Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sauerkraut with pork and barley (Mulgi kapsad)


Mulgi kapsad aka mulgikapsad is a traditional dish from Southern Estonia, consisting of pork, sauerkraut and barley (either pearl barley or barley groats). It doesn't sound much - but it's another one of those dishes that tastes much more and better that you'd imagine when looking at the (short and rather bland) list of ingredients. It's also cheap, filling and substantial, a perfect winter dish, which deserves attention outside Estonia as well. Hence this blog post.

You'll need fresh sauerkraut for this dish. When I say "fresh sauerkraut", I mean the uncooked, fermented and unpasteurized sauerkraut. Look for "barrel cured" sauerkraut, not the "wine cured", and find it either in Eastern European stores or in your local health food store. Or ferment your own! :)

* PS This dish is wheat-free. If you want a gluten-free version, then feel free to use porridge/pudding/risotto rice instead of barley. 

Sauerkraut with pork and barley
Serves 6 to 8

1 kg fresh sauerkraut
0,5-1 kg fatty pork (belly or Boston butt/shoulder)
200 g pearl barley, rinsed and drained
about 500 ml (2 cups) water
salt, to taste
sugar, to taste (optional)

Cut the meat into bite-sized pieces.

Spread the sauerkraut at the bottom of the pot, then top with meat cubes, and scatter barley on top:

Now sprinkle with salt (about half a teaspoon should be enough in most cases) and pour over enough water to barely cover the ingredients. Cover with the lid, bring into a boil. Reduce heat and simmer gently for about 2-3 hours, until the food is done. NO NEED TO STIR IT, though you may want to peek under the lid couple of times and add a little water, if it seems too dry. (You can also cook it in the moderate oven, if you prefer).

This is how it'll look like when done - the pearl barley has swollen and the meat is tender:


It's only now that you're supposed to give it a good stir, so the sauerkraut, barley and pork would be nicely and evenly distributed:


Taste for seasoning - if you need, add a bit more salt. Some people add a bit of sugar as well, but I don't - it all depends on the flavour of your sauerkraut. Mulgi kapsad is not supposed to be sweet-and-sour, but you may need some sugar to balance the acidity, if your cabbage is very sour.

Serve with boiled potatoes, with a good dollop of nice thick sour cream on the side, if you wish.


Other bloggers writing about mulgikapsad:
Kiilike köögis (recipe in Estonian) (recipe in Estonian)
The Kitchen Mouse (recipe in English)
Estonian Cooking and Eating (recipe in English; some helpful comments there)
Emmanuel Wille (recipe in Estonia; slightly fancier "restaurant-style" version)
Talerka (recipe in Russian)
Suhkrusai (recipe in Estonian)
Ave köök (recipe in Estonian)
Sille toidublog (recipe in Estonian, she uses turkey)
Minu kodunurk (recipe in Estonian)
Silgud ritta (recipe in Estonian)
Igapäevane kokakunst (recipe in Estonian)


Terella said...

I grew up eating this until I became a vegetarian. Now I make hapukapsas and add the barley, but no pork. Still delicious!

Marika said...

We make a vegan version at Polli Talu and it is delicious as well. We just omit the pork and like to add some shredded carrots for color.

tanita✿davis said...

I wouldn't have put sauerkraut and barley together, but since I have both, and a reasonably pork substitute, I'll have to try this!