I feel badly for those who have never visited or lived in northeastern Ohio, because that means they've most likely never enjoyed a leisurely game of euchre or experienced the awesomeness that is a sauerkraut ball. These awesome fritters hail from Akron, the home of King James. Go to any restaurant serving Eastern European food in the Cleveland-Akron area and you’ll find these balls front and center. What wouldn’t be great about a mix of sauerkraut and meat fried to a delicious, golden crisp?
Special equipment: Large Dutch oven or other pot for frying
In a large sauté pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and garlic and cook until translucent and aromatic, about 4 minutes. Add the speck and cook until it just starts to brown, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle the rye flour over everything and cook, stirring constantly for an additional 3 minutes. Add the sauerkraut, vinegar and dill. Cook until the liquid thickens, about 5 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the contents to a baking sheet or plate, spreading it into an even layer. Chill in the refrigerator, uncovered, for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.2.
When ready to cook, line a plate with paper towels. In a Dutch oven or other pot suitable for frying, heat the rendered animal fat, suet, lard, vegetable oil or canola oil to 350°F on an instant-read thermometer. Crack the eggs into a narrow deep bowl, add the water and whisk until thoroughly combined. Place the all-purpose flour into a shallow bowl and the crushed panko into another shallow bowl.3.
Remove the sauerkraut mixture from the refrigerator and roll into ping-pong-size balls. Roll a ball in the all-purpose flour to cover it completely; shake off any excess flour. Then, dip the ball into the egg mixture. Finally, completely coat the ball in the panko. Repeat with process for all the balls.4.
Using your hands, gently and carefully drop the balls, a few at a time, into the animal fat and fry until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove from the fat and place on the prepared plate to drain. Serve the balls hot with cocktail sauce, mustard and mayo.