Vepřová, knedlik, zéli a pívo (or V.K.Z. as it is simply known in modern-day Czech language) is as profoundly Czech as Weisswurst is Bavarian, Po-boys are New Orleanian and Tom-Yum soup is Thai. V.K.Z. is the Czech national dish.
Roasted vepřová is a close cousin of the Bayrischer Schweinebraten, although the Schweinebraten uses a dark-beer sauce, while the vepřová sauce is clear. Vepřová can be made with lean pork, pork belly (bůček) or smoked pork. It is typically served with sauerkraut and flour dumplings, except for the smoked-pork variety, which is served with spinach and potato dumplings.
Preparing home-made sauerkraut is a lengthy, and technically very delicate procedure, involving sterilized implements and containers, and closely controlled environment variables. Fresh cabbage is sliced and layered in a large sterilized jar, alternating layers of cabbage and layers of salt. The cabbage ferments at room temperature (70 deg F) for 1-2 months, while the amount of liquid released by the cabbage in the jar is closely monitored. The procedure may be lengthy but the result is worth it, relative to store-bought canned kraut. Before serving, the homemade sauerkraut is sauteed with onions, caraway seeds, some sugar and possibly white wine.
The choice of dumplings is yet another fundamental matter. Smoked pork is served with slices of potato dumplings, while roasted pork is served with either bread dumpling, or a mix of bread and potato dumplings. 4-8 slices are usually served. Czech dumplings, unlike their Bavarian cousins, are shaped into a foot-long cylinder and boiled whole, then sliced before serving. Bavarian dumplimgs are shaped into tennis-ball-size spheres, cooked and cut in half before serving. These seemingly superficial differences are nevertheless as profound as preferring your New Orleans gumbo with or without roux, o choosing between green or red chili in New Mexico ...
Decent (and we do mean decent) lager beer is the natural accompaniment to this dish.
Last updated: October 12, 2010