We all have our New Year’s traditions. The New Year is a time of renewal and turning positive thoughts to the year ahead. In the Pennsylvania Dutch culture, the tradition is to eat pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s Day. This tradition ensures good luck for the year ahead.
I have heard of many theories on why pork and sauerkraut are consumed at New Year’s. Some say that the pig always moves forward with its feet and rooting snout. Others say that this is a time when pigs were harvested for meat, so it is a time of plenty. Likewise, long strands of kraut are said to signify a long life, or perhaps this is the time when the kraut made from fall cabbage harvests would be ready to eat. I suppose all of this is plausible. On the other hand, we have always eaten pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s Day, and why tempt fate? Plus, it’s delicious!!
I am convinced that many of my readers are already making their own kraut. My post on sauerkraut is far and away the most popular post on this blog. Making your own kraut is easy, it is inexpensive, it is healthy food full of vitamins and probiotics, and it is very, very tasty. While kraut can be made in as little as two weeks, I really prefer kraut that has fermented for at least 4 weeks, and preferably even longer. We have a 10-liter crock on our kitchen counter, and that is enough to last us almost a year. When it gets low, I will start a new batch.
The choice of pork is wide open. On New Year’s Day, we will be feasting at my brother’s house with smoked pork, garlic mashed potatoes, and his homemade kraut. We will wash that down with a beer or two, have some sweet potato pie, and then make some noise.
At home, I make pork and sauerkraut in two ways. The first is as featured in the lead picture in my sauerkraut post, a pork loin roast (bone in or boneless) surrounded by kraut. I generously salt and pepper the roast, cook in a convection oven at 325F until it is almost done, say 135F, and then place kraut around the roast to warm and soak up the meat juices while the roast finishes.
The second way I prepare pork and sauerkraut is a bit fancier, and it allows each person to select their favorite pork product…or a mixture of them all. This method is in the style of an Alsatian Choucroute Garnie, sauerkraut garnished with pork. Throughout Germany this dish is called several names such as Butcher’s Platter or Hunter’s Platter. It is a mix of different pork products served with sauerkraut. Yes, I want that!
It takes a bit of planning to make this dish. Sometimes I brine pork loin chops and then smoke then while I have The Porkulator fired up. Then I freeze those smoked chops individually to add to this dish. Different sausages are also very good in this dish, both smoked and fresh. I like a few ribs and maybe some fresh pork chops. A piece of thick cut bacon also adds a nice touch.
I start the dish by salting and peppering any of the fresh pork items, then roast them in a 325F convection oven. (350F conventional). When they brown, it is time to add the other items.
I use a lot of kraut because we all like leftovers of this dish. I use enough to make a nice pile in the middle of my roast pan. If the fresh pork items are nearly done, you may want to partially or completely submerge them in the kraut. It is a nice touch to mix some flavor elements into the kraut. Try a few juniper berries, coriander seeds, some black peppercorns, bay leaves, cloves of garlic, or even apple slices if you want a sweet touch. I don’t like to overdo it with this stuff because the kraut is the center of attention in the dish.
Place pieces of sausages and bacon on the kraut and put it back in the oven to finish.
We would typically serve this with mashed potatoes or small boiled potatoes peeled and sprinkled with parsley. I would also recommend a beer.
Viel Glück im neuen Jahr! Good luck for the New Year!!