Friday, December 26, 2014

How to Make Sauerkraut Balls (Traditional Christmas Eve or New Year's Eve Appetizer)

One of the foods I have always loved the most on my family's Christmas Eve table, ever since I was a young kid, is the Sauerkraut Ball. The sourness of the kraut, the crunchy outside crust, the mellowness of cream cheese, and the sagey sausage - I'm telling you these things are delicious. Here's the recipe I followed this year (making a slightly healthier version - well, as healthy as a breaded, fried thing can be), and, if I do say so myself, they were just as delicious as my grandmother's years ago (yes, I'm bragging a little;)).

Christmas New Years Appetizers Sauerkraut Balls

Sauerkraut Balls Recipe (Makes about 20 balls, Serves about 10)

Ingredients
2 tablespoons of Olive Oil
2 packages of sausage (this year, I used turkey sausage - mild Italian, because that's what my husband bought; if you're going all out, use regular pork sausage)
One medium-sized onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of paprika
1 teaspoon dried sage
2 14 oz. packages of sauerkraut, squeezed and strained
2 packages of cream cheese, room temperature (I used Neufchatel this year; I really don't think you can tell the difference)
2 tablespoons of brown mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon ranch dressing
1 handful of parsley, finely chopped
3 eggs
1/2 cup milk
salt and pepper
Bread Crumbs (Regular or Italian - up to you; eyeball this - you'll know when you need more)

1. In a large non-stick pan, bring the olive oil up to temp over medium heat. Brown the sausage and onion together in the pan, seasoned with the paprika, sage, and salt and pepper to taste.
2. While the sausage is cooking, strain the sauerkraut (be sure to squeeze it really well to remove the excess moisture - too much liquid could cause your balls to fall apart, and who wants that;)?). Also, in a gigantic bowl, mix the cream cheese, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, ranch dressing, and parsley with a fork until well blended.
3. Remove the sausage and onion mixture from the pan and strain in a fine strainer. Allow to cool to room temp.
4. Using your hands, mix together the sausage and onion and cream cheese mixture. Hands are essential here. Trying to use a spoon is just a waste of time.
The filling, pre-mixing.
5. Place the filling mixture in the refrigerator, covered, for at least 2-3 hours. The longer, the better, I think. The colder it is, the more likely the balls will hold together in the pan.
6. After 2-3 hours, preheat the oven to 375. Whisk together the eggs and milk and season with salt and pepper in a medium mixing bowl. Pour a decent amount of bread crumbs in another medium mixing bowl. Bring a large, non-stick pan of deep oil up to temp over medium-high heat (I watch the surface of the oil; when it starts to ripple, you're ready to go. Also, watch the oil temp throughout. I think it depends a lot on your stove. I usually end up dialing back to medium).
7. Using your hands, form the sausage and cream cheese mixture into balls, dip in the egg mixture, and roll in the bread crumbs. Place 5 of the balls in the oil at a time. DO NOT CROWD THEM. They won't brown properly and will be hard to move around. Brown on each side.
8. While the balls are frying, prepare cookie sheets topped with cooling racks. I use the cookie ones (this keeps them off of the surface of the pan and allows any excess oil to drip into the pan, which makes them crispier). After the balls are browned on all sides, place them on the wire racks.
9. Bake the sauerkraut balls in the oven for 15 minutes after they have been fried.
10. Eat. I swear they are delicious and well worth the work.

Have a great remainder of the holiday season:)!! A/J

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