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1. Heat oven to 275F. Place peppercorns in a small skillet
over medium-high heat. Toast
until they are crisp and give off a nutty aroma. Transfer to a mortar and grind to a coarse
powder, gradually adding and pounding in juniper berries, rosemary, savory, thyme and fennel seeds.
2. Rub bacon well with mixture, shaking off excess. Place
bacon in a small ovenproof dish.
Add cider and enough water to come halfway up sides of bacon. Cover lightly with foil and
bake 3 hours, turning bacon halfway during cooking. Check occasionally and add boiling water
as necessary to maintain level of liquid in dish. Remove dish from oven and cool until warm;
bacon should be very tender but intact. Place a heavy plate on bacon to weight it as it cools.
Place dish in refrigerator for 2 hours.
3. Heat oven to 350F. Drain sauerkraut and place in a
ceramic baking dish. Break bacon slab
into large irregular pieces or cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes, and scatter over kraut. Remove 2 tablespoons
of solidified fat from bacon dish, and reserve. Stir remaining jelled liquid and fat in dish, adding
enough water so there is about 1/2 cup in dish. Spoon about 1/3 cup over bacon and kraut, cover,
and bake for 30 minutes.
4. While bacon and kraut bake, prepare potatoes: If potatoes
have smooth skins, they need not
be peeled. Cut in two lengthwise. Melt reserved fat in a medium skillet, and add potatoes cut-side
down. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sauté over medium heat until browned on bottoms,
about 5 minutes. Turn and continue to cook for a few minutes, then add remaining braising liquid
and remove from heat.
5. When kraut has cooked for 30 minutes, remove from oven
and push kraut to one side of dish.
Add potatoes and their liquid to other side, and return to oven until potatoes are tender, 15 to 20
minutes. Serve. Yield: 4 servings.
Note: Naturally fermented kraut is sold in health food
stores, in some food markets, and from
Morse's Sauerkraut, (866) 832-5569, $10.50 plus shipping for 3 pounds.