For those who don't know about this appetizer, welcome to my world.
Not being aware of this snack was a surprise because I’m a committed home cook and foodie. But, I’m also a native Californian, and since these treats are most popular in Ohio, it made sense that I hadn’t heard of them.
However, the Buckeye-educated Hubster has rhapsodized about sauerkraut balls for years.
They were terrific, he said, with a beer or a Pepsi. He also spoke of Boomer, a pet Bassett hound from years before. Boomer frequently ran away but was easy to retrieve—since he was always busy scarfing down sauerkraut balls at a nearby tavern where the dish was a happy hour staple. Also, my spouse remembered a certain Mr. and Mrs. Duncan, two of his parents’ best friends. Mr. Duncan loved sauerkraut balls so much that when he and his wife came for dinner, he always made a complete meal out of them, even forsaking grilled steak or fried chicken.
Here was my picture of a sauerkraut ball.
It was hard and icy, a wadded ball of old cabbage that looked exactly like a delicious coconut macaroon. I’d take a bite and there was the reveal—a sauerkraut ball was going to taste like the sourest pickled cabbage imaginable, held together with white glue.
In other words, here was a dish I was never going to have the time to make.
But my spouse never gave up.
A few months ago, he printed out a recipe with a photo, and presented it to me while I was in my office. Okay. It didn’t look too labor intensive, and what do you know: the instructions said it made more than two dozen balls, but only called for one can of sauerkraut. And, it featured bread crumbs, sausage, cream cheese and chopped onion, ingredients I could definitely get behind. Also, he said that while the directions called for deep frying, his mother baked them, which meant less time in the kitchen.
I was game, although I quickly discovered that the recipe wasn’t simple.
For one thing, I couldn’t just drain the sauerkraut and dump it in my big yellow Pyrex bowl. Nope, I had to squeeze the stuff completely dry, using three different dish towels to do so. Then, I had to snip it all into small pieces.
However, I was determined to cross the finish line.
After prepping the kraut, I mixed it with those other yummy ingredients, along with milk and eggs and mustard and parsley. It resembled uncooked meatloaf, another dish that the Hubster loves. The difference—besides the sauerkraut, of course—is that the concoction needed to chill for an hour. When that time was up, I divided the mix into small meatball size balls and dipped each one in flour. This part took the longest to do. Right about then, my spouse suddenly remembered that in Ohio, sauerkraut balls are often made assembly-line style.
Once the balls started cooking, though, I knew everything was right with the world.
They puffed up a bit, and smelled divine. Also, since the recipe instructed that they be consumed hot out of the oven, how could I not comply?
Sauerkraut balls are astonishingly amazing.
Best of all, and a revelation to me, the sauerkraut didn’t overpower the meatball. It simply gave the snack a nice bite. In fact, if you’ve never had one, you might find it difficult to identify the recipe’s title .
I’m absolutely up for making sauerkraut balls again.
But there’s another Midwest recipe that the Hubster wants me to do first.
It’s a cherry cola-chocolate-mayonnaise-sauerkraut cake.