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Susquehanna Life

Cooking at Home: Good Luck Pork and Sauerkraut

By Casey Barber

Green cabbage (sauerkraut) and abundant fat of the pig (pork) symbolize riches and prosperity for the coming year, according to Eastern European or German (including Pennsylvania Dutch) traditions. What better reason to dine on this historic dish as we prepare for the New Year.

The Pennsylvania Dutch, originally German immigrants, came to America during the 17th and 18th centuries.  With them came barrels of sauerkraut, recipes and traditions, such as eating pork and kraut for good luck on New Year’s Day.

In Sauerkraut Yankees, by food historian William Woys Weaver, the folk saying goes “the boar roots forward, the rooster scratches backward,” an ancient Celtic idea that an offering to the god of good luck “would insure a plentiful harvest in the coming year.”

In Europe, farmers didn’t own much land, thus the raising of pigs, who stayed in a small area, prevailed.  Another food easily preserved for the winter season was sauerkraut. Sauerkraut, in its many forms, is enjoyed the world over and has great nutritional value. Eventually, the Germans adopted the pre-Christian idea of good luck and the kraut went with it and traveled to America. –Carole Christman Koch 

Good Luck Pork and Sauerkraut


Olive oil (optional)

3-4 pounds pork: pork butt roast, pork shoulder, bone-in loin roast or any combination

4 pounds sauerkraut in brine

1 sweet, white or yellow onion, minced

1 medium apple, peeled and diced; Macintosh, Honeycrisp, or any firm variety work well

Mashed potatoes on the side


If using a whole cut of pork, such as a roast, heat a tablespoon or two of oil in a Dutch oven or large saute pan over medium-high heat and brown the meat on all sides.

In a large Dutch oven or slow cooker, stir the sauerkraut and its brine together with the apple and onion.

Nestle the roast into the sauerkraut and assess how much liquid is in the pan. You may need to add up to 2 cups water if your kraut is fairly dry.

If using a Dutch oven, bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer, cooking low and slow for 3 to 4 hours. If using a slow cooker, cook on high for 6 hours or low for 8 hours.

When the pork is done, it will be fork-tender and falling off the bone or separating from the fat. 

Shred the pork into bite-sized pieces and discard any large chunks of fat.

Serve with mashed potatoes, if desired.

Casey Barber, a Bucknell University graduate, is a writer, traveler and artist whose editorial features, recipe development and photography have appeared on TODAY Food, The Kitchn, CNN Travel, DRAFT and other national publications.

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