Did you grow up in a PA Dutch household? For those of us who live in Pennysylvania’s Americana Region, in the heart of PA Dutch country, no doubt you consumed a fair amount of pork and sauerkraut dinners. On New Year’s Day, many a home in Berks County serves this delicious combination as part of their January 1st celebrations. If you live outside of the area, maybe you wonder why pork and saurerkraut became a part of our New Year traditions. According to legend, pigs root forward, bringing good luck; so dining on pork moves people forward in the new year. Similiarly, sauerkraut, in its swollen and robust glory, symbolizes bounty for the New Year. Good luck and a plentiful bounty, isn’t that what everyone hopes for when beginning a new year.
Like most traditions, practical reasons influenced serving pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s Day, and the PA Dutch are very practical people. Farmers often slaughtered pigs at Christmas for family feasts, and because fresh meat gets eaten first, while smoked meats get consumed later in the year, it made sense to eat the fresh pork early in the year. As for sauerkraut, farmers harvested cabbage at the end of fall. Once picked, cabbage was chopped and fermented, becoming delicious sauerkraut, the perfect accompaniment for the pork. As for the mashed potatoes often served to round out the meal; potatoes store easily and are a perfect addition to the flavors.
If you’ve never shared in the PA Dutch New Year’s tradition, follow our recipe below for a guaranteed hit in any household! Serve with warm biscuits, and mashed potatoes for a yummy feast. Learn more about our unique PA Dutch culture and traditions by visiting the PA German Cultural Heritage Center and Berks History Center.
4 lb pork roast (chops or ribs can be used too)
1 lb sauerkraut
1 onion, chopped
1 apple, chopped
4 minced garlic cloves
3/4 cup brown sugar
Salt & pepper
Place roast in bottom of crock pot. Season wth salt and pepper. Rub half of garlic on roast with a little brown sugar. Combine sauerkraut, onion, half the garlic, apples, brown sugar, salt, and pepper. Surround roast with sauerkraut mix.
Put crock-pot on low for 8 hours.