Whenever I visited my grandmother Lisa for a few days, she would ask me for a list of the recipes I would like to eat during my little holiday. I used to give her a long list, always far too long for my short visit, but I loved this ritual. One of these meals, an absolute highlight, was German potato latkes, called Kartoffelpuffer or Reibekuchen. Lisa fried them to perfection—crisp on the outside and juicy on the inside. In western Germany, where I grew up, we usually eat potato pancakes with apple compote, sugar beet syrup, or, my childhood favorite, granulated sugar, but I had a new idea.
I was raised on sauerkraut and it often tops the list when people think of my home country’s food—apart from wurst (sausage), of course. The classic version is served with mashed potatoes and soft southern liver sausage—that might not sound appealing, but it’s actually quite addictive—but why not experiment? I mix the sour fermented cabbage into grated potatoes and turn it into the sauerkraut Kartoffelpuffer featured in my latest cookbookEat In My Kitchen. It’s great, especially with a juniper-scented sour cream dip on the side.
Potato-Sauerkraut Latkes with Juniper Sour Cream Dip
2 to 8 large dried juniper berries, finely chopped or crushed with a mortar and pestle
Fine sea salt
For the latkes
1 ½ pounds peeled waxy potatoes, grated
17 ounces drained sauerkraut, canned or jarred
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
Sunflower oil, for frying the latkes
How to Make It
For the dip, whisk the sour cream with 2 juniper berries, adding more until you reach the desired taste. The flavor should be present but not too overpowering. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
For the latkes, squeeze as much liquid as possible out of the grated potatoes and the sauerkraut and spread each out on separate paper towels. Top with a second paper towel and press out any remaining moisture. Roughly chop the sauerkraut.
In a large bowl, use your hands to mix together the potatoes, chopped sauerkraut, flour, eggs, and salt until well combined. Mind that the sauerkraut is well mixed in, so you don’t end up with big chunks of it in the latkes. If the mixture is too moist—it should be easy to form into latkes—gradually add more flour.
Fill a large, heavy sauté pan with about 1/3 inch (7.5 mm) of sunflower oil and place over medium-high heat. Take 2 to 3 tablespoons of the potato-sauerkraut mixture into your fingers and form it into a thin, small pancake-shaped latke. Mind that the latkes have to be thin enough to get crispy when fried. (You can also add balls of the mixture directly to the hot oil and push them down with a spatula.) Repeat with the remaining latke mixture. Working in batches, fry the latkes for 1 1/2 to 3 minutes per side or until golden brown and crisp. Lower the heat if they brown too quickly. Transfer to paper towels to drain, and repeat with the remaining latkes, adding more oil if necessary. Serve or keep the fried latkes in a warm oven until you finish the last batch. This makes about 15 latkes.
Enjoy the latkes warm with a little dollop of the juniper sour cream dip.
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