December 23, 2015
This traditional New Year's Day dinner normally comes loaded with salt and fat. We’ve found a way to make it healthier.
Many cultures and countries prepare traditional meals on New Year’s Day. Due to Lancaster County’s Pennsylvania German heritage, pork and sauerkraut is served to bring good luck and good health in the New Year.
Legend has it that pigs move forward for their food, which symbolizes moving ahead into the New Year. (One would not eat chicken or turkey since fowl scratch backwards for their food.)
Cabbage, the plentiful winter workhorse of a vegetable, became a perfect culinary pairing for pork. Made into sauerkraut, it was seen as a sign of longevity, wealth and happiness, and stored well for the entire winter.
Sauerkraut is high in fiber, vitamins A and K, and boosts the immune system with energy and iron. The fermentation needed to make sauerkraut produces live bacteria, or probiotics, which replenishes good bacteria in your gut and helps stop the growth of bad bacteria.
Fermentation of cabbage into sauerkraut, however, requires a lot of salt. Unfortunately, high sodium can lead to developing high blood pressure and heart disease (the American Heart Association recommends 1,500 mg a day). Therefore, we thoroughly drained and rinsed the sauerkraut in cold water to significantly reduce the amount of sodium.
The cut of pork and cooking style varies per each cook’s tradition. Pork chops, pork loin, spare ribs or pork butt have been used; and the meat can be braised on the stove top, roasted in the oven, or slow cooked all day, as for this recipe.
By choosing the lean and healthier pork loin, over the fattier pork butt, shoulder or roast, we reduced the cholesterol and sodium by half and the calories and fat by more than half per serving.
Pork loin is high in protein and has more B-vitamins (thiamin, niacin, B6 and B12) than many other types of meat. These vitamins help our body's metabolism and energy levels. Pork loin also has healthy doses of zinc, important for children’s growth, and selenium, important for pregnant and lactating women.
In Lancaster County, Pork and Sauerkraut would not be the same without mashed potatoes on the side. While potatoes add carbohydrates to the diet, this gluten-free vegetable has many health benefits, and with the flavorful sauerkraut there is no need to add any other ingredients than a little skim milk. In other words, no butter, cream or salt! See our recipe below.
Pork, Sauerkraut and mashed potatoes make an easy, gluten-free New Year’s Day meal. Enjoy in moderation.
Pork and Sauerkraut
- 4 lbs. pork loin, fat trimmed off top
- 1, 2 lb bag fresh sauerkraut, or 1, 1 lb. 11 oz. can (can be doubled)
- 1-2 apples, peeled and sliced
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon caraway seeds (optional)
- 1 onion sliced (optional)
- ½ teaspoon black pepper (optional)
- ½ to 1 cup water
Pork and Sauerkraut
- Heat large skillet to medium high and add 1 Tablespoon of olive oil. Sauté the pork loin on each side for a few minutes until nicely browned.
- If using onion, place slices on bottom of Crockpot.
- Place pork loin on top of onion.
- Mix together apples, sauerkraut and brown sugar. Make sure sauerkraut has been thoroughly rinsed in cold water and drained to reduce salt.
- Layer sauerkraut mixture over pork loin.
- Sprinkle with caraway seeds and black pepper, if desired.
- Pour water over the pork and sauerkraut.
- Cook on low for 8 hours.
Serve with mashed potatoes and applesauce, if desired.
Makes about 16 servings.
- Peel and dice potatoes.
- Place potatoes in large pot and cover with water.
- Bring water to a boil, then turn to medium low and simmer potatoes for about 20 minutes, or until they are very soft when pricked with a fork.
- Drain potatoes then place in mixing bowl.
- Beat with potato masher (preferred method) or electric mixer, add hot milk gradually until potatoes are the consistency you like.
Makes about 12, ½ cup servings.
Pork and Sauerkraut: Per 4 oz. serving of pork and 1 cup sauerkraut: 215 calories; 8.3g total fat (3.2g saturated, 0.8g polyunsaturated, 3.8g monounsaturated); about 800mg sodium; 55mg cholesterol; 14.7g carbohydrate; 4.2g fiber; 9.5g sugars; 22.7g protein; 628.5mg potassium.
Mashed Potatoes: Per ½ cup mashed potatoes with skim milk only: 154 calories; 0.1g total fat (0.1g saturated, 0.1g polyunsaturated, 0.0g monounsaturated); about 42.5mg sodium; 55mg cholesterol; 34.5g carbohydrate; 5.1g fiber; 3.4g sugars; 4.3g protein; 899mg potassium.