A white oval dish sits on a wooden table. It's contents include a pork roast, cooked to a golden brown, surrounded by sauerkraut.

The New Year can’t arrive soon enough for this COVID-19 weary world. As people near and far welcome 2021, many will include local traditions in their celebrations, all in the hopes of securing a healthier, happier, and wealthier year ahead. Many of these “lucky” customs revolve around food.

New Year Food Traditions

As the clock strikes midnight in Spain, the first 12 seconds of the New Year are spent eating 12 grapes that symbolize 12 months of luck. Some Asian cultures believe eating oranges and honey on New Year’s Day brings good fortune. Italians eat lentils on January 1 because the round beans resemble coins. Here in the United States, customs differ from region to region. In the South, eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day is a time-honored tradition. The peas go hand-in-hand with greens, symbolizing money and prosperity. Travel to Berks County, Pennsylvania on the first day of the year, and you’ll find families across the region dining on healthy portions of pork and sauerkraut.

PA Dutch New Year Foods

Our early German and Eastern European settlers served this delicious combination because they thought pork was lucky. Pigs root forward, and people want their lives and luck to move forward in the New Year.  Their second reason for serving pork proved more practical. Pigs were butchered in the late fall, making the fresh meat an ideal choice for New Year celebrations.  As for sauerkraut, cabbage was harvested, chopped, and fermented in the fall; and yummy sauerkraut by January. The lucky duo is often paired with mashed potatoes, a perfect accompaniment for the savory dish.

Pork & Saurkraut Recipe

If you’ve never tried this PA Dutch New Year’s tradition, follow the recipe provided for a truly tasty gastronomical experience. Learn more about our unique PA Dutch culture and traditions by visiting the PA German Cultural Heritage Center and Berks History Center.

4 lb pork roast (chops or ribs can be used too)

1 lb sauerkraut

1 onion, chopped

1 apple, chopped

4 minced garlic cloves

3/4 cup brown sugar

Salt & pepper

DIRECTIONS: Place pork roast in bottom of a roasting pan, or crockpot.  Season wth salt and pepper.  Rub half of garlic on roast with a little brown sugar.  Combine sauerkraut, onion, remaining garlic, apples, brown sugar, salt, and pepper. Surround roast with sauerkraut mix and cook on high 6-8 in crock pot. If cooking the pork in the oven, the roast should reach an internal temperature of 145 degrees to be fully cooked.