Pennsylvania Dutch Pork and Sauerkraut, A Lighter Version
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I grew up in Pennsylvania where food traditions are embedded in a serious and delicious way. I wrote more about it here.
The Pennsylvania Dutch food influence is so strong that you can guarantee that every single household in the area I’m from will be cooking the same exact dish. Pork and sauerkraut will either be on top of the stove, in the oven or in a crock pot. And, mashed potatoes will be somewhere in the kitchen often with apple sauce. It’s all so perfect together. It was the best way to start the new year on a cold day and it is served for good luck because cabbage represents prosperity (money) and pigs dig forward not backwards.
I’m not German or Swiss, but having been raised on this kind of food (next to my own Italian heritage), I feel a kindred spirit to the many dishes that make Pennsylvania one of the best food states in America, especially for delicious farm food.
If you have never had pork and sauerkraut, I hope I can open up your taste buds to a true delight of comfort food. Sauerkraut is good for the gut, as is all fermented food. Did you know that sauerkraut is considered a SUPER food with numerous health benefits. It’s perfect companion might be the hot dog for some, but I love it with pork that falls off the bone.
We always baked our sauerkraut in the oven with apples and onions and a little garlic, which gives sauerkraut a distinctive and balanced flavor. And my secret ingredient is fennel pollen. Many of the recipes I’ve read regard cloves as an important ingredient, but I find cloves a bit too overpowering. The fennel pollen, however, is quite complimentary to the pork. Fennel pollen is a special ingredient and a good substitute is the more easily available fennel seed which can be toasted in a frying pan and then ground in a magic bullet or with pestle and mortar.
The SKINNY here is the cut of lean pork used yields very little fat and calories and sauerkraut itself is almost calorie free. Using boneless country ribs, and a dutch oven, this is a guilt free, yet hearty enough dish to start the new year off on the right foot.
I used bags of silver floss sauerkraut which is what I had growing up. Avoid the canned.
To make it leaner than usual, I used lean, boneless country ribs. If I was going for more flavor, I would use a pork butt. The fat in a pork butt yields a more tender roast, but with a lot more calories. I built my flavors with garlic, onion, shallots, and fennel pollen.
After the meat was browned on top of the stove, it was put in a dutch oven with sauerkraut, apples, shallots, onions and garlic and chicken broth. It was placed in the oven at 325 for four hours.
Once the pork was tender (in this case a slow cook of four hours), I placed it under the broiler for 5 minutes topped with a few thinly sliced apples.
Serve with homemade mashed potatoes and applesauce. This is a much leaner version that what I grew up with. Our pork and sauerkraut usually came with dumplings, but I’ll leave that to the farm folks that deserve to eat that way because they work so hard. This is the meal for New Year’s Day that rings in luck in the community. Tell me what foods do you have to eat on New Year’s Day to ensure a good year.
Pennsylvania Dutch Pork and Sauerkraut, A Lighter Version
- 2 pounds lean boneless country ribs
- 6 garlic cloves
- fennel pollen to sprinkle on meat or 1 tablespoon of fennel seeds divided.
- olive oil
- 2 bags silver floss sauerkraut
- 1 large or 2 small apples
- 1 medium onion
- 2 shallots
- apple cider vinegar
- chicken broth
- sea salt pepper
- Fry garlic cloves in enough olive oil to cover large dutch oven or frying pan. Remove garlic.
- Sprinkle pork with salt, pepper and fennel pollen or ground fennel seed. If you can't find fennel pollen, take fennel seeds and toast in a frying pan, and then grind in magic bullet or use a pestle and mortar. Use just enough to sprinkle meat to season.
- Brown on both sides. Put into the oven at 325 and bake for 30 minutes. Rinse sauerkraut in cold water and quickly drain. This removes some of the sodium and is an option.
- Add in two tablespoons apple cider vinegar, chopped apples, onions, shallots, remaining garlic cut in half only, salt and pepper.
- Cover pork with sauerkraut and add one cup chicken broth.
- Cover and bake for 3 hours or until pork is fork tender. Don't let the pot get dry. You might need to add in a little more water or broth. I used a good dutch oven with lid on and didn't need to add in any water.
- You can serve right from the pot with the juice or remove to baking pan or cast iron skillet and place under broiler for five minutes along with slices of fresh apple.
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Loved this lightened up version. One of my favorites for fall. Do you, by chance know how to make farina dumplings with cream of wheat? I grew up in Western Pennsylvania also, and my mom used to make them for me all the time. It’s one recipe I did not get from her before she passed and I would love to make them. I tried one recipe I found online but they don’t work very well
Made this during the winter storm last night (3/3/19). On the whole is was a good meal, not delicious as I thought it would be. A few comments. The timing of 3 hours at 325 was way off, as it was fork tender in about 90 minutes. Recipe mentions six cloves of garlic, fry them, remove them Then talks about the “remaining garlic.” I assumed that it was the previously browned garlic returned to the pot. Also, what size sauerkraut? Wegmans near me only sells the 32 oz bags. It seemed like A LOT of sauerkraut with two 32 oz bags.
We have pork n kraut a lot not just for New Years. We never added any apples or seasons just salt and pepper.Although my family is all but gone , my brother makes kraut every year, homemade is the best, nothing like store bought. Homemade bread, mashed potatoes and applesauce , noting from cans I come from Pennsylvania Dutch family, and we would have kraut and dumplings with the leftovers. Nothing gets wasted. I grew up in the village of Mable and town of Ashland Pa. sure do miss those days.
Thanks for writing. My mom likes to put the dumplings in the kraut.
I grew up eating kraut and pork!!! In lean times it was even hot dogs. And can’t forget the mashed potatoes, so good to mix in!! Sunday dinners at grandmas house always have good memories. I haven’t convinced my daughter to eat kraut, she doesn’t know what she’s missing!!
Btw….I grew up in Kansas. Quite a long way from Pennsylvania. Us German folk are everywhere!!
We were originally from Pennsylvania so our tradition is pork and sauerkraut for New Years dinner. Love it with a pork roast and of course with hot dogs. Cannot forget the mashed potatoes and applesauce. We may live in New York for the last 20 years but that is still our New Years dinner.
My family is from Western PA, but the pork and sauerkraut tradition is strong there as well. Such a great tradition!
It looks like a delicious meal. I’ve only had canned sauerkraut, so it sounds like I’ve been missing out.
Love, love, love this! I haven’t had this dish in a while but sauerkraut and pork will definitely be on my next shopping list. I agree with you re fennel (I like the seeds) and the cut of pork you used…plus I think the thin apple crisps was pure genius, my friend.
Une choucroute de chez nous
Je te présente tous mes vœux pour cette nouvelle année
I love sauerkraut and it’s also a very traditional dish around here. Love your skinny version!
I wish you all the best for 2012 Angela!
I adore really good sauerkraut! It’s so delicious but the not so good one, well it can put some off it entirely. Delicious dish Angela! And a Happy New Year! 😀
This recipe reminds me of what my German Grandmother made. It looked so good that I had to copy it. Plus the light version is a good idea especially after all those rich meals this holiday season. I usually buy the “Agrosik” kraut from Poland in the big jar at an Eastern European market near my apartment. They truly make the best if you can find it. Thanks.
I would certainly love to taste this special dish and definitely appreciate your light version! Happy new Year!
What a delicious start to 2012! Yumm! The sauerkraut and pork are definitely in a perfect union here Angela…love the “lighter” version of this too! All the best to you and your family for 2012!
Well it sounds like we both grew up in Pa. and it was nice to see someone write about the great comforting food in that area.
I do some type of pork; either the pork with sauerkraut or ribs of some sort. Since I no longer live in Pa. I make something in tune to where I am residing at the time. This year it will be barbecued ribs for NY’s eve and Prime Rib for dinner tomorrow.
Thanks for the great article about the area I know so well.
Adele after eating all over the United States and living in California and Tennessee, I realize how great the food of Pennsylvania is. And part of it is probably the rich farmland. Cheers to you with that Prime Rib, another favorite of mine. Nice to meet another Pennsylvania gal.
I find cabbage a super comforting dish. Apples make it even better. Happy New Year. GREG