Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Snacking State-by-State: Ohio IV - I can't wait to get my mouth around those sauer-y balls.

In a part of the country that is so German in its heritage there's a lot of German food: German potato salad, German sausages, German sauerkraut, etcetera.  As noted in the previous post, the very German bratwurst is popular in Ohio as in Wisconsin.  It can be used as ingredients in a variety of dishes.  So can sauerkraut for that matter.  While I don't know if Ohioans eat sauerkraut at Thanksgiving as a side, as is fairly common in Baltimore, they certainly use it in a whole other variety of ways.  They put it in cakes.  They feature it in main dishes.  Hell, they even roll it into balls and fry it.  Because in America, you can fry anything, dammit!

Official Name: State of Ohio
State Nicknames: The Buckeye State, The Mother of Presidents
Admission to the US: March 1, 1803 (#17)
Capital: Columbus (largest)
Other Important Cities: Cleveland (2nd largest), Cincinnati (3rd largest), Toledo (4th largest), Akron (5th largest)
Region: Midwest, Great Lakes; East North Central (US Census)
RAFT NationsMaple SyrupWild RiceChestnutCorn Bread & BBQ
Bordered by: Lake Erie (north); Michigan (northwest); Indiana (west); Ohio River (south); Kentucky (southwest); West Virginia (southeast); Pennsylvania (east)
Official State Foods and Edible Things: white-tailed deer (mammal), tomato (fruit), pawpaw (native fruit), tomato juice (beverage)
Some Famous and Typical Foods: typical Midwestern foods; city chicken (no longer common); ethnic European foods, particularly German (bratwurst, German potato salad, sauerkraut) & Amish foods, Polish, Italian and Irish; buckeye candies; Shaker lemon pie; Cincinnati chili, sauerkraut balls and (again) bratwurst

Yes, in Ohio they fry balls of sauerkraut.  Not everywhere in the state: this is specifically a Cleveland and Akron thing.  This is probably why my friend Eric, a Columbus native, has never heard of them.  According to the University of Akron Press' An Akronism blog [2010], the sauerkraut ball originates in "the ethnic cuisine of Northeast Ohio" and includes various other goodies, like onion and some kind of meat - pork, beef, or just break up an uncooked bratwurst, since people in Ohio love them so much.

Hey, I have some extra brats.  Why not put them to good use?

The Recipe: Sauerkraut Balls

While the An Akronism blog has a recipe included in its sauerkraut balls post, the recipe I ended up using comes from Christina at the Sweet Pea's Kitchen blog [2012], whose recipe is a Columbus-based version of the recipe.  She tries to recreate those sauerkraut balls she remembers from Columbus' Schmidt's Sausage Haus.  I have no idea if this is similar to the sauerkraut balls they eat in the northeastern part of the state.

For these sauerkraut balls you will need:

* sauerkraut (I had some in the pantry, which saved me the extra expense of buying more.  Make sure you drain it completely and chop it finely)
* pork (in this case, I ripped open two bratwursts, which I bought for the previous post)
* sweet onion (about $1.50 per lb, or 75¢ for one)
* yellow mustard (had it)
* garlic salt (or in my case, garlic powder, which is what I had)
* black pepper (had it)
* parsley (had it dried)
* cream cheese (an 8 oz tub was about $2.50)
* flour (had it)
* egg (same)
* milk (same)
* bread crumbs (had more than a few in the freezer.  Also wound up using some Italian bread crumbs, and I have a good bit of matzah meal from that New York post on matzah ball soup)
* vegetable oil (for frying)

Chop your onion finely.  I found it easier to just grate some off.

Throw that into a pan with your crumbled up bratwurst (or other meat)

Meanwhile, squeeze the liquid out of that sauerkraut, lest you have soggy, schweddy balls.

Chop the drained sauerkraut finely and throw into a bowl...

...with your onion-meat mixture.

Mix together...

...and add the black pepper, garlic powder and mustard.

In a separate bowl mix the cream cheese and parsley.

Add to the rest of the mixture and mix well.

Put in the fridge for at least an hour to chill.  This will make it easier to form your balls.

When ready, heat the oil to deep frying temperature, and get your dipping station ready: in three bowls put your flour, your egg and milk, and your bread crumbs.

Oh yeah, for the sauerkraut mixture into balls.  You need something to dip, right?

First, dip each sauerkraut ball into the flour.

Next, dip into your egg and milk mixture.

Finally, roll it in the bread crumbs.

I ran out of the bread crumbs I had in the freezer, so I busted out some finer ones from the pantry.  These looked better, but I did like the bigger chunks of bread from the other kind.

Fry for about two to three minutes.

Drain on paper towels and serve hot, preferably with a spicy or whole-grain mustard.

These were addictive little things: the pungent sauerkraut and the hearty bratwurst mixed with all these different ingredients.  Even better, they taste good after you reheat them - not the same, but still good, which is unusual for most foods in the "fritter" category.  This is a good use for sauerkraut that I never thought of.  A good way to use up all that Thanksgiving sauerkraut we have around here every late November.

- - - - -

In a few days we'll see another mashup recipe, and then we leave the Midwest for the Southwest.  We're heading for that land where the wind goes sweepin' down the plain.  We'll be doing fine, eating what they eat in Oklahoma.  Okay?


Adams, Marcia. Heartland: The Best of the Old and the New from Midwest Kitchens. Clarkson Potter: New York, 1991.

Christina (blog author).  "Sauerkraut Balls".  Sweet Pea's Kitchen, posted February 5, 2012.  Copyright 2010-2012 Sweet Pea's Kitchen, all rights reserved.

Lowe, Cliff.  "The Life and Times of Chili Cincinnati Chili - Part Two" [sic].  In Mama's Kitchen, date unknown.  Copyright 2012 In Mama's Kitchen, all rights reserved.

"Ohio's Favorite: Buckeye Candy Recipe".  Recipe postcard, date unknown.

University of Akron Press.  "Akronisms: Sauerkraut Balls".  An Akronism, posted June 9, 2010.  Copyright 2012 University of Akron Press, all rights reserved.

Some information also obtained from Wikipedia's "Ohio" page and other pages, and the Food Timeline State Foods link to "Ohio".

Special thanks to Eric Randolph for making the buckeyes with me, for offering the use of his kitchen, and for giving me his advice in making buckeye candy and in preparing bratwurst.