For many Americans, eating pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s is as traditional as apple pie and hot dogs on the 4th of July. Pennsylvanians have long been at the forefront of those embracing this New Year’s feast, hoping to bring good luck and prosperity into the new year while paying tribute to the state’s Germanic and agricultural backgrounds. Read on to learn more about the origins of this tasty tradition and its continuing popularity as THE New Year’s Day meal and discover some of the farmers’ markets and other locations where you can find delicious and authentic, made in-PA sauerkraut.
On New Year’s Day, friends and families throughout Pennsylvania will gather to enjoy a traditional feast of pork and sauerkraut to ensure good luck and fortune in the year to come. But where did this delicious tradition come from and how did it arise?
According to a number of food historians, the tradition can be traced back hundreds of years to Germany, and well before the first Germans arrived in the then “New World” in the early 1600s. So, why pork? Along with being a readily available as many families raised pigs. By nature pigs are always looking for food, constantly “moving forward” in their search for food symbolizing moving forward in the New Year! To bring good luck (or “viel glück” in German), pork is the go-to food.
Sauerkraut is similarly associated with prosperity and good fortune. Harvested in late fall and soon after crafted into sauerkraut to provide a nutritious vegetable dish to be enjoyed in the winter months ahead, cabbage – the main ingredient in sauerkraut – is round in shape, similar to coins, and green, a sign of wealth. Consuming sauerkraut would therefore bring prosperity, or good fortune in the New Year.
And hence, the tradition began and lives on in families of Germanic and other eastern European descent. No worries if your cultural heritage lies elsewhere! This is one delicious tradition everyone is free to embrace!
What Is Sauerkraut?
Sauerkraut is basically pickled cabbage. In its purest form, it’s made by simply shredding a head of cabbage, adding salt, bottling it, and then let it ferment away. According to some recipes, you need to “massage” the cabbage and salt shreds, while others recommend stirring while others say to pound to maximize the amount of water drawn from the cabbage by the salt. Once bottled, let the magic of fermentation does the rest in about six weeks. Sauerkraut is rich in vitamins however, to boost the nutritional value even higher and enhance the taste, some recipes include red beets, carrots, onions, garlic, and even a bit of raw ginger.
What Does Sauerkraut Taste Like?
If you’ve never tasted sauerkraut, you’re probably wondering what it tastes like. As a fermented food, it’s a bit tangy and on the acidic side, salty, some say “vinegary,” definitely not sweet, but delicious nonetheless!
Find Sauerkraut in PA
Find sauerkraut and many other delicious, fresh-from-the-farm veggies, meats, fruits, and dairy items, as well as freshly made baked goods, jarred and canned fruits and vegetables, and prepared meals at Pennsylvania’s farmers’ markets and locally owned grocery stores.
You can find delicious, homemade sauerkraut crafted from locally grown cabbages at Saylor’s & Co. grocery store in Hellertown and at the Easton Public Market. They also sell an artisanal line of specialty pork from humanely raised, antibiotic- and hormone-free, premium Duroc heritage hogs raised on locally, family-owned farms certified by the American Humane Association.
You have to show up early to get in line for the delicious sauerkraut sold at Tebbs Farms & Greenhouses in Williamsport. Using a time-honored family sauerkraut recipe, tweaked a bit and perfected over the past 30 years, their sauerkraut is made from cabbages grown on the farm and fermented on site. Even avowed sauerkraut haters change their tune after just one taste!
You’ll find Schmidt's Sausage Shop’s barrel-aged sauerkraut at both its Harrisburg and Fresh Market at Hershey Towne Square locations. This small shop has been providing southcentral PA with its delicious, handcrafted fresh and smoked meat products for more than six decades.
Stop by Green Ridge Acres’ stand in Harrisburg’s Broad Street Market to pick up some of their delectable, all-organic sauerkraut and other delicious and super-healthy offerings. Along with sauerkraut, they are fully stocked with kimchi in a variety of flavors, organic meat and dairy products including freshly made ice cream that comes in a variety of seasonal and standard flavors!
Dedicated to growing and producing chemical-free, “high-integrity,” soy-free foods that you can trust, The Family Cow in Chambersburg produces a line of finely crafted fermented foods. Their Lacto Fermented Sauerkraut is made from two ingredients: cabbage and Celtic sea salt with no added preservatives beyond Mother Nature’s fermentation.
The Pickled Chef offers a variety of all-natural preservative free hand-canned and hand-packed products including pesto’s and fresh fermented sauerkraut, classic bread and butter and dill pickles, and pickled vegetables, such as green beans, radishes, ramps, beets, squash, okra and kohlrabi. A variety of condiments, conserves, jams, sauces, dressings, and kim chi style items are available.
Check out even more delicious made-in-PA fermented products found at shops throughout our various regions along our Pickled: A Fermented Trail. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest for more PA inspiration. Do not forget to sign up for our monthly Happy Thoughts e-newsletter so you never miss an update.