Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Baltic Christmas Day 5 - Sauerkraut, 2 ways!

Today, on Day 5 of 24 Days of a Baltic Christmas, we have food blogger Latvian Eats with a seasonal favorite, sauerkraut – not one, but two ways! Liva was ‘born and bred’ in Rīga, but has been living in Perth, Australia for the last 9 years. She reports that she still enjoys a proper Latvian Christmas every year (sans the snow!), and tries to preserve Latvian traditions by facilitating the Perth Latvian School and updating the site Please extend a warm welcome to Liva!

Šķovēti or štovēti kāposti (roughly “sautéed sauerkraut”), depending on which part of Latvia you come from, is a must-have Christmas dish in many Latvian households. Ever since I can remember, while my grandfather and all the kids would go to the markets to pick out the best looking Christmas tree, my grandmother Biruta would spend most of Christmas Eve in the kitchen sautéing and frying sauerkraut, peeling and boiling a pile of potatoes, and roasting a mountain of various meats. The sauerkraut itself was lovingly prepared every September; a huge wooden shredder came out of the attic, and the family spent the day cutting up cabbage, grating carrots, sprinkling on salt, caraway seeds and on occasion  cranberries, and squeezing the life (and juice) out of it all. The mixture was then covered with cabbage leaves, a heavy rock (always the same one) was placed on top, and the fermentation process was begun.  

On Christmas Eve the sauerkraut got to shine – it was slowly boiled, then drained and fried up with bits of smoked pork belly, lots of lard, and browned sugar. For me it was the ultimate dish of the evening, and I could not wait to dig in. Evening always included mandarins and whipped cream with cherry compote, as well as presents that could only be received in exchange for a song or a rhyme -- but the cabbage is what I loved the most.

The dish itself is very simple; it consists of fermented cabbage, fat and sugar. Every family would have their own recipe and every family would think that their recipe is the one. There are many ways to make sautéed sauerkraut and many potential additions: bacon, carrots, apples, tomato paste, garlic, honey and barley. The first recipe is how my grandmother makes sautéed sauerkraut - and how I now make it every Christmas, regardless of how hot the Australian summer is. The second recipe would suit vegetarians and vegans, and those opting for a lighter meal.

As for breakfast on Christmas day – heat up a bit of oil in a frying pan, add roughly chopped leftover potatoes and meat, include sautéed sauerkraut and a dash of gravy, heat it all through, and enjoy a lovely, messy, Christmassy breakfast!

Sautéed sauerkraut (recipe 1)

Recipe One


1kg of sauerkraut (homemade or jarred)
9 tbsp sugar
100g lard
couple slices of streaky bacon (optional)


1. Drain the sauerkraut in a colander and place in a large saucepan.
2. Add water to just cover the cabbage, bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 1.5 – 2 hours. You can add smoked pork ribs to the pot, if you wish.
3. Drain cooked sauerkraut in a colander, making sure there is no excess liquid remaining.
4. Brown the sugar in a large frying pan on medium-high heat. Once it has melted and acquired a golden-brown hue, add the lard and stir gently for half a minute until the fat and sugar melts together. If using bacon, add diced bacon to the pan. Finally, add the sauerkraut to the pan and fry, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes until golden. Add more sugar, if required.

Vegan sauerkraut (recipe 2)

Recipe Two


750g sauerkraut
250g finely shredded cabbage
1 large carrot, grated
2 cloves of garlic
1 apple, peeled and grated
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp oil
pepper and caraway seeds to taste


1. Drain and rinse the sauerkraut, and place in a large saucepan. Add bay leaves, garlic, sugar and water so it just covers the cabbage. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 45 minutes.
2. Add the fresh cabbage, carrot and apple, and cook for an additional 45 minutes.
3. When nearly done, add two tablespoons of oil.

Thank you Liva for the two recipes, and for joining us today on 24 Days of a Baltic Christmas! Reading about how your family would enjoy sauerkraut on Christmas while you were growing up brings the childhood smells from the kitchen wafting up to my bedroom on the second floor to mind…

You can find all sorts of Latvian recipes on the site Latvian Eats – from ķiploku grauzdiņi to sklandrausis! Click over to take a look for yourself, and don’t forget to follow along Liva’s culinary adventures on Facebook and Instagram!

Tomorrow on Day 6, we head north to Estonia for a vegan take on a holiday favorite


  1. Sauerkraut - especially with a nice pork roast or some karbonāde (breaded pork chops)... yum!

  2. And is FULL of good stuff!

    1. I agree! Don't know where to start... ok, I'll start with the ķiploku grauzdiņi!


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