The area of Western Maryland where I grew up is home to many families of Pennsylvania Dutch, Amish and Mennonite descent, and this dish is one of my favorite memories from child – and adult – hood. It’s a recipe for Penn Dutch New Years Day Pork and Sauerkraut, which is traditionally served (shock of shocks) on Jan. 1. I make it whenever I’m in the mood for something warm and hearty, and I’ve modified it to suit my own tastes.
Cooking it in a slow cooker is the easiest way to do it, though I believe the truly traditional way is to cook it (again, shock of shocks) in a Dutch oven on the stovetop.
In your slow cooker or Dutch oven, toss in:
- One 3 – 4 pound pork loin roast
- ~27 oz. sauerkraut, preferably the bagged kind found in the deli section (I use 2 bags of Boars Head brand), or use a German brand in a jar; use with the juice, or rinse/strain it and add 1/2 can or bottle of a medium to dark beer as the necessary liquid
- 1 cored, wedged granny smith apple and/or applesauce
- 2 Tbsp brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder, or 1 tsp minced garlic (with this dish, I find garlic powder works and tastes better than fresh)
- 1 tsp dry mustard
- Salt and pepper – a dash or three, whatever you like
- 2 Tbsp cider vinegar
Cook on high for 1 hour (if possible) then continue on low for 5 – 6 hours. Toast 1-2 teaspoons of caraway seeds and add during the last hour of cooking – this is VERY, VERY important and necessary to the flavor and character of the dish.
Potato or Bisquick dumplings can be added when the pork is nearing readiness, and they will sop up the delicious sweet and savory flavors. I prefer potato dumplings prepared the German way (formed with a crouton in the center and boiled – I buy the packet of mix and follow the instructions) and I add them to the pot several minutes before serving, but my Mom always makes this dish with Bisquick dumplings by cooking them directly in the pot atop the pork and sauerkraut. Both kinds are delicious with the pork, or you can make mashed potatoes instead. Serve with applesauce, and of course a nice, big stein of beer for a super hearty way to ring in the New Year – PROOST!