Everyone, I’m sure has their own New Year’s traditions. Southerners eat black-eyed peas (which resemble coins), Italians eat lentils (which, again, look like coins), some eat fish (fish swim forward, therefore, by eating fish you can move forward in the new year), greens (kale, cabbage, collard greens, because green=money) and of course pork (since pigs root around and push their snouts forward). Growing up in my family, my grandmother, who is of German descent, believed firmly in eating pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s day. Grammy’s secret to making sauerkraut more palatable was to sprinkle brown sugar over it. Any New Year’s that I stopped by for a visit this dish is what she would have in the oven. As kids, my sister, brother, and I were never really excited to eat sauerkraut. It smelled so bad, kinda like sweaty feet. But my sweet Grammy would make all of us eat at least one bite of sauerkraut (which was usually mixed in with mashed potatoes) to give us luck in the coming year. As I got older and my tastebuds changed, I began to warm up to sauerkraut, happily eating it on New Years. Sadly, to this day, neither of my siblings upholds the tradition of pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s. I have been faithful to this tradition, though. Even in college, I would make pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s day for myself and any friends who wanted to join me. Grammy would be so pleased when I would call to wish her a happy New Year and to let her know that I was being a good German girl by eating my pork and sauerkraut.
Now, it’s my turn to make sure that my boyfriend, who isn’t a fan of sauerkraut, eats at least one bite on New Year's for good luck. Usually, I’m the one who ends up eating the sauerkraut leftovers, but this year that all changed. My boyfriend actually willingly ate 2 servings of sauerkraut, and even ate most of the leftovers. I was shocked and happy. I tweaked my methods slightly this year and came up with how I will probably prepare my sauerkraut next year. Also, I noticed that this year my kitchen didn’t reek of cabbage, nor did the refrigerator. I’m not sure what my luck was, but I’m going to guess it was from the apple and apple juice I added this year.
Pork and Sauerkraut
4 boneless pork chops
1 bag sauerkraut
1 apple, cored and sliced (I used a gala)
Brown sugar, to taste
Cinnamon, to taste
Apple juice or apple cider
Season both sides of each pork chop with salt and pepper. Sear in skillet over med-high heat until each side is lightly browned.*
Put some sauerkraut in the bottom of a baking dish, and sprinkle with brown sugar, then assemble the pork chops in dish. I laid the apple slices around the pork and sprinkled them with cinnamon and brown sugar. Then top the pork chops with the rest of the sauerkraut, and sprinkle with brown sugar.
Pour some apple juice or cider over everything (I didn’t measure, but I think I used about 1/3 c). Cover with foil and bake in oven at 350F until the pork is cooked through. My pork chops were thick so this took about 45 minutes.
When I check the pork for doneness (after about 30 min), I also test the sauerkraut to make sure it’s no longer sour, but nicely sweetened. If it still tastes sour I just sprinkle more brown sugar over it.
I baked the pork uncovered for the last 5-10 minutes to reduce the apple juice a bit. Serve and enjoy a New Year filled with luck.
*Note: sometimes I don’t sear the pork, I just put it into the dish and let it bake. It’s up to you and if you want to dirty another dish