Székelykáposzta (Pork & Sauerkraut Stew)
Yes, sauerkraut stew… with pork meat.
Sometimes called “székelygulyás” (Transylvanian Goulash), this is a bit of an unusual Hungarian dish; a type of pork pörkölt with some recipes even calling for kolbász. What separates it from the usual pörkölt is not the type of meat, however, it’s that fact that a shit-ton of sauerkraut is being thrown in, and that this is generally served as is without an accompanying starch. Although many Hungarians would eat this at home with a nice thick slice of white bread, it’s not part of the recipe. However, we will be stirring in a bit of sour cream to give it some body, then top it off with more sour cream to serve. (´･ω･`)
I should note that there are many variations of this recipe. Some people stir-fry some sirloin or tenderloin with the sauerkraut and serve it pretty dry, and others would reduce the liquid into a gravy much like traditional pörkölt without adding sour cream, instead using sour cream as just a topping. Since the stew-like consistency is the most common and traditional way of preparing it, this is the variation that I have chosen to present.
Ingredients (For 4-8 servings)*
700g boneless pork roast steak (I’m using shoulder)
1 bell pepper
4 garlic cloves
4 bay leafs
1 tsp caraway seeds
1 tsp marjoram
2 tbsp paprika
chicken stock or water to cover
2 tbsp lard or peanut oil
2 heap tbsp sour cream
1 heap tbsp flour
salt/pepper to taste
1. Prep by cutting everything up: dice onions, tomato, and bell pepper. Mince garlic. Grind your caraway. Cut pork up into rustic 1-inch fork-sized pieces and season all the pieces generously with salt and pepper. (You don’t really need to worry about precision cuts for any of the ingredients in this dish, just make sure they’re all chopped up and ready to throw in.)
2. Heat oil or lard in a large saucepan on medium heat. Toss in your onions, and cook them with a pinch of salt until they soften up. About 3-6 minutes.
3. Remove saucepan from heat, and stir in your paprika with the onions and oil until they’re fully coated and there are no dry bits of paprika.
4. Put the saucepan back on the heat, turn it up to medium-high, and throw in your seasoned pork. Cook until all the meat has browned and seared on the outside.
5. Once meat is all browned, throw in your tomatoes, bell pepper and garlic, as well as your spices and bay leafs. Pour in your liquid (chicken stock or water) until it just covers the meat, bring it up to a simmer, then reduce heat to low and cook slightly uncovered stirring occasionally until the pork is halfway cooked, about 40 minutes. Skim off the foam from the top if necessary.
Depending on what kind of sauerkraut you’re using, the following steps may vary. Since I’m using an entire jar of pickled wine sauerkraut, I’m going to drain it all in a colander and rinse it gently under cold water and let it sit in the colander until some but not all of the vinegary liquid drains out. Depending on how sour you want your stew, you could stir in some of the sauerkraut’s liquid into the pot.
6. Dump sauerkraut into the stew pot, and add more water to make sure everything is covered if necessary. Bring back up to a gentle simmer, then reduce heat again and continue to cook slightly uncovered until the pork is fork-tender and the sauerkraut wilts down. About another 40 minutes. At that point I like to fish out the bay leaves and set them aside as garnish for later.
7. Once pork is fork-tender, uncover but keep the pot on the heat. In a small bowl, mix 2 heaping tablespoons of sour cream with 1 heaping tablespoon of flour.*** Add water and mix it until it has thinned out into something a little runnier with absolutely no lumps, then gently stir it into the pot.
8. Cook for a few minutes more and then serve onto plates. Top with sour cream, bay leaf, and consume with a large slice of untoasted white bread and down it with a nice bottle of white wine! (´･ω･`)
*Since this dish doesn’t include a starch, portioning is a little difficult… Basically, this can serve 6-8 people if you’re serving it with bread. The serving in the picture is about 1/8th of what was in my pot. However if you’re just eating it as is, 4-6 servings, depending on the size of your stomach.
**I’m using a 1L jar of wine sauerkraut, but fresh sauerkraut is better if you can find it.
***In Hungarian, this is referred to as a “habarás”, which loosely translates to “foaming up”, but it basically refers to thickening up a stew with a mixture of flour, sour cream and a liquid (which is usually either water or broth from the stew/soup) and pouring it directly into the pot. This same technique is used for chicken paprikash, and I believe it is similar to what we call a “roux” in English and French. This is done because sour cream by itself tends to curdle when heated making a dish look very unappetizing. This may or may not be required if your sour cream is very liquidy, or if has a higher fat content like smetana or crème fraîche. Sometimes fresh cream is used instead, but sour cream is more common in Hungarian cuisine since most Hungarian households do not have cream, usually. Alternatively, you could just turn up the heat and reduce the broth into a gravy and then add sour cream as a topping later.
This dish… the cooking process… I need to write this down now while it’s fresh so that I can remember this day…
Hungover from last night and stressed out about school assignments and finding it difficult to focus on anything including whether or not I should cook this dish or chicken paprikash, since the drumsticks were on sale today and I know little to nothing about pork meat… On the verge of insanity, I instinctively went with the pork meat, taking my butcher’s advice from the day before…
The day before I went to my butcher in the morning and asked him about the pork shoulder I cooked the other day, which I had stir-fried and served with fried potatoes. The meat remained chewy and pretty much tasteless, but he explained to me that it’s because I used a cut that’s meant to be roasted, stewed, or braised… Sirloin or tenderloin is what I should’ve used.
“Pork shoulder. 700 grams.”
The words exited my mouth directed to the woman behind the meat counter whom I have concluded knows nothing about cooking; I asked her the same question above before I asked my butcher, and she responded “Our pork is organic, grass-fed, hormone free…” I was tempted to ask for my regular butcher again, but he gave me all the information that I needed the day before.
Went home, and under stress I binged on some leftover peanut butter ice cream and sour cherry soup which I botched, since at the time I didn’t know about the habarás trick used to prevent sour cream from curdling. A short time later after sitting at my computer, agitated, I decided it was time to cook. Turned up the speakers to max, drowned out the noise with some heavy dubstep, danced a little as I did the prep work, chopped my vegetables and meat, cut myself several times, quickly patched myself up going through about 5 band-aids in total, fried, seared, braised, strained, simmered, foamed, served, photographed, ate.
It was… okay. (´･ω･`)
(szekelykaposzta, szekely, gulyas, szekelygulyas, kaposzta, káposzta, székely, sekey, kaposta, creme, fraiche)