Food Republic Associate Editor Jess Kapadia is currently reporting live from Germany as her role has shifted to FR’s official Christkindlmarkts and Teutonic tube steak correspondent. You can follow the action here and especially on the Lufthansa Markt Blog.
The only people I know who don’t appear to need something sour, acidic or crunchy to offset the richness of sausage are the Brits. Rather, they serve their brats, or bangers, on top of more richness — buttery mashed potatoes doused with buttery gravy. Maybe with a nice sprig of parsley on top. More power to them. I, however, require something sour to balance things out.
I was a rare toddler in that, addicted to hot dogs like any good American kid, I sought a way to make them tastier. As in, “Yeah ma, I’ll eat that hot dog. Pass the French’s.” A lifelong fan of pickles (which, in my young adulthood, has translated nicely into a whiskey thing), sauerkraut on a dog made more sense to me than half of what was on Nickelodeon. And so began my culinary relationship with acid. We can skip over what that translated into.
Demonstrated in the relationship between shawarma and “white sauce” (yogurt, vinegar and mayo), fish and citrus, the lime in your guac, kimchi and bulgogi, is a simple fact: fat needs acid. Unless you’re British, which the Germans are not. So they invented sauerkraut and mustard (slash borrowed both concepts from the Chinese). It couldn’t possibly have been too hard. It’s salt and cabbage and vinegar and mustard seeds, respectively.
German sauerkraut, the kind that goes with real sausages, is a far cry from the refrigerator section plastic bag of pickled shreds so sour it makes the roof of your mouth itch. Rather than serve it straight up out of the fermenting jar, Germans mellow it out by simmering it with beer, Riesling or occasionally even apple juice (though I’m told that’s an American adaptation) before topping it with crispy-skinned bratwurst. That way, the relationship between rich and tart isn’t so forced. I sure know a few couples who could take a leaf out of that book.