Smoked pork is an essential part of Slovak Christmas. Often in the form of rolled pork shoulder or pork neck, it is cooked in kapustnica (Christmas sauerkraut soup) together with sausages. We also serve slices of smoked pork alongside the potato salad.
Mäsové guľky na kyslej kapuste – as this dish would be called in Slovak – uses ground smoked pork left from Christmas cooking. In my case, it was boneless pork neck that had been cooked in kapustnica. The ground meat is shaped into balls, wrapped up in potato dough and cooked in simmering water. The potato meatballs are served on a bed of sauerkraut and sprinkled with fried onions.
Minced Pork Potato Balls on Sauerkraut
For the balls:
- 500 g mealy potatoes
- 200 g coarse wheat flour
- 300 g smoked ham or pork neck, boneless
- 1 medium-size onion, peeled
- salt and pepper to taste
For the sauerkraut:
- 700 g sauerkraut
- 1 large onion, peeled
- black pepper to taste
- 5 tablespoons oil
- water as needed
For the topping:
- 3 large onions, peeled
- 3 – 4 tablespoons oil
- Rinse the potatoes with their skins on under running water. Put them in a large cooking pot or a steamer filled with water. Place over medium heat and cook or steam until the potatoes are tender (check by gently inserting a fork in one of the potatoes). Put aside and let cool, uncovered.
- Meanwhile, cut the meat into small cubes that fit into your grinder. Grind the meat pieces in batches, adding the onion cut into smaller bits. Season to taste with black pepper. Go easy on salt, as the smoked meat is generally quite salty. Stir the seasoning well into the meat and let rest.
- Put the flour in a medium mixing bowl and stir in the salt. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel them and either grate finely onto the flour, or press through a potato ricer. Knead by hand to combine the ingredients and work them into a smooth dough. Cover with a dishtowel and let rest.
- Chop the onion for the sauerkraut. Place a large deep pan over medium heat and pour in the oil. When it is hot, add the onion and roast until lightly brown, stirring now and then. Add the sauerkraut with its juices, season with black pepper and cover with water. Cook over medium-low heat until the liquid cooks off, about 20 minutes. Turn off the heat, but cover the pan to keep the sauerkraut warm. Usually there is no need to add salt to sauerkraut, as it is naturally quite salty.
- Transfer the potato dough on a floured rolling board or worktop. Divide into halves and roll into long cylinders, about 4cm in diameter. Cut into slices about 2cm thick and pat down to make circles. Dust the board and your hands whenever the dough becomes too sticky to work with. Place a teaspoon of the meat mixture in the middle of each circle and lift up the edges to pinch them closed and wrap the filling up. Shape into a ball and put on a floured surface, the closed side down.
- Bring a large pot of water to the boil and drop the balls into it in small batches. Keep the water at a gentle simmer and cook until the balls come to the surface. Use a wooden spatula to gently loosen the balls if they get stuck to the bottom of the pot. Continue cooking for another 5 minutes, then take the balls out with a slotted spoon. Transfer to a large bowl and cover to keep warm.
- Finally, chop the onions for the topping. Warm the oil in a pan placed over medium heat. Throw the onions in and roast until they are soft and lightly browned. Put aside. Arrange 5 – 6 balls on a bed of sauekraut on the plate, drizzle with a few tablespoons of fried onions and serve immediately.
If not used, the potato balls will keep in the fridge for up to a week. They can be reheated in a microwave or an oven together with the sauerkraut. The onions can be flash-fried before putting everything together again.