Find out why pork and sauerkraut are loved by many on January 1st.
Each year the holiday season brings a variety of traditional foods: turkey for Thanksgiving, latkes for Hanukkah, candy canes around Christmas. And just like with New Years, there are actually a whole bunch of New Year’s good luck foods from customs all over the world. In parts of the United States, pork and sauerkraut are a culinary staple on New Years Day. Why pork and sauerkraut? Here’s why some people eat this dish on the first day of the year. Plus, learn more of the best New Year’s Eve traditions to try when you ring the bell in 2022.
The origin of the pork and sauerkraut tradition
Tradition and now classic food and wine pairings can be traced back to Germany. Germans and other pig farming cultures have eaten these dishes for centuries, with immigrants bringing the tradition to the United States in the 17th and 18th centuries. People of Czech, Hungarian and Polish descent also appreciate food and wine pairings. This is why this tradition is concentrated in areas with high populations of these cultures, such as the Midwest and the Dutch country of Pennsylvania. There is no deeper meaning in eating these specific foods together, other than the fact that “the rich, fatty, and salty pork is the soul mate of tangy, lean sauerkraut,” as Eat serious the dish. But when it comes to specific foods and how they relate to the New Year, there is much more to it!
Why pork for the New Year?
Pork isn’t eaten on New Years Day just because it’s delicious – it’s also believed to bring good luck. The first reason is down to the pig itself: In order to find food, a pig takes root in the future, according to Linda Pelaccio, food historian and host of the “A Taste of the Past” podcast. “It’s good to always move forward in the next year, you don’t want to go back,” she said. Reader’s Digest. “For example, we wouldn’t eat lobster for good luck in the New Year because lobsters go backwards.” Likewise, we would skip the chicken because they scratch the ground when backing up.
Plus, Pelaccio says pork is considered good luck because it’s so high in fat, and fat signifies prosperity. Some people eat pork on the first day of the year in the hope that it will bring a lucky and prosperous year.
Finally, round foods are also considered good luck, explains Pelaccio, because the shape signifies coins and good fortune. Many traditional ways to prepare pork including an Italian dish called cotechino which is ground pork stuffed in an envelope – are cut into round pieces when ready to serve. If you want to buy some last minute food for your pork and sauerkraut New Years tradition, these are the stores that are open on New Years Day.
Why the sauerkraut on New Years?
Even though sauerkraut is served in sprigs, the cabbage it came from was round, which, as Pelaccio mentioned, is a shape that is supposed to bring good luck. It is also green, a color associated with financial prosperity. “Symbolically, so many shreds of kraut cabbage are the amount of wealth you’ll have in the New Year,” said Drew Anderson, co-founder of Cleveland Kraut. Reader’s Digest.
There are also logistical reasons why we eat sauerkraut at this time of year. According to Anderson, October and November are the peak periods for the cabbage harvest in Germany and Eastern Europe, where sauerkraut is particularly popular. At this point, the cabbage is chopped and put into barrels to begin the fermentation process.
“Usually around the New Year [Day], fresh produce is scarce, so those fermentation barrels are tapped and the good things start to flow, ”says Anderson. “The underlying health benefits of consuming kraut also contribute to this tradition, as historically fermented foods were a great source of vitamin C and nutrients when fresh produce was not available. In other words, people want to start the year with a healthy meal and sauerkraut does the trick. Then here are some New Year’s jokes that will have you laughing until 2022.
- Linda Pelaccio, culinary historian and host of the “A Taste of the Past” podcast
- Drew Anderson, co-founder of Cleveland Kraut
- Eat serious: “The True Story of Traditional New Year’s Lucky Foods”
- wild brine: “WHY EAT SAUCERRUST ON NEW YEAR’S DAY”
- Heritage radio network: “Good luck with round foods for the new year and making mochi with Hiroko Shimbo”
- Union of times: “New Year’s Sauerkraut, a Pennsylvania Tradition”