A continuing series on weekly meals that use sustainable, organic, local and ethical food during the challenging winter months. For more information, go here to the DDC section of Not Dabbling in Normal’s website: Dark Days Challenge.
In which I make a spunky Hungarian goulash and learn how to make homemade sour cream…
This has been on my list for the Dark Days from the beginning. However, because the fall growing season was so compromised by the August hurricane that put whole fields of cabbages under water, I didn’t make my usual sauerkraut out of produce from our CSA. This weekend, I bought local kraut from an Amish farmer and re-created this old standby. This is a delicious meal, a traditional Hungarian stew, sometimes referred to as Szekely Goulash, after its place of origin, the southern region of the country. The first time I tasted it was at a professor’s house during graduate school, and I was surprised at how gutsy his wife was to make this. I grew up eating sauerkraut but few of my classmates did, not to mention that some probably didn’t eat pork. Besides, the professor taught Italian art and architecture, so this was a culture shock.
I like this goulash for Dark Days meals since it hails from a country that has a real winter, much like we do here. The goulash presented a couple of challenges for the Dark Days, however. One was the inclusion of green pepper. At the end of the fall, I had frozen some de-seeded poblano peppers and green bell peppers without blanching them first. I tossed them in their frozen state onto a baking sheet set in a 400-degree oven. They charred up perfectly. These were much better than the ones I blanched before freezing. Check! Mental note for next year.
The second challenge was sour cream, an essential ingredient to smooth out the flavors of the sauerkraut. This was a complete experiment, and worked out reasonably well. I added ¼ cup of local organic yogurt (with active acidophilis and bifidis) to1 cup of local organic heavy cream and heated it to 100 degrees. I let it sit in a covered heatproof glass cup next to the pilot light on top of my (ancient) stove for 24 hours. It probably maintained a temperature a little over 100. The mixture became coagulated and soured perfectly. It was a little runny for my taste so I drained it.
The third challenge turned out to be more problematic: ground dried paprika. Using store-bought paprika is in-bounds for my Dark Days rules, but I had hopes that the red peppers that I dried in the fall would include some that could be ground for the purpose. Though I used a little of my stash, most of it was too hot. I have been ordering seeds to plant this summer, which include sweet peppers that supposedly make great paprika.
Hungarian Pork and Sauerkraut Goulash
1 pound pork stew meat
1 thick slice slab bacon, preferably unsmoked, cut into ¼-inch dice
1 large onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper or a combination of poblano and green bell peppers, chopped
1 large clove garlic, chopped
1 tbsp paprika
1/3 c home-canned tomato puree (or 1 medium fresh or canned tomato, chopped)
1/3 c water
3 c sauerkraut
1 tsp caraway seeds
¾ c sour cream
Optional: 2 tbsp flour
Trim fat from the pork stew meat and cut into 1-inch cubes. Slowly render the bacon in an ovenproof pot or small Dutch oven. Pour off all but 2-3 teaspoons. Add the onions and cook slowly until translucent. Add the green pepper and garlic and cook for a few minutes. Add the paprika and stir to combine for a minute. Add the tomato puree or chopped tomato and water. Simmer, covered, at a very low temperature on top of the stove or in the oven for 50-60 minutes, or until the meat is very tender. The goulash can be made ahead to this point.
Meanwhile, drain the sauerkraut, reserving the liquid, and rinse it. Drain the sauerkraut for a few minutes and add it to the meat mixture. Simmer for 20 minutes. The goulash could be made ahead to this point also.
When ready to finish the dish, preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Add the caraway seeds and sour cream (combined with flour if using) to the goulash. Caraway seeds are added at the end since they become bitter if cooked too long. Adjust the sourness by adding some of the reserved sauerkraut juice, to taste. Some recipes say to eat it at this stage, but I prefer to bake it.
Place the goulash in a shallow baking dish (or leave it in the Dutch oven) and bake for 30 minutes or until bubbling. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.
It can be served with noodles, potatoes or carrots, or just as is.