Is it weird that I like the smell of sauerkraut?
Yesterday I walked out into my office kitchen and my coworker was microwaving leftover pork and sauerkraut for lunch. Mmmm…I told her I loved the smell of sauerkraut but I didn’t understand the whole sauerkraut and pork thing on New Years. She asked me if I had it on New Years, to which I replied, “no,”and she told me I would have bad luck this year.
Well if that’s the case then I must have had bad luck my whole life except the one New Years where I met my husband’s extended family for the first time (though my taste-buds would beg to differ). He was my boyfriend at the time and we were getting to be pretty serious, so I was attempting to make a good impression. His family is from the Reading area so they also observe some of these crazy Pennsylvania Dutch traditions.
We went to his Grandmother’s house for New Year’s dinner as was tradition in his family. I piled my plate high with sauerkraut and stared quizzically at the pork paired with it. You see, my entire family is Polish and we eat our sauerkraut with Polish sausage. I shrugged off the odd pairing and bit in. I immediately realized something else was different, at which time I imagine I made the same face as I do after biting into the center of a Lemonhead. This stuff was SOUR! Much more sour than I’d ever remembered! Tears may have been forming in my eyes as I tried to eat the whole plate, attempting to avoid offending my future in-laws. It made for an interesting meal and meeting of the future in-laws.
After the meal, I called my mom and asked her what was wrong with these people’s taste-buds? After a few minutes of laughter on the other end of the line, I learned that apparently we rinse the sauerkraut several times (and add barley) to make the sour taste milder. Unfortunately, I learned the hard way that I can’t handle my kraut full strength.
As for the pairing with pork, it’s not bad. I do prefer the Polish sausage though, it’s what I grew up eating. Sauerkraut and sausage is actually a big tradition in my family, hence the title of my post. When I smelled it cooking in the house I knew we were going to have a big family meal. We have it at every Holiday, even Thanksgiving! Except New Years, apparently. I wonder what my husband thought the first time he bit into the Polish version? Probably not as big of a shock as the sour version was for me.
I had never understood why most people don’t like the taste of sauerkraut, but I did after I had the full strength version. If you’d like to observe the PA Dutch tradition but have never much cared for sauerkraut portion of the deal, I would suggest trying to rinse it out a couple of times before you cook it. And add barley. You might like it.
Anyway, I can’t think of any New Year’s food traditions that my family does other than seafood on New Year’s Eve. Are there any other PA Dutch traditions I’m missing out on? Anyone care to explain the significance of the pork paired with sauerkraut?
Update: Thanks to the kind people over at York Weekend I believe I will be celebrating the PA Dutch New Years tradition next year. But with a chocolate-lovers twist: pork with a side of sauerkraut-laced chocolate cake. You think I’m kidding? Check out the chocolate cake recipe York Weekend sent.