Barbara Kafka

Roast Turkey With Sauerkraut

(From Vegetable Love p. 277)

Think of a turkey as a large chicken without much fat of its own. I cook turkey in a rather unorthodox way: quickly at high heat. Not only is this the way I do most roasting; but I also find that it gives a much juicier turkey. As with chickens, I do not truss and I do not rack. I do baste: the skin is thin; the bird is large. It still stays crisp. (See also Roasting p. 56 for Simple Roast Turkey recipe)

Make the extra effort of finding a fresh turkey. It usually only requires ordering ahead. Make sure it has not been injected with anything. Turkey is on of those fortunate ingredients with a low enough price so that we can afford the best. Injected turkeys are tougher and you are paying for water.

When I invented this stuffing I felt very original; then Jim Beard told me that in Maryland they serve turkey with sauerkraut. Well, a good idea for them seems a great idea to me—but as a stuffing.

For those who want more stuffing, simply double the amounts given below. Bake extra in a buttered heatproof casserole, moistening with additional chicken stock and bacon fat as required.

One 15-pound turkey, preferably fresh, giblets reserved

4 cups Basic Chicken Stock (page 501) or commercial chicken stock

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 pound sliced bacon

4 medium onions, thinly sliced

1-1¼ pounds sour rye bread, with seeds and crusts, cut into ½” cubes

1 tablespoon caraway seeds

Freshly ground black pepper

Two 16-ounce cans sauerkraut, placed in a sieve

Kosher salt as necessary


Remove giblets; set aside liver for another use In a small saucepan, place the giblets, neck and enough stock to cover. Simmer 4 to 5 minutes over low heat. Replace stock as necessary.

Rinse the turkey body cavity. Pat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle the outside with pepper. Separate the bacon slices. In a heavy frying pan, sauté them about 6 minutes over medium heat. The bacon should be just crisp, but not dry. Drain it on paper towels. Crumble coarsely.

Pour off all but 3 tablespoons of the fat from the bacon pan. Reserve the extra fat. Add onions to the pan. Sauté over medium heat. Stirring frequently, about 10 minutes, until wilted and golden brown.

In a large bowl, toss the bread, bacon, onions, caraway, and ¼ teaspoon of pepper until mixed. Add the sauerkraut, a handful at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add salt to taste carefully; the bacon and sauerkraut may give you plenty of salt. Moisten with about ½ cup of chicken stock.

Stuff the body cavity and crop of the turkey. Secure the crop with a long metal skewer if desired. Roast the turkey in a 500°F oven until the leg joint near the backbone wiggles easily, about 2 hours. Baste the turkey with bacon grease every 20 minutes during roasting. Let it rest at least 10 minutes before removing the stuffing and carving.

While the turkey is resting, remove the giblets from the stock. Slice the heart, gizzard and neck meat to the stock. Season with salt and pepper. Keep hot over low heat until ready to serve. This is your gravy and wonderful it is. I have been known to skip the turkey and just have stuffing and gravy, grits and gravy, or mashed potatoes and gravy.


Makes 12 servings plus leftovers

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