These Fritters Are Perfect Finger Foods For Festive Gatherings

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“The Better Living Show,” a Durham-based radio program I co-hosted for over 15 years, was all about food. Every Wednesday, we interviewed well-known chefs, restaurateurs and cookbook writers who teased us with descriptions or tastings of their best, decadently rich dishes.

After a few years, the station asked us to expand the show to include a health segment. On the new Monday time slot, doctors and other health experts warned us against the same ingredients we drooled over on Wednesdays.

At some point, Wednesday chefs began showing up on Mondays to tout their new salt-free, nonfat, sugarless recipe books. Strokes, heart attacks and diabetes had cramped their culinary styles. Years of weekly sermons demonizing “bad” ingredients made a lasting impression on me. Now when I order in a restaurant or buy groceries, I veer toward the healthy choices. My husband is not so easily frightened.

He zones in on the most fattening (and usually the tastiest) item on any menu.

So I was delighted when, on a recent trip to Ohio, he uncharacteristically ordered an appetizer that appealed to us both. Sauerkraut balls it was called – veggies for me, fritters for him! This mysterious German dish was outrageously delicious, a perfect complement for the locally brewed beer. We longed to repeat the experience, but have never run across these mysterious appetizers in our part of the world.

Then, one night at Crook’s Corner, a platter of calas appeared on our table, a gift from the kitchen. These delectable Creole fritters pushed me over to the dark side, rekindling my passion for fried balls.

Armed with my new jumbo bottle of canola oil and a recipe from Bill Smith’s cookbook, “Crabs and Oysters,” I whipped up some calas at home. My success with calas led me to try sauerkraut balls and, on a roll, the incredible pimento cheese balls served at Weathervane. All these fritters were addictive, and I’ll make them again – but maybe not on Mondays.

Photo by James Stefiuk
Photo by James Stefiuk

Sauerkraut Balls

1⁄2 lb. bulk pork sausage
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 16 oz. can sauerkraut
2 Tbsp. fine dry breadcrumbs
1⁄2 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
1 Tbsp. sweet-hot mustard
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs
2 Tbsp. water
1 cup or more fine dry breadcrumbs
Canola oil for frying

In a large skillet, cook sausage and onion until sausage is brown, breaking sausage into small pieces. Drain.

Drain sauerkraut, pressing out as much liquid as possible. In a large bowl, combine sauerkraut, sausage mixture, 2 oz. breadcrumbs, cream cheese, mustard, salt and pepper. Cover and chill for at least 3 hours or up to 4 hours.

Put flour in a shallow bowl. In another bowl, beat eggs and water until combined. Put 1 cup of more breadcrumbs in a third.

Shape sauerkraut mixture into 11⁄2-inch balls. Roll balls in flour, then in egg mixture, then in breadcrumbs. These can be made ahead and refrigerated for up to a day.

Fry a few at a time in deep, hot oil (350-365 F) for about 2 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from fat with a slotted spoon; drain on paper towels. These can be kept warm in a 225 F oven for 30 minutes or so. Serve with honey mustard.

Makes 24 to 30 balls.

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Moreton Neal

Moreton Neal is an author and interior designer who lives in Chapel Hill. She is a lifelong foodie, having co-founded LA Residence in 1976. 
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