat brown ribs on all sides. Sprinkle garlic powder and pepper on ribs while browning. Add sauerkraut to pressure-cooker, put lid on (if you have a pressure-cooker with multiple weight settings use 15 lb setting), once pressure-cooker comes up to temperature and the weight starts to “jiggle” cook for about 15-20 minutes. Use either natural or cold water release and serve.

Some people add a medium sliced onion, a chopped red apple and a small amount of brown sugar to this recipe. My family has never done that and I haven't tried it yet – but you can.... I've also heard of people putting a bottle of beer in the mixture.... experiment, have fun, enjoy....

1 c flour
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/3 c water

Boil 3 quarts, well salted, water. In a bowl whisk together eggs, water and salt. Add flour, mix well until a dough forms. Put dough onto a small wooden cutting board (or put dough onto a grater or into a potato ricer – drop small pieces into boiling water). Using a fork or spoon, cut off small portions of dough (about 1/4” thick and 1” long) and drop into boiling water. When dough rises to the top, remove with a slotted spoon, and put into a serving bowl*. Serve hot – you can top them with sauerkraut, butter or gravy.

*If they cool down before you've had a chance to serve them, you can bring the pot of water back to a boil, throw them all of them in at the same time for a couple of minutes and scoop them out again to ensure that they're hot when you serve them.

Some people, after boiling the spaetzle, saute them in a frying pan with butter and top with parsley. I don't see the need in doing this – but if you want to, go for it. Also, you will find some people put a bit of nutmeg in the recipe, that is not traditional but if you like nutmeg or want to try it, do it. Have fun!

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