Long before I began celebrating New Year's Eve flitting from party to party, I stayed at home with my parents and siblings, all of us glued to the television set waiting for the Times Square ball to drop at exactly midnight. At that moment my mother would instruct us to open the front and back doors of our little house, one to welcome the New Year in and the other to shoo the old year out. Then we'd each eat an obligatory bite of sauerkraut. Who thinks this stuff up?
Eating sauerkraut on New Year's Eve is supposed to bring good luck in the new year, according to Pennsylvania Dutch tradition. Fifty some years of good and bad luck later I've finally decided to get to the bottom of the tradition. From the information I gathered, pork from a fat hog and the green of the cabbage, like the color of money, symbolizes riches, prosperity and abundance. The pig also stands for progress as a forward-rooting (and thinking) animal.
As to whether any of this information would stand up in court, who knows, but I did learn some interesting facts about sauerkraut. Scientists have found that it's good for the immune system, a possible cancer inhibitor, a digestive aid and a flu fighter, four very compelling, and I'd say lucky, reasons to eat it often. Here are a few delicious recipes, aside from traditional pork and sauerkraut, to help you do just that.
Have a happy healthy new year!
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup bottled Thousand Island dressing
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (8-ounce) package Swiss cheese, shredded
5 ounces corned beef, finely diced
2 cups sauerkraut, drained and chopped
Directions: Mix mayonnaise, dressing and cream cheese. Add Swiss cheese, corned beef and sauerkraut. Spoon mixture into greased 9-inch pie pan. Bake in 375 degree oven for 35 minutes, or until golden in color. Serve with party rye bread or crackers.
Short rib and Kraut Soup
1 (14-ounce) can sauerkraut
1 (16-ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 pounds beef short ribs
2 pounds beef soup bones
3 quarts water
2 cups chopped carrots
2 cups chopped celery
8 cups cabbage, shredded
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup chopped onion
2 bay leaves
1 T. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
Sugar, to taste
4 T. lemon juice
1 cup sour cream
Directions: In large soup pot place the water, short ribs and bones. Add carrots, onion, celery, cabbage, garlic, tomatoes, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil.
Skim off top layer of foam with slotted spoon. Reduce heat to simmer and cook, covered for 2 hours or until meat is tender. Remove soup bone; add sauerkraut, lemon juice, and sugar to taste. Add more water if needed. Cover and simmer 1 hour longer.
Pour into bowls and serve with a dollop of sour cream.
Kraut, Sausage and Mashed Potatoes
6 slices fatty bacon, chopped
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced
1 quart sauerkraut, undrained
1 to 2 (14.5-ounce) cans chicken broth
1 (12-ounce) can or bottle beer
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
Brown sugar, to taste
6 fresh bratwurst, 1 pound kielbasa, cut into 6 pieces, or 12 hot dogs
Directions: Place chopped bacon in a large unheated saucepan.
Fry over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until bacon browns. Add onions and fry until soft. Add kraut and saute to heat through then add 1 can chicken broth, beer, pepper and garlic. Bring to boil, then lower heat and simmer 30 to 40 minutes, or until kraut is tender. Add more broth if liquid reduces too much. Taste and add brown sugar, a tablespoon at a time, if needed.
Place sausages under the kraut, cover and cook another 15 minutes. Serve with mashed potatoes. Serves 6.
Bratwurst Cabbage Melts
4 unsplit rolls or hot dog buns
1/4 cup country-style Dijon mustard
12 slices deli Swiss cheese
1/4 cups sauerkraut
4 cooked bratwurst
Directions: Heat broiler. Split rolls lengthwise, cutting to but not through back of roll. Place rolls onto ungreased baking sheet. Broil 5 to 6 inches from heat until rolls are toasted (3 to 4 minutes.) spread 1 1/2 teaspoons mustard onto cut sides of rolls.
Meanwhile, heat bratwurst according to package directions. To assemble each sandwich, layer 1 slice cheese, 1 hot bratwurst and 1 tablespoon sauerkraut. Top each sandwich with 2 slices cheese. Continue broiling until heated through and cheese is melted. Serves 4.