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Sauerkraut balls

Sauerkraut balls recipe

Living in northeast Ohio as a kid, you could be forgiven if you thought sauerkraut balls just fell out of trees every year around October. They’re so ubiquitous, it’s easy to imagine: Squirrels stuffing the ping-pong ball-sized snacks into their hidey-holes for a long winter; a mother and daughter walking together down a long grove, woven basket in hand, picking the first ripe sauerkraut balls of the season; a tray of freshly fried balls placed on a windowsill to cool. And Oktoberfest was the time of year that people collected all of the sauerkraut balls just piling up in their yards and cooked them all up with bratwurst and beer for a week long festival.

That’s not true of course. Oktoberfest is — at most — three to four days long in Ohio.

It is true though that sauerkraut balls are everywhere in northwest Ohio. Almost every diner, restaurant, bar, potluck, PTA meeting and picnic offers up their version of this Akron, Ohio* original. As is the case for many regional foods, their origin is a bit cloudy. No one knows with absolute certainty who actually made the first sauerkraut ball, but expert opinion seems to favor the German Mennonites who settled near Akron.

Sauerkraut balls are also made in a number of different ways, also typical of other regional foods. The most common sauerkraut ball recipe in Akron uses ham, but ground beef, sausage and vegetarian balls aren’t that hard to find. They are most commonly fried but can also be baked and while potatoes are present in nearly every recipe the accompanying ingredients often change. For dipping, a sour cream sauce is my favorite way to go but there’s also a popular mustard sauce that’s very good too.

I have a place in my heart for any and all sauerkraut ball varieties but this particular recipe is one that uses cream cheese, which I understand is sort of a Cincinnati thing, so my apologies to Akron purists and Cleveland Browns fans alike. But to be fair, almost no one outside of Ohio has even heard of sauerkraut balls, and sauerkraut isn’t exactly an aisle capper in Texas supermarkets. These large cream cheese versions seem to be the most appealing here in Fort Worth. I am working on a more authentic version, but baby steps on to the elevator.

* As a former Akronite, I couldn’t help but notice over time, the strange, disproportionatly frequent mentions of Akron in movies and television. Akron is hardly the most obscure city in Ohio, but it is relatively obscure on a national level. Just in case, you think I happen to be watching the same three movies over and over again, check out this Akron supercut on YouTube. I haven’t even seen half of those movies (but there are a lot that are unaccounted for) and television shows aren’t even addressed. I mean, it’s not an X-file or anything, but can anyone explain this phenomena?

Image: ForkingSpoon



Sauerkraut balls recipe

Yields16 Servings

Breaded sauerkraut balls, made with sausage and cream cheese are fried and served with a tangy sour cream dipping sauce. A northeast Ohio favorite!

Prep Time30 minsCook Time45 minsTotal Time1 hr 15 mins

Ingredients

FOR THE SAUERKRAUT BALLS
 1 pound sausage
 ½ cup onion, finely chopped
 5 ½ cups flour  (divided)
  cup breadcrumbs
 ½ teaspoon dry mustard powder
 ½ teaspoon garlic powder
 ½ teaspoon black pepper
 1 (14.5-ounce) can sauerkraut, drained and dried
 4 ounces Neufchâtel cheese (softened)
 3 eggs (divided)
 vegetable oil (for frying)
 ¼ cup milk
 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
FOR THE DIPPING SAUCE
 1 cup sour cream
 2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
 1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
 dried parsley (for garnish)

Instructions

FOR THE SAUERKRAUT BALLS
1

Cook the onion and sausage
In a large skillet over medium to high heat, cook the onion and sausage until the onions have softened and the sausage is browned and cooked all the way through (about 10 to 12 minutes). Remove the sausage mixture from the heat and place on a paper towel-lined plate to drain any excess grease. The sausage should be well-drained and cool to the touch before using it the next step.

2

Make the sauerkraut ball mixture
In a large bowl, combine 1/2 cup flour, 1/3 cup breadcrumbs, dry mustard powder, garlic powder and black pepper and mix completely. Gently fold in the onion and sausage mixture, sauerkraut, Neufchâtel cheese and 1 egg until they're completed incorporated. Scoop out about 4 to 5 tablespoons of the mixture and form it into a ball by rolling it gently between the palms of your hand (wetting your hands slightly should make the process easier). Place the balls onto a baking pan lined with wax paper about 1-inch apart and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the sauerkraut balls for at least an hour or overnight.

3

Fry the sauerkraut balls
Heat a deep fryer or Dutch oven (filled with about 3 inches of frying oil) to 375 degrees F. Set up a breading station by filling 1 medium bowl (or container) with the remaining 1 cup of flour, a second bowl with an egg wash (whisk the remaining 2 eggs with the milk) and a third bowl with the Panko breadcrumbs. Coat each sauerkraut ball generously in flour, then in the egg wash and finally the Panko breadcrumbs. Working in batches of 2 to 3 sauerkraut balls at a time, deep fry each batch for 4 to 5 minutes until they are completely cooked on the inside and crispy and golden brown on the outside.

FOR THE DIPPING SAUCE
4

In a medium bowl, mix together the sour cream, whole grain mustard and prepared horseradish. Refrigerate for half an hour to let the flavors blend and garnish with the parsley.


Notes

If you've never had to buy sauerkraut before, a lot of people recommend buying only the cold, jarred varieties but I think some canned brands can be very respectable as well. Silver Floss and Khune are brands that are highly regarded but I'm sure there are others.

Ingredients

FOR THE SAUERKRAUT BALLS
 1 pound sausage
 ½ cup onion, finely chopped
 5 ½ cups flour  (divided)
  cup breadcrumbs
 ½ teaspoon dry mustard powder
 ½ teaspoon garlic powder
 ½ teaspoon black pepper
 1 (14.5-ounce) can sauerkraut, drained and dried
 4 ounces Neufchâtel cheese (softened)
 3 eggs (divided)
 vegetable oil (for frying)
 ¼ cup milk
 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
FOR THE DIPPING SAUCE
 1 cup sour cream
 2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
 1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
 dried parsley (for garnish)

Directions

FOR THE SAUERKRAUT BALLS
1

Cook the onion and sausage
In a large skillet over medium to high heat, cook the onion and sausage until the onions have softened and the sausage is browned and cooked all the way through (about 10 to 12 minutes). Remove the sausage mixture from the heat and place on a paper towel-lined plate to drain any excess grease. The sausage should be well-drained and cool to the touch before using it the next step.

2

Make the sauerkraut ball mixture
In a large bowl, combine 1/2 cup flour, 1/3 cup breadcrumbs, dry mustard powder, garlic powder and black pepper and mix completely. Gently fold in the onion and sausage mixture, sauerkraut, Neufchâtel cheese and 1 egg until they're completed incorporated. Scoop out about 4 to 5 tablespoons of the mixture and form it into a ball by rolling it gently between the palms of your hand (wetting your hands slightly should make the process easier). Place the balls onto a baking pan lined with wax paper about 1-inch apart and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the sauerkraut balls for at least an hour or overnight.

3

Fry the sauerkraut balls
Heat a deep fryer or Dutch oven (filled with about 3 inches of frying oil) to 375 degrees F. Set up a breading station by filling 1 medium bowl (or container) with the remaining 1 cup of flour, a second bowl with an egg wash (whisk the remaining 2 eggs with the milk) and a third bowl with the Panko breadcrumbs. Coat each sauerkraut ball generously in flour, then in the egg wash and finally the Panko breadcrumbs. Working in batches of 2 to 3 sauerkraut balls at a time, deep fry each batch for 4 to 5 minutes until they are completely cooked on the inside and crispy and golden brown on the outside.

FOR THE DIPPING SAUCE
4

In a medium bowl, mix together the sour cream, whole grain mustard and prepared horseradish. Refrigerate for half an hour to let the flavors blend and garnish with the parsley.

Sauerkraut balls


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