Monday, December 1, 2014

Layered Sauerkraut as Made in Kolozsvár -- Transylvania

My last post was on a dessert recipe from Paul Kovi's Transylvanian Cuisine:

ISBN 0-517-55698-7
After I made it I thought, "Only dessert?  I need a main course to go along with it!"  Strolling through the rest of the book brought me to a layered sauerkraut dish listed as "... one of the old, popular Transylvanian dishes.  It is mentioned in the very first gastronomic writings, such as Miklós Misztófalusy-Kis' book written in 1695."

Wow!  Historical, which means it is possible my grandfather could have tasted this dish.  Of course I had to give it a try.  I made a half of this recipe because that is what fit the amount of sauerkraut I already had in the house.

Kolozsvári Rakott Káposzta (page 150)

4 pounds sauerkraut, drained (some juice reserved)
3/4 cup rice
2 tablespoons rendered lard
1 cup beef broth
1 large onion, chopped
1 1/4 pounds lean minced pork
1 teaspoon paprika
10 ounces smoked sausage, sliced
1/2 cup sour cream and 1/2 cup heavy cream, mixed together
4 ounces sliced smoked bacon

More than enough for a half recipe
Heat the sauerkraut with some of its juice; when done, press out all the juice.

In a skillet, saute' the rice in 1 tablespoon lard until glossy.  Add broth, and cook until nearly done but still firm.

I called this "glossy."  The grains were white, not translucent
In another skillet, saute' the chopped onion for 5 minutes in the remaining 1 tablespoon lard.  Add the minced pork and brown it for 15 minutes, stirring the mixture with a fork.  Then remove from the heat and add paprika.

In a greased ovenproof casserole, place one third of the hot sauerkraut, half the rice, half the pork mixture, and one third of the sausage.  Sprinkle with half the sour cream mixtures.

The first layer before the sour cream sauce went on
Make another layer the same as above, then cover with the remaining sauerkraut.  Decorate the top with remaining sausage and the bacon.

Top with the remaining sour cream mixture.

Cover and bake in a preheated moderately hot oven for 15 to 20 minutes.

My Notes

I was aiming for a half recipe; it turns out I needed the full cup of broth (I used dissolved bullion) to get the rice cooked enough.  I also used a bit more than 5 ounces of sausage because I covered each layer with it, enough to make it look good and not stingy, so I used more than a third each time.

My healthy choice was vegetable shortening over lard.  *Sigh*  Sorry, Grandfather.

I noticed that when I mixed the sour cream and heavy cream until no more lumps appeared, the mixture got very thick, so "sprinkling" it was out of the question.  I spread it around with a spoon.

I had to guess what a "moderately hot oven" was; I chose 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  I didn't feel the dish was hot enough after 20 minutes, so I kept it in another 15 or so and that worked out well.

The Verdict

This was unexpectedly tasty.  I thought I would like it but the flavor combination was just ... something that danced on my taste buds and tingled, making me want to eat more and more.  My guest taster felt the same way.  I would describe it as slightly sour and salty from the 'kraut, chewy and meaty from all the pork, subtly spicy from the paprika, and creamy delicious from the sauce.

The only thing that bothered us was the bacon was not specified to be cooked before putting into the oven and it wasn't really cooked much even after 35 minutes.  We both felt a bit squeamish finding it that way in our portions.  Maybe it would have cooked better if my oven had been hotter or the sour cream sauce had been runnier.  Or perhaps the recipe was missing the instructions to cook the bacon in advance like all the other ingredients.

I want more!
Still, it was a resounding success.  I had the leftovers over the next few days and loved it all over again.  After I reheated it, I added a spoonful of sour cream just to gild the lily.  Another guest taster tried the leftovers and thought it was delightful.


  1. I suspect your oven wasn't hot enough. Those descriptive terms ('cool', 'moderate' and so on) have become a convention here in the UK with each meaning a specific temperature. Moderately Hot is the equivalent of 400ºF. There's a useful chart here:


    1. Steve! Thanks for your insight and information. I think that will help me in the future. Your time and efforts are appreciated.