If you’re a New Year’s Day purist, you’ll likely join thousands of other Schuylkill County residents in feasting on some pork and sauerkraut first thing in 2020.
We can leave the cut of pork roast you prefer most up to you. But before you go adding sauerkraut to your good luck dish, read this first.
Don’t worry. There’s a video so you won’t have to read much.
Pork and Sauerkraut on New Year’s Day for Good Luck
We can thank our Pennsylvania Dutch neighbors for this delicious New Year’s Day tradition. Pork and sauerkraut started in Germany, according to the website BillyPenn.com. The Pennsylvania Dutch settlers here in the US apparently brought this tradition with them to the New World from Europe.
And over time, the meal eventually became associated with New Year’s Day and good luck.
The luck part has something to do with how animals scratch. Turkeys scratch backwards but pigs root forward. Since you mustn’t dwell on the past, we choose to “root forward” and the best way to do that is down a pork roast to ring in the New Year.
If you’re too hung over to root forward on your own this New Year’s Day, you can always look for a Pork and Sauerkraut dinner special being hosted by a local church or fire department near you. Just get there at the beginning of the sale or you’ll likely miss out.
You don’t want to start 2020 on an unlucky empty stomach!
The Best Sauerkraut? Reach for a Jar or Can
We’ve already given you a free pass on the cut of pork roast you choose for your dinner, should you try and make pork-and-sauerkraut on your own.
And let’s be honest, making this dinner doesn’t require a whole lot of culinary skill. We like searing off the outside of a pork roast in our Dutch oven. Season it with some salt and pepper and get it browned on all sides in a little bit of oil. Sweat out some onions, de-glaze the bottom of your cooking vessel with some water or chicken stock, add the sauerkraut and pop it in the oven, set on a low temperature (about 300 degrees) and cook until done. (That will depend on the size of your pork roast.)
Serve it with a side of mashed potatoes and you can bet on good fortunes in the year ahead, surely.
Picking the Best Sauerkraut
It’s really hard to screw up the pork roast but you can make a big mistake by picking the wrong sauerkraut.
So, how do you choose the best? There are several choices. (Warning: the end of this video gets a bit weird. We’re focused on the “uh uh uh” part for our story purposes. Don’t @ us, bro.)
Cans of sauerkraut …
Glass jars of the fermented cabbage …
And clear bags of sauerkraut, too:
You can shake a stick in Schuylkill County and find half a dozen people who swear they know someone who makes the best sauerkraut you’ve ever tasted.
“Oh man, my buddy’s uncle makes the best sauerkraut. He’s got his family’s old sauerkraut crock and everything,” someone undoubtedly will say.
Well, your buddy’s uncle never seems to be around on New Year’s Day though. So, let’s go with what’s available at the store.
You’re probably going to reach for the bag, right? It just looks fresher. So, it must taste better.
According to America’s Test Kitchen host Bridget Lancaster, you won’t find the best store-bought sauerkraut in a clear plastic bag. That’s because those sauerkraut products contain preservatives you won’t find in the canned or jarred varieties.
Take, for instance, the Dietz & Watson Old Fashioned Barrel Sauerkraut. In addition to cabbage, salt, and water, you’ll find sodium benzoate and sodium bisulfate. Mmmmmmm, delicious. They’re both in it to lock in that freshness.
But as Lancaster says in the video below, it just tastes like cabbage and it’s not very good.
Now, go for her pick and ours, too. A can of sauerkraut. We picked Libby’s. It’s got just 3 ingredients inside a can: cabbage, water, and salt, in that order.
That’s all that needs to be said, other than the fact that the studio audience in the video below actually picked the sauerkraut in the glass jar but they agree, you can’t go wrong with either.
Enjoy your pork and sauerkraut meal and best of luck in the New Year!