A Look Back: How PA Dutch Are You: Did you eat your good luck pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s Day?

Authorís daughter, Kylie 7, partaking in the consumption of a good luck pork and sauerkraut meal.
Authorís daughter, Kylie 7, partaking in the consumption of a good luck pork and sauerkraut meal.

This folk practice still creates a yearning, especially among our older folk people and those still appreciative of our heritage and a good, hot Pennsylvania Dutch meal. Many Dutch families over the generations and years never forget this dish on New Year’s Day and eagerly partake in the consumption of pork and sauerkraut. In Berks and Lehigh counties, natives raised and ate a huge quantity of potatoes and cabbage that was also a common and cheap dish eagerly eaten by the farming class of people. But anyone native to this culture also enjoys eating pickled cabbage and coleslaw, besides our national folk dish of pork and sauerkraut. As with all ethnic food dishes, the difference though between a good pork and sauerkraut vs. mediocre types, is if the dish was prepared by a PA Dutch housewife who followed a gourmet recipe.

Another popular dish among the Pennsylvania Dutch, not to be forgotten is our chicken pot pie but not on New Year’s Day as a good luck meal. As an active collector of PA Deitsch antiques in our vast Dutch country, I frequently see or read of a notice hosting a typical PA Dutch pork and sauerkraut dinner or chicken pot pie or ham and string beans at a Church social hall, and am reminded about how many local farm auctions in which I’ve attended where I seen many sauerkraut tools among the PA Deitsh. Not only large wooden cabbage slicing boards, but many huge sauerkraut crocks used to ferment this popular farming dish; and their counterparts, long handle huge wooden stumpers in which farmwives and children pressed down various layers of shredded cabbage to ferment properly to be eaten with potatoes and pork in the cold winter months.

The family supply of pork was raised in their pig stable where the piglets were often fed with table scraps from the household wastes. Hogs were an integral part of the PA Dutch diet, including fresh or smoked sausage, popularly used in sausage stews, as well appreciated in cold, winter months. But a “good,” frugal Dutch family never wasted anything including pig parts and their prized crocks of sauerkraut. So on New Year’s Eve, it is not surprising that a frugal or wise Dutch family decided to eat the last remaining kraut that had been fermenting from the previous season. It is a Dutch proverb that a successful Dutchman would eat pork and sauerkraut to bring him good luck in the ensuing New Year, but many of our folk people still subscribe to the adage “Waste Not, Want Not!”

Locals also have the luxury of dining at the firehouse social quarters on the weekends or take quarts of their popular pot pie home to be eaten later. Many of these talented PA Dutch farmwomen who run these Volunteer Fire Company kitchens, auction kitchens, and fundraising events are admired for their congeniality, generosity and cooking abilities. As well as for their husbands who actually fight neighborhood fires in the community, thereby becoming a social force for good in a vast rural territory in some parts of Berks. Although these pot pie sales and farmer / firefighters have declined in numbers over the years, one needs only to look in their local merchandiser or newspaper to still find quality pot pie.

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With a number of mostly senior citizen cooks who have backed these organizations and local fire company kitchens, retiring from civic organizations, we can only hope they have passed their recipes down to their daughters, granddaughters, and other kin. Traditional PA Dutch menus, which were once popular in the Dutch Country, have unfortunately gone by the wayside in numbers coupled with how our early culinary ethnicity has been replaced by fast food chains, catering to and more convenient to younger generations in rush rush times, but it doesn’t mean we still can’t indulge at a local Dryville, Lyons, Pikeville, Virginville Hotel, Kutztown and Trexlertown fire company or Deitsch Eck that still feature these PA Dutch food dishes!