My freezer is a pork hoarder. Any time I’m looking through my freezer I find package upon package of pork chops or pork loin. My friend Craig mentioned a family recipe the other day and I was interested because it involved pork chops. He said, “Chops, kraut, apples. Bake until the apples look unhappy.” I said, “Hey, I got pork!”
I had most of a bag of sauerkraut leftover from a recipe I’d made a few days earlier and we always have apples on hand. It sounded like a delicious way to work on reducing the pork poundage in the freezer. And a fairly simple way to make dinner! I’ve known Craig for years and years and never knew he could cook. He is actually an author, with his third book soon to be published. You can see his first two books, Walking Backwards and Two Thursdays, at Amazon.
I’d pulled the pork chops out of the freezer right after Craig mentioned the recipe. We ended up having dinner out one night and the next night had a fundraising event at the Heritage Society to attend so I had to wait several days to make the dish. By the time I had a chance to make pork chops, it was a dark and gloomy Sunday with more snow in the forecast. Winter never ends up North, but dinner was looking positive.
I sprinkled salt and pepper on both sides of the chops and put a little oil in a large skillet. When it was heated to medium high I seared the chops for 2-3 minutes on each side. They were nicely golden. I placed the chops on the bottom of a baking dish I’d sprayed with oil.
I’d done a little online research and other similar recipes had also used sliced onions with this combination of ingredients and I liked the idea. I cut half an onion into half again and sliced it thinly. I sprinkled a little salt and pepper over the onions and sautéed them in a drizzle of oil and the pork chop drippings, using the same skillet.
I spread the sauerkraut over the chops then spread the sautéed onions. I had drained my sauerkraut before I stored it a few days earlier, and Craig had said to put the juice in with the chops. Ooops. Having juiceless kraut, I thought maybe apple juice would be a good substitute. Craig thought it should be more vinegar.
I compromised and used some white wine that had been in the refrigerator long enough to have become vinegar. I drizzled about a 1/2 cup of it over the sauerkraut. I also sprinkled a teaspoon of caraway seeds over the kraut as I’d seen in a recipe online. I wanted to amp up the seasoning in the kraut just a tish.
Craig had said his mother just put the apples whole over the top, but I wanted the cores removed. I sliced the apples in half, removed the cores, and sprinkled very light pinches of cinnamon on the cut sides of the apples, as I’d also seen done in a recipe online.
I placed the apples face down over the onions. Now I just needed to cover and bake the dish until the apples were “unhappy”.
According to a few recipes online that would probably be about 1 ½ hours, uncovering the dish the last half hour. I’d preheated the oven to 325°F and slid the covered dish into the oven and set the timer for an hour.
At one hour my kitchen smelled delicious. I removed the cover on the pork chops, then put a kettle of salted water on to boil to make egg noodles. When the noodles were cooked and drained I tossed them with a little butter and put them into a dish in the oven to stay warm.
After 30 minutes more the chops were done and the apples were “unhappy” and soft. Or something like that. I served them over the buttered noodles. To say the dish was delicious is an understatement. The flavors were all over the charts: tangy, zesty and sweet, to name a few.
It was a sensational way to make pork that much more interesting than usual. I was happy with Craig’s unhappy recipe, even after tweaking it a little here and there. Even though I’d used a good sauerkraut, the caraway was a great addition to its flavor.
The liquid left in the dish after serving would have been good thickened and used as gravy for the noodles. I simply spooned it over the noodles anyway and took the lazy route. It was good anyway. And I do apologize that the pork chops are not visible in my pictures. They were happy to remain buried under their amazing layer of sauerkraut.
Baked Pork Chops with Sauerkraut and Apples
2 pork chops
Drizzle of olive oil
½ bag of sauerkraut; undrained (about 16 oz)
2 Granny Smith apples
1 teaspoon caraway seed
½ bag egg noodles; cooked according to package directions (about 8 oz)
2 tablespoons butter
Preheat oven to 325°F.
Drizzle skillet with a little olive oil and heat over medium high heat. Add chops and sear on both sides until browned, 2-3 minutes. Place chops in sprayed ovenproof dish.
Cut onion half in half again and slice fairly thin. Sauté in a drizzle of oil and any drippings from the chops in the same skillet until translucent.
Place sauerkraut with juice over the chops. If desired, drizzle a little white wine over the kraut. Sprinkle caraway seed over the kraut.
Layer onions next, spreading evenly. Cut apples in half and core. Sprinkle the cut sides with a little cinnamon and place cut side down on top of the onion layer.
Cover dish and bake for one hour, then another 30 minutes uncovered.
After egg noodles are rinsed, toss with 2 tablespoons butter and place in ovenproof dish. Place in oven to keep warm if necessary.
Serve chops over buttered noodles.
Serves 2, increase amounts accordingly if you are serving more people
Adapted from Craig and Craig’s Mom.