Juniper plays best with gamey meats, but game can be hard to come by. If you don't hunt (or have a friend who does), your options are limited. Ducks, however, are far more widely available and are sweet, rich, and just gamey enough. I like adding duck stock to stews to give them a more exotic edge, and I don't limit myself to Scandinavian fare.
Sausage and sauerkraut with paprika and sour cream is the stuff of dreams for me. I don't think comfort food gets any better. The other day I was thinking about sausage (as I'm wont to do), specifically dry-aged sausages. The drying process slightly ferments them, giving them a tangy bite that I felt would pair perfectly with the newly rendered duck stock in my refrigerator (a crude but delicious brew of one carcass simmered for seven hours with four halved onions). Sauerkraut brings out the tang of the sausage, and juniper compliments the stew's ducky notes. I decided to top it with some simple drop dumplings, which are at their savory best when made with animal fat (preferably duck), to round out the meal and amp up the gaminess.
A note on sausage: I have a personal preference for sujuk, a dry-ish Turkish beef sausage heavily spiced cumin and coriander, with just a hint of funk. If you can't find them or like another spicy sausage, go for the latter. I provide some alternative suggestions in the recipe.
This stew tastes better the next day: The juniper's sweetness really shines through. Its delicacy takes the back seat to the more assertive paprika, but the stew is greatly improved by its addition. The dumplings, however, don't keep well; cook them just before serving.
Dumpling recipe adapted from Real Stew by Clifford Wright.
- For the stew
- About 1/2 cup cold solid cooking fat (duck fat, chicken fat, lard, or shortening), divided
- 1 pound spicy sausage (sujuk, kielbasa, or a Hungarian sausage) sliced into 1/2 inch disks
- 2 large onions, sliced thin
- 1 pound sauerkraut, drained
- 8 medium cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 quart homemade duck or chicken stock, or low-sodium store-bought stock
- 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
- 2 teaspoons half-sharp paprika
- 12 juniper berries, crushed and bundled in cheesecloth or spice infuser
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- For the dumplings
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1 large egg
- 1/3 cup water
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- Sour cream for serving
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
For the stew: Heat 1 teaspoon fat in a 5-quart Dutch oven on medium heat until lightly smoking. Add sausages and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 10 minutes. Transfer to paper towel-lined plate to drain (leave excess fat in pan).
Add onions to pot and cook, stirring frequently, until deep brown, about 20 minutes, adding 1 tablespoon of water if onions start to burn.
Add garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add sauerkraut, stock, paprikas, and juniper berries. Stir to combine, increase heat to high, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook, uncovered for half an hour. Season to taste with salt. Meanwhile, make the dumplings.
For the dumplings: In a medium bowl, whisk together water, egg, 3 tablespoons cold fat, and salt. In separate bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder. Dump flour mixture into wet ingredients and stir with wooden spoon until the shaggy dough forms. Let it rest for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, bring 1 quart water to a boil over high heat.
Drop rounded teaspoons of dough into boiling water. After three minutes, retrieve one dumpling and cut it open. If doughy or chalky inside, return to pot for one minute longer. When cooked, drain dumplings on paper towel-lined plate.
Add 2 tablespoons fat to heavy-bottomed 12-inch stainless steel skillet and heat over medium-high heat until shimmering. Swirl to coat bottom of pan. Add drained dumplings and cook until lightly-browned on all sides, turning occasionally, about 4 minutes total. Reheat stew, ladle and serve with dumplings and sour cream.