In Holland, zuurkool is sold raw, i.e. uncooked, straight out of the brine from huge grey or white plastic barrels. The produce man or woman will scoop out a handful, squeeze some of the brine out and deposit the white stringy mass into a plastic bag, tie it closed and hand it to you. And there, in your hand, you hold a humble, flavorful, healthy and chockful with Vitamin C, cabbage bomb, so to say.
Zuurkool is most often served in a casserole (zuurkoolschotel), with three main ingredients: ground beef, mashed potatoes and ofcourse, zuurkool. But that's where it stops, as for every family that eats zuurkoolschotel, there is a different casserole recipe. Some families like to have fruit mixed in: pineapple or apple or raisins or bananas, sometimes even raisins and bananas. Other families prefer a spicier sauerkraut, so they mix in sambal or hot peppers with the ground beef. Yet others rather have a Hungarian twist so they mix lots of paprika and caraway in with the cabbage. Not always are the sauerkraut and potatoes separate: some families like to make a zuurkoolstamppot by mashing the potatoes and mixing in the sauerkraut, which leaves a big old mess for your stamper as the strips of cabbage get tangled in with the wavy metal bars of the masher. But that's half the fun!
And what about the ground beef? Some mix in pieces of fried bacon strips, others use half-om-half (half beef, half pork)........There is no one standard recipe for a zuurkoolschotel and most families will claim that their dish is the best tasting one, but what ALL can agree on is that the zuurkoolschotel is a traditional wintery dish and that it falls in the category of comfort foods.
So make this dish your own, by mixing in favorite flavors. Add garlic, or slice your potatoes instead of mashing them. Use shoarma spices on the ground beef to give it a different twist, or stud the dish with raisins, apples and a spicy, ground mustard. You decide!
Here are the basics:
6 large potatoes
4 tablespoons butter, divided
1/4 cup milk
16 oz ground beef
1 small can of pineapple pieces, drained
2 tablespoons of panko or breadcrumbs
Peel and quarter the potatoes, place with water on the stove and boil till done in about twenty minutes. In the meantime, drain the sauerkraut. Most sauerkraut in the US is sold ready-to-eat, but read the packaging to make sure. If it's raw, please follow the instructions on the packet and cook the cabbage first.
Brown the ground beef in a skillet, pour off the fat and season the meat with salt and pepper.
Preheat the oven to 375F. Grease an oven dish with a teaspoon of the butter.
Mash the potatoes with the milk and two tablespoons of butter. Depending on how "dry" your potatoes cook, you may need more milk to get a smooth, creamy consistency. Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed.
Spread the ground beef in the casserole. Top it with the sauerkraut, and add the pineapple on top. Finish with a layer of mashed potatoes. Sprinkle the panko on top and dot with the remaining butter. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes or until the panko is golden brown.