Every New Year’s Day the aroma of Pork and Sauerkraut wafts through our house. Pork and Sauerkraut is a longstanding German tradition — people around the table wish each other as much goodness and money as there are strands of cabbage in the sauerkraut — and my husband Dan, who was raised Pennsylvania Dutch, carries on that tradition.
We start in late fall, my favorite time of year. Nice nip in the air, still finding some tomatoes and late summer goodies, but also starting to get greens, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage. Most of the cabbage we can get goes to sauerkraut.
Making sauerkraut is a pretty simple procedure, largely slicing and pounding. We usually start with 5 pounds or so of cabbage. You can slice the cabbage into ribbons with a sharp knife, or use a mandolin or food processor. I prefer the knife because I like the rustic texture of the less than perfect slices. Once the cabbage is sliced, mix it with Kosher salt at a ratio of three tablespoons per 5 pounds of cabbage. Allow the cabbage to rest for a while after adding the salt so that the salt can draw out some of the water.
Next, you move the salted cabbage to a large container. We use earthenware crocks which you can easily purchase online, but you could also use a mason jar or other large container. On occasion, Dan has even used the plastic buckets he used for fermenting beer. (Note: if you use a plastic bucket, make sure it is food grade) Add a bit of the cabbage at a time, in layers. You will need to pound the cabbage as you go to release the liquid. On the farm where Dan grew up, they had a special pounding stick. Dan uses his fist, but a potato masher would also do nicely. The idea is to release enough moisture to cover the cabbage. Once the container is full, you will need a weight of some sort to ensure the cabbage stays submerged under the liquid. Our crocks come with a disk-shaped stone, but a dinner plate weighed down by a clean brick or stone would also work.
Put a lid on you container and wait about six weeks. You can taste it along the way, if you like, or if you are like Dan, just forget about it and let it do its thing. Don’t worry if you see a little funky stuff on top; just skim it off and keep fermenting. In Six weeks: sauerkraut!
Now that your sauerkraut is ready, how do you eat it? Here is Dan’s New Years Day recipe.
Dan’s New Years Day Pork and Sauerkraut
We do this in a crockpot, or slow cooker, set at 12 hours so that the liquid from the sauerkraut has plenty of time to braise the pork
- 1 pound of fatty pork ribs (if you can’t find ribs, some fatty chops will do)
- 2 quarts of your sauerkraut
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- ½ of a large onion
- 1 medium apple
- 1 tablespoon of either caraway or fennel seeds (your choice)
- Brown your pork 2-3 minutes each side
- Dump 1 quart of your kraut in the slow cooker
- Top with ½ of your onion, brown sugar,apple and seeds
- Do the same with the other quart
- Put you cooker on low for 10-12 hours and let it go
You can make a fine dish out of it as is. Dan always serves it on top of mashed potatoes.
When it comes to fermenting food, we are big fans of Sandor Katz. His book, The Art of Fermentation is a tremendous resource. Here’s a short you-tube video of his that serves as a good overview of fermentation basics.