Phelps NY Sauerkraut Festival Brings the Best of Unique Recipes

PHELPS — Really, its main entry is Bloody Mary-inspired only, Rayne Hammond-Benz promised, and not some concoction dreamed up from too many Bloody Mary drinks on a Sunday morning.

But Hammond-Benz’s Bloody Mary-inspired sauerkraut bread pudding, with horseradish-garlic aioli and a little Liberty Moonshine from Phelps’ Smokin’ Tails distillery, which is baked, has- she noted, sounded like a dream when judges rated this and other sauerkraut appetizers, starters and desserts.

Sauerkraut, after all, is the inspiration for the Phelps Sauerkraut Weekend, which has just completed its 55e year.

The recipe competition – Hammond-Benz’s dish won in the main course category – is one of the events that tests the skills and creativity of home chefs in the city and beyond.

“I thought it was a fun way to participate and get creative with an ingredient that we don’t often think deeply about,” Hammond-Benz said.

For many, if they think of sauerkraut, it’s definitely not something you’d think of including in anything other than a topping for a hot dog, and certainly not for a dessert.

Think again. Seventeen-year-old Lauren Leasor’s lemon-raspberry kraut cake won the dessert category.

Sauerkraut, as an ingredient, is very underrated, said Bobbi Beniamino, who took over this year as the competition’s chief judge and who in the past has won for the appetizer, a Reuben braid and the dessert, sauerkraut brownies.

“They wanted to get rid of the competition,” cracked another judge, Diane Smith.

Beniamino knows her stuff when it comes to sauerkraut, which she admits is an underrated ingredient.

First, it’s chewy and versatile, so it can easily be substituted for zucchini in recipes that call for it. And often you can’t even taste the kraut, she says.

So why this reluctance, perhaps because it really is fermented cabbage?

“I think they’re scared to use it,” Beniamino said. “A lot of people don’t like sauerkraut. They put it on their hot dogs but they don’t think to use it in their recipes.

Hammond-Benz is in the camp loving it, and in addition to her winning recipe, she’s also made Sauerkraut Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and Sauerkraut Pickle and Bacon Soup.

“Sauerkraut is great,” Hammond-Benz said. “It’s sweet and savory. You can make a lot of it.”

Obviously you had to use kraut here at Phelps – they named a festival and a weekend for it, after all. But more likely, it looks like each of the recipe makers likes to use kraut, either in a contest or for a Monday night meal after work.

In each of the categories, judges looked at appearance, taste and flavor, use of farm-to-table ingredients, and originality.

And each of the dishes had it in abundance.

Bobbi Beniamino cuts Marki Michaels' Reuben naan pizza.

For an example of originality, try Marki Michaels’ dish, which topped the appetizer category. She made a Reuben naan pizza, with thinly sliced ​​kielbasa. Now it’s rethinking the old pizza.

Leasor, who would have competed for her seventh consecutive year if COVID-19 had not forced the contest to be canceled in 2020, believes she has placed in one category most of the years she has competed.

A former pro, the student from Palmyra-Macedonia is 17 – and that means she’s been doing it since she was 10.

Leasor, who doesn’t rule out being a chef one day, took top honors for his kraut cake and kraut and chicken French.

Kraut is king in Leasor’s book.

“I love the German heritage so it’s fun to participate and do cooking competitions with that element,” Leasor said.

Rayne Hammond-Benz's Bloody Mary-inspired sauerkraut bread pudding with horseradish-garlic aioli feels more like a work of art than a main course.

The cake, Beniamino said, was gorgeous. And the sauerkraut bread pudding from Hammond-Benz was also gorgeous – almost too good to eat.


Sauerkraut and Bacon Brine Soup, prepared by Rayne Hammond-Benz, seems like a good choice for lunch or dinner, whatever the season.

“She has good recipes,” Beniamino said. “They were all very good.”

I can’t beat the kraut and the dogs

A big shout out to everyone who took part in the hot dog and sauerkraut tasting contest, which was also part of the Phelps Sauerkraut Weekend. To know more, register here for the ROCFlavors newsletter.

Chris Weston, left, Kate Clement and Jonas Myhill compete in a hot dog and kraut eating contest during Phelps Sauerkraut Weekend.

Eat, Drink and Be Murphy

The Eat, Drink and Be Murphy column explores the region’s richness in food and drink — and the people who bring it to you — from soup to nuts, accented with a craft beer or Finger Lakes wine. After all, who doesn’t like to eat and drink? Email associate editor Mike Murphy at [email protected] or call 585-337-4229 with ideas and suggestions.

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