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Pennsylvania Dutch Pork and Sauerkraut for New Year's Day

A descendent of great cooks, I carry on their traditions in my own kitchen.

Pork and sauerkraut is a mouthwatering start for the new year.

Pork and sauerkraut is a mouthwatering start for the new year.

Pennsylvania Dutch Heritage

Southern Pennsylvania is rich in Pennsylvania Dutch tradition, and nothing expresses it better than the delectable ethnic foods of this region. Whether it's the aroma of cinnamon laced into thick-crusted apple dumplings, a pot of hearty ham potpie, or sauerkraut heaped onto an ordinary hot dog, the translation of German-origin foods shows up at most festivals and family potlucks.

Cook Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

25 min

4 hours

4 hours 25 min

6 servings

Ingredients

For the stew:

  • approx. 2 pounds pork roast or unseasoned pork loin
  • 3 (15-ounce) cans sauerkraut
  • 1/8 cup brown sugar

For the dumplings:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 3 tbps melted butter
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. Place the pork roast or unseasoned pork loin in a 4-quart (or larger) Crock-Pot. Use the high setting and cook the roast until it can be separated with a fork, about 2 hours.
  2. Add sauerkraut, brown sugar, and 1/2 cup of water to the pot. Cook for another 1 hour or until the meat falls apart easily when poked with the fork.
  3. Prepare dumplings: In a medium-size bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir in the melted butter and milk. Stir together just until the dry ingredients are moistened.
  4. Drop spoonfuls of the sticky batter onto the bubbling stew, cover, and allow to cook until when sliced open, the dumplings are cooked through and fluffy, not doughy.
What's the difference between pork and ham? Pork is fresh meat, whereas ham is cured. This dish is made with fresh pork, not ham.

What's the difference between pork and ham? Pork is fresh meat, whereas ham is cured. This dish is made with fresh pork, not ham.

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Sauerkraut is a German superfood

Sauerkraut is a German superfood

New Year's Tradition

Pork and sauerkraut is New Year's tradition in Pennsylvania, and the pungent sweet smell of fermented cabbage laced with stewing pork is a memory that immediately makes the taste buds engage. Beginning in the afternoon on New Year's Eve until the fading hours of New Year's Day, every festivity will center around this cozy, hearty dish. Some will add hot dogs to the stew, others will layer the bubbling broth with dumplings.

In my family, we had both. My grandmother made her dumplings from flour, baking soda, and butter for many years, but eventually she found a pre-made version that suited the family just fine. Refrigerated biscuits became the new era of dumplings, and the family consumed them faster than she could drop them onto the stew. The dumplings add a soft smooth texture that simmers over the bubbling meat and vegetables underneath.

Crock-Pots vary in cooking speed. Follow the directions for cooking times for your pot, but the meat should separate with a fork when done. That's when it is time to add the sauerkraut.

Crock-Pots vary in cooking speed. Follow the directions for cooking times for your pot, but the meat should separate with a fork when done. That's when it is time to add the sauerkraut.

A Promise for the New Year

Welcoming in the new year in Pennsylvania begins on New Year's Eve with the promise of prosperity, money, and a long life cooked up in the sweet and sour tang of sauerkraut. Sauerkraut is a fermented form of shredded cabbage aged in a salt brine that promises prosperity equal to the number of shredded green leaves in this tangy vegetable dish.

The Pennsylvania Dutch, descendants of German immigrants, have served pork and sauerkraut on New Year's for generations to symbolize luck and the promise of wealth in the year to come. Because a pig roots forward instead of backward, pork represents moving ahead while the shredded green leaves of the sauerkraut promise lots of money in the new year.

Dumplings are a drop mixture that cooks on top of the hot bubbling stew.

Dumplings are a drop mixture that cooks on top of the hot bubbling stew.

Use a 4-quart or larger Crock-Pot

Use a 4-quart or larger Crock-Pot

© 2021 Patty Poet

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