Rathaus Film Festival

One of the highlights of our past two summers in Vienna has been the music film festival. A large screen is placed in front of the Rathaus, and hundreds of chairs and bleachers are put out so people can enjoy the music films. The music films range from classical to jazz, and there are some ballet performances and modern rock and roll thrown in for good measure.

Film festival on Rathausplatz

Film festival on Rathausplatz

Of course, this is not what interests me. About 20 food stands are set up along the path leading from the ring road to the front of the Rathaus, representing culinary delights from both Austria and as far afield as Australia. Each booth has, in addition to its ethnic food, a couple signature cocktails on offer. There are also a couple ice cream stands and coffee stands interspersed with the food stands.

The first time we visited the food… er, film festival this year, we went to the Australia booth.

The closest we'll ever get to Australia

The closest we’ll ever get to Australia

I had the grilled tuna and my new favorite drink, Mango Dream (mango juice and champagne). My husband got the *sniff, sniff* kangaroo steaks, which came with perfectly roasted fries and dipping sauces. I’m not going to lie — the kangaroo was pretty tasty and I enjoyed it more than my fish.

This afternoon we visited the stand operated by Gelbmanns Gaststube.

Tafelspitz Gröstl mit krautsalat

Tafelspitz Gröstl mit krautsalat

I had the above-pictured meal, along with an erdbeere bowle (strawberry punch). Gröstl is roasted potatoes, onions, tri-color peppers, and cubes of bacon seasoned with caraway seeds, with slices of tafelspitz (boiled beef) mixed it. It was served with a generous portion of krautsalat and a sour cream sauce, and garnished with kren. My husband and I both enjoyed this dish and I plan to find a recipe to recreate it.

Sadly the film festival ends 1 September, but I have the consolation that it’ll be back next summer.

 

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How to ferment your own sauerkraut

My sauerkraut has fermented to the point where I am satisfied with the consistency and the taste is mostly acceptable (more on that later). I used the fermentation method described in the Joy of Cooking cookbook, which is also available on their website (see the instructions here). The short version is:

Remove the outer leaves, rinse, and dry 5 pounds cabbage. Quarter the cabbage, remove the cores, and thinly slice the remaining cabbage. Put the sliced cabbage in a bowl, add 3T pickling salt, stir well. Let stand for 30 minutes. Pack the cabbage into a storage container and if it has not released enough of its own water to be completely submerged, add brine (1 1/2T pickling salt per 4 C water) to cover.

Within a day or two the jar should start to bubble; this means that fermentation has begun and you’re on your way. The fermentation is complete when the bubbling stops, which the book says takes 3-6 weeks. After 7 weeks my sauerkraut was still bubbling away, so I gave it a good stir and put it in the refrigerator.  I discovered after the fact that the refrigeration doesn’t stop the fermentation, and you can put up the sauerkraut before the bubbling has stopped if it is to your taste earlier in the fermentation process.

The book did not specify to do so, but I opened the jar every day to release the built up gas pressure. The first couple times I did this I was sprayed with sauerkraut brine, which did not smell so great. The version of the instructions on the website said to cover the top of the jar so that it can still breathe (it suggested placing a light dish towel over the top and securing it with a rubber band), which would alleviate the spray issue. I am going to try that with my next batch.

My only issue with my first batch is that it was quite salty. I looked for pickling salt but could not find it, so I guessed that coarse sea salt would work. Again, I found out after the fact that this is not the case (in fact, the website specifically said not to use coarse sea salt… oops). Once I rinsed the kraut a lot of the salty taste disappeared and now I know for the next time which types of salt will work. And yes, there will be a next time because we’ve been converted to the sauerkraut cause.

For the sake of comparison, my kraut went from this:

Two weeks of fermentation

Two weeks of fermentation

to this:

Final product after 7 weeks of fermentation

Final product after 7 weeks of fermentation

 

Recipe: Sauerkraut Salat

The sauerkraut that I am fermenting is not done yet, so I used store-bought sauerkraut to try this recipe. When my sauerkraut is done (and assuming it turns out well), I will share the method for fermenting your own sauerkraut at home.

Sauerkraut salat

Sauerkraut salat

500 grams (18 oz) sauerkraut
1 onion, diced
3/4 liter (ca. 3 1/8 C) beef broth
1 pinch of cumin
1 bay leaf
1 dash of oil
1 pinch pepper
1 pinch of salt
3 juniper berries

1. Wash and pat dry the sauerkraut.

2. Heat oil or lard in a saucepan and fry the diced onion until golden.

3. Add the rinsed sauerkraut and beef broth, stir.

4. Add all the spices, stir, then cook uncovered 20-25 minutes, stirring often.

TIP: Make this dish a day ahead of time, then reheat and serve.

Sauerkraut

Yes, it is true that sauerkraut is very popular in Austria. It appears on countless menus and is served many ways, from straight, undressed sauerkraut to sauerkraut that’s been boiled in broth with vegetables and spices. There are even large, three-foot tall self-serve barrels of fresh sauerkraut in some of the grocery stores, should you want an alternative to the ubiquitous seal-packed bags of white and red sauerkraut.

My husband and I love sauerkraut and so I’ve researched how to make it at home. I have a large jar fermenting on my kitchen counter at the moment, and it should be ready to eat in early July. I’ve also found a recipe for cooked sauerkraut, in which I intend to use some of my homegrown product. If all goes well with the fermenting and cooking, I will share the how-to and recipe here. For your enjoyment in the meantime:

Die Krautsoelde

Die Krautsoelde

We recently visited the Salzburger Freilichtmusem, a large outdoor museum that allows the visitor to experience what life was like on a traditional farm from this part of Austria. One of the items on display was this sauerkraut barrel/well. This is a barrel that was buried a little over 13 feet deep in the ground to keep the sauerkraut from spoiling and protect it from frost in the winter. My love of kraut is not that extreme, but I found this quite interesting nonetheless.

 

Schweizerhaus

This site’s header photo was taken at Schweizerhaus, the first Gastgarten that we visited in Vienna. The photo includes gulasch, fresh pretzels, and sauerkraut, which are all things that I want to learn how to make. A gulasch that tastes as good as you get in the restaurants here has been particularly elusive to me, so I suppose this would be a good starting point. Stay tuned for a workable recipe!