The Homemade Sauerkraut-and-Corned-Beef Reuben Sandwich that Almost Happened

| 5/18/2016 9:04:00 AM

The Finished Corned Beef

What can I say, I was raised on canned sauerkraut and bagged corned beef. Raised would imply they were a regular part of our diet, and while sauerkraut seemed to stink up the house every couple of weeks, corned beef was “saved” for special occasions — like when it was on sale after St. Patrick’s Day.

We would have corned beef and potatoes — with sauerkraut serving as a surrogate for the boiled cabbage — to connect with our Irish heritage (of which we have none). We kids would push it around the plate, be thankful our British ancestors came from England and Scotland, and wait for another year to pass before enjoying another bland stinky meal.

Every once in a while, for a sophisticated and exotic touch, Mom would break out the griddle and toast up Reuben Sandwiches with Russian Dressing, Swiss cheese, corned beef, and sauerkraut on rye bread (probably the leftover loaf from the previous Reuben feast). Now that was something we really liked. The combination of toasted bread, corned beef covered in melted Swiss cheese, and sauerkraut that mysteriously sweetened when combined with the Russian dressing was something we did not get to enjoy very often.

During my post-doctoral and early-working years in the Northeast, my appreciation of the Reuben grew with each variation of sauce or dressing served with it. More importantly, I noticed a difference in the corned beef and sauerkraut. My palate, molded by years of canned and bagged, was not sophisticated enough to appreciate the fresh and flavorful taste of homemade sauerkraut and corned beef. (What do you mean this sauerkraut did not come from a can and cook all day on the stove?) While it did not reach the height of an epiphany, it was something I would remember.

When we returned to Houston a few years later, Dad was approaching retirement. He had decided in his free time to “learn” how to cook. Perhaps more accurately, he decided to learn how to cook in order to “help” or “teach” Mom to cook better. Yeah, you know where this is going. Initially, Mom was very resistant to the kitchen competition.

6/7/2016 7:19:23 AM

Nice post Ed. You sure opened up a lot of my own sauerkraut memories from my parents kitchen. Like you it was a dubious scent at the time, but I sure love it now.

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