3 Takes on New Year’s Day Sauerkraut and Pork

From Louisiana Creole cooking to Chicago deep-dish pizza and Tex-Mex out west, the U.S. is filled with various culinary staples and flavors. Some of these traditions correlate with holidays and reflect seasonal ingredients.

In western Pennsylvania and Ohio, among other areas, the tradition on New Year’s Day is to eat a dinner of sauerkraut and pork. The tradition dates back to a Pennsylvania Dutch folklore involving a pig and cabbage, according to PennLive. Pigs eat leaning forward, so the tale suggests that eating pig on the first day of the year will help you move forward throughout the year. Pork was also chosen as the cut of choice. This is because smoked meats from the pig last longer throughout the winter season. On the other hand, sauerkraut symbolizes bounty. It was chosen by the Germans who settled in Pennsylvania because it is a picked vegetable. Fresh vegetables were not in excess in the winter months in the area.

With this being said, New Year’s sauerkraut and pork does not have to be vinegary and bland. Get creative, as many chefs have done, with your New Year’s tradition. Here are three takes from chefs and home cooks across the board to serve as inspiration to your Dutch feast.

  1. Chef Emeril Lagasse, best known for his success on the Food Network, expanded on the traditional pork and sauerkraut by adding meats that compliment pork: veal sausage and ham hock. He featured his sauerkraut and pork recipe with beer as a key ingredient. Essentially, Lagasse combines amber beer, sausage, pork chops, Dijon mustard, garlic, thyme, bay leaves, onions, juniper berries and ham hocks in a Dutch oven to create a casserole of sorts to serve alongside his sauerkraut. He recommended briefly rinsing the sauerkraut in water to remove excess salt. However, the recipe warned that rinsing for too long will cause the sauerkraut to lose too much flavor. When plating, Lagasse said that each guest should get a portion of hock, sausage and pork, in addition to the sauerkraut.
  2. Williams-Sonoma had a different take on sauerkraut and pork, made with Golden Delicious apples, Chardonnay and brown sugar. The recipe gives two cooking alternatives: in the oven and in a slow cooker. The result is a meal that satisfies everyone’s senses with sweetness from the apples, sharpness from the sauerkraut and richness from the pork.
  3. Kathie Lee from the Today Show shared a straightforward recipe for pork and sauerkraut that is her family’s favorite and go-to style of sauerkraut and pork. Essentially all that is needed is pork, sauerkraut and garlic salt, roasted in a baking pan. This minimalist recipe lets the strong flavors of the pork and sauerkraut do all the talking.

Are you familiar with the tradition of eating sauerkraut and pork on New Year’s Day? What ingredients would you combine to create an innovative take on a traditional meal? Which cooking method do you think would work best?

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