This is based loosely on a recipe that my Grandma makes. I don't remember where she learned it from, but her mom was part German. So probably from her. This is one of my favorite dishes and also one of my favorite things to do with kraut, which I grew up eating very frequently. We would make a huge batch of it every year in a large ceramic barrel in the basement. As a kid I liked to mix ketchup into it. Ha! I guess I wanted it saltier. Well, anyway, my Grandma once gave me a copy of her recipe, but I have since lost it. So I am doing this one from memory. I'm sure I got it wrong. Sorry, Grandma.
1. Purchase some good country-style ribs. I prefer country-style pork ribs that have a bone in them. It seems to help keep the meat tender, and it also adds gelatin and loads of flavor to the dish. Use a tart apple for this dish. Granny Smith is good. Peel and core the apple, and then slice it thin. I used green onions for this recipe because I needed to use them up, but any onion will work. Season the pork ribs with salt and pepper.
2. Brown the seasoned pork country-style ribs. Heat up a heavy-bottomed skillet or braising pan on medium-high heat. Add a tablespoon of vegetable oil, just enough to cover the bottom of the pan. Fry the pork ribs until they are a dark brown on every side. Then remove the ribs to a plate and add the onion and apple slices. Use a wooden spoon to scrape at the drippings on the bottom while the apple and onion cook. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
3. Continue to fry the apple and onion. Once the apple slices are limp looking, add the ½ cup of whiskey to the pan while stirring and scraping with the wooden spoon. The drippings should all come off the bottom now. Keep stirring for a few more minutes. Then add the ½ cup sugar, the 2 pounds of sauerkraut, and the juices too. Stir everything together until it is well mixed. Then put the ribs back into the pan, surrounded by the kraut mixture.
4. Cover the braising pan and put it into the oven. Set the timer for an hour. Total cooking time will be 2‒3 hours, but you will want to periodically check to see if there is enough liquid in the pan. If the pan gets dry, add a cup of water or white wine, though it probably won't be worth it to add more liquor, as that would be wasteful and it may end up having too strong of a booze flavor. After the ribs are tender enough, which will take 2+ hours, take the pan out of the oven and let it sit, covered, for about 30 minutes.
The country-style pork ribs are from the shoulder end of the pork loin, and not all of them will have bones in them. Try to get the ones with bones.
If you can't find country-style ribs, you may substitute pork spareribs or pork back ribs, although they are fattier. Possibly the best substitute would be pork loin itself. Cut the loin into strips, and try to get as much of the darker meat as possible.
As I mentioned above, any type of onion will work well for this recipe. I just used green onions because I got them for a dollar at the farmers market, and I wanted to use them up. A shallot would have probably been my first choice.
The caraway seeds, when cooked thoroughly, are barely noticeable, and they are sauerkraut's brother-from-another-mother when it comes to flavor.
I used cane sugar because I hate the smell of sugar beet sugar. It smells awful. Plus, cane sugar tastes better.
When it comes to sauerkraut, I have a very discriminating pallet. I believe that it is possible to make good canned sauerkraut. My mom did it all the time. But that was in glass jars, and that was my MOM. So, now that I can't get my mom's kraut anymore, I buy the stuff in bags in the refrigerator section. It's OK.