On Christmas in the year 1970 my dad had just returned home from a one week stay at the hospital following his diagnosis of leukemia. He was dismissed Christmas Eve. Christmas morning was not the typical Christmas, as you might imagine. Not a lot of jolly old St Nicholas. But we were genuinely glad to be together. Just the four of us, Mom and Dad, Sharon and myself. We didn’t know what the future held but we sure loved having Daddy there with us on that day.
Mom had not made any meal plans for the day. Or any other plans for any other day during the holiday season of 1970. Dad’s diagnosis was a whiplash to her, to all of us really. So she asked Dad what sounded good to eat. She would fix whatever he wanted, whatever he felt like eating. The hospital stay had been really rough on him physically. He was very weak.
Normally we would be eating something holiday-ish like a turkey or roast beef or even fried chicken. All his favorites. Maybe he would want something bland and easy to digest since he’d just gotten out of the hospital. But that year he only wanted hot dogs and sauerkraut and mashed potatoes. Odd menu choice but I have to think Mom was pretty elated to have such an easy meal to throw together.
I remember that meal more than any other Christmas meal. It just did not feel natural. Nothing about that day felt right. No table conversation really. But there we were, eating dogs and kraut and mashed potatoes. For the first time that I can recall. Hot dogs, yes that was a frequent meal. Kraut? Only when Daddy could convince Mom to open a can of the smelly stuff. Mashed potatoes, oh yeah. Often. But not with kraut and hot dogs, for crying out loud.
Yesterday, some fifty-ish years later, I was perusing Pinterest to find a recipe for something super yummy for our New Year’s Eve with our youngest daughter and family. And I came across a recipe that would use the kielbasa in my fridge. Kielbasa and kraut in a crockpot. Without even remembering the Christmas meal of 1970 I whipped up this recipe along with a side of instant mashed potatoes. We ate it like happy hungry hippos. Man, it was good. Fancy hot dogs and kraut and potatoes. To clarify, the little boys and their dad opted for grilled hamburgers. They have a less adventurous palate. But the Mr, the daughter and myself were in taste bud heaven.
Here’s the recipe. I know you want it.
Crockpot Kielbasa and Kraut
2 lbs kielbasa, smoked sausage, whatever. (I used Kiolbassa that I bought at Sam’s Club)
Bag of fresh cold kraut, 32 oz (you can probably used canned kraut if that’s all you have)
1 medium onion
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 cup water
1 chopped peeled apple. I used a Gala. Probably doesn’t matter what kind. (the original recipe called for apple cider vinegar but I thought an apple sounded interesting and delish. It was)
Carmelize the onion (I had to google how-to, but it’s super simple). Drain and rinse the sauerkraut. That seemed totally weird but I did it. Slice the kielbasa in 1-inch lengths. Mix brown sugar and water. Add all of the ingredients including chopped apple in a crock pot and cook on high for 6 hours. Try to control your drooling as you smell the heavenly scent emanating from your kitchen.
Maybe it’s my German ethnicity from my Dad’s side, but I’m telling you this was so good served over mashed potatoes. Sounds just downright nasty, but oh it is not.
I don’t have a picture of the hot dogs and kraut and potatoes from 1970. And I didn’t take a picture of the kielbasa and kraut from yesterday. Not that either dish is photogenic. But the gal who posted the original recipe, The Queen of Everything, shared this picture:
So that’s how we started the New Year. With sausage and kraut in our bellies. And nostalgic memories of a similar holiday meal in 1970.
Happy New Year!!