Lucky pork and sauerkraut

A recipe that saved the author's life, not from starvation, but from his own stupidity

By Ian Knauer

Published January 7, 2010 1:20AM (EST)

This post, which also appears on his blog, comes to us from our friend Ian Knauer, chef, country boy and former food editor at Gourmet.

In the South, collard greens or cabbage, black-eyed peas and pork are thought to bring luck in the New Year and are traditionally eaten as the year changes. Pork, it is said, symbolizes forward progress since pigs root forward and their feet point forward. Honestly, these reasons are likely just excuses to eat this tasty beast, but I'm not one to turn my back on tradition.

Bringing in the new year with a healthy serving of pork is always a good way to get started and this meal is a tradition all over this country. In rural Pennsylvania, where I spent my first eve of 2010, the pork is traditionally served with sauerkraut, a custom owing greatly to the large German-immigrant population of the past 150 years. I shared this meal with a handful of cousins and a few friends during a sort of guys' weekend where I decided to test the relational theory of pork and luck.

First, let me give you the recipe:

Pork and Sauerkraut

4 onions, sliced
½ stick unsalted butter
2 Gala apples, cored and sliced
2 pounds sauerkraut, rinsed
1 (8-pound) bone-in pork butt
salt and pepper

  1. Cook the onions in a large heavy skillet with the butter and ½ teaspoon salt over medium heat, until they are well browned. This is the most labor-intensive step in this dish. You'll need to stir the onions frequently as they brown; it will take about 30 minutes.
  2. Add the onions to the kraut and apples in the bottom of a large roasting pan. Rub the pork all over with 1½ teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Cover the pan with foil and roast at 350 F for 3½ hours. Uncover the pan and continue to roast for another 30 minutes until the meat is browned and is falling off the bone.

Here's a video of the finished product staring down one of my cousins, Leif:

 After we ate the pork I decided to test the pork-brings-good-luck theory by jumping over a bonfire:

 I broke my ankle, in three places. The pork worked! It may not cure stupidity, but thanks to its magical luck, I managed to get away without being set on fire! 

Ian Knauer

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