Smile Politely

Weisswurst, blaukraut, and potatoes… oh my!

We frequently drive up route 47 to visit family in the Chicago suburbs and pass through a little town called Gibson City about 45 minutes away from C-U. My wife loves German food, especially sauerkraut and sausages. After hearing reviews, seeing pictures, and looking at their menu online, we finally stopped in to Bayern Stube. If you’ve never been there, you’re missing out. The experience of the restaurant, with the waitresses dressed in Bavarian outfits, taxidermy-covered walls, and good German beer served in large one-liter mugs, should not be missed. The food is very good, and portions are large, but you don’t have to take my word for it.

If you’re not up for the drive or the prices, I haven’t found any good options in town to get good wurst. Your best bet is to make it yourself. The hardest part about recreating a meal like this is getting the right sausage. You can really use just about any sausage you like, as long as it’s not too spicy. I really like going to the U of I Meat Salesroom. In addition to pork, lamb, and beef cuts, they make a wide range of sausages from the pigs they raise. Their bacon is also very good. They sometimes make varieties of sausage that you won’t find anywhere else in the area, like weisswurst or mushroom and swiss brats.

One of my favorite parts of the meal at Bayern Stube was the braised red cabbage or blaukraut in German. The sausages can’t help but be delicious, the starch could be any manner of things, but the cabbage is vital to the meal. Not only does it the only really colorful element, but the sweetness of the cabbage and acid note of the vinegar bring the plate together.

You’ll want to decide on your starch beforehand. I went with potatoes that I boiled until done, then crisped them in a pan with a little bit of Triple S Farm lard I found at Common Ground. Other good options would be spaetzle, potato pancakes, or simple mashed potatoes. The weisswurst is a juicy but lean sausage, so you can afford to use a little extra butter (or lard, or your fat of choice) in this part of the meal.

The weisswurst that the U of I Meat Salesroom makes is pre-cooked, so all you need to do is gently heat them in water. Because of its delicate flavor, this is not a great grilling sausage. Simply cover them with water and heat until the water is barely simmering. Hold that temperature for about 5 minutes to heat them thoroughly, then kill the heat and leave them in the water to stay warm. You should do this while the cabbage is cooking. You could serve a couple of these links to each diner, but I’d recommend serving a couple different types of sausage. Perhaps offer a contrast to the weisswurst with some of the smoked bratwurst.

Braised Red Cabbage

  •   3T oil, lard, or bacon drippings
  •   1 onion, chopped (red would be nice)
  •   2 cloves
  •   pinch of caraway seed (optional)
  •   2 bay leaves
  •   1 head red cabbage, quartered, cored, and shredded
  •   1 1/2 t salt
  •   1/2 c water
  •   2T red wine vinegar
  1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat.
  2. When hot, add the onion and cook, stirring, until it becomes translucent.
  3. Add the cloves, bay leaves, and caraway (if using), stir for 30 seconds until they release their fragrance.
  4. Add the shredded cabbage, the salt, and the water.
  5. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook slowly, stirring, as the cabbage wilts, about 10-15 minutes.
  6. Eventually the cabbage will all be uniformly wilted. Add the vinegar, and continue cooking for another 15-25 minutes or until you reach the desired tenderness.
  7. Once the cabbage is as soft as you’d like, taste and season with salt, black pepper, and more vinegar, to taste.

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