We had Pennsylvania Deutsch pork sauerkraut yesterday. This is the third consecutive year that AB has made this traditional dish to mark the start of the new year.

Pennsylvania Dutch pork sauerkraut

Today, it is more commonly known as “Pennsylvania Dutch pork sauerkraut” as the word “Deutsch” (the German endonym) sounds like “Dutch” in English.

The German connection is due to the large number of German-speaking immigrants in Pennsylvania, starting from the 17th century. This included Moravians from Bohemia and Moravia, Mennonites from Switzerland and French Huguenots from Alsace-Lorraine.

Eating Pennsylvania Dutch pork sauerkraut on New Year’s Day, ideally as the first meal of the day, is believed to bring good luck.

While chickens tend to scratch backwards and cows stay in position when looking for food, a pig uses its snout to dig in the ground in a forward direction. This action of moving forward is regarded to be an auspicious way to start the first day of the year. Plus, pigs, being plump and having plenty to eat, are associated with prosperity and abundance.

The first time AB made it, we roasted the pork with the sauerkraut for three hours. Since then, we’ve extended the cooking time to more than seven hours to let the flavours soak in. Mmmm.

Pennsylvania Dutch pork sauerkraut

This time we used a ‘regular’ pork filet and a more expensive filet that came from an Iberian pig to see what the difference would be. The results were striking – the Iberian pork was more tender and flavourful with a nice amount of fat.

We were going to put away the leftovers of this delicious New Year dinner when I had the idea to use some of the sushi rice that we had made in the afternoon to make onigiri.

Yup, you read right – onigiri with pork and sauerkraut!

Traditionally, an onigiri (Japanese rice ball) is filled with salty or sour ingredients such as umeboshi (pickled ume), kombu no tsukudani (kombu seaweed in soy sauce), tarako (salted cod) and okaka/katsuobushi (bonito flakes).

That said, you can make an onigiri with any filling that you like, ideally something that would go well with sushi rice. I’d avoid ingredients that are too greasy or wet.

Anyhow, pork and sauerkraut in an onigiri sounds like a good idea to me. After all, sauerkraut is pickled and pork is a common ingredient in a donburi (Japanese rice-bowl dish).

Making an onigiri is easy. If you don’t have one of those triangular plastic onigiri makers, just make them by hand. For the latter, it is easy if you have plastic wrap (or cling wrap) to help shape the rice ball. Otherwise, just make sure that you’re handling the rice with wet hands so that the grains don’t stick to your hands.

Onigiri with pork and sauerkraut

You can shape the onigiri into a ball or a triangle. Either way is fine as long as it fits into your palm.

Onigiri with pork and sauerkrautKeeping the onigiri wrapped in plastic film prevents the rice from drying out. Otherwise you’ll be eating a tough, dry lump the next day!OnigiriTo accompany my pork-sauerkraut onigiri, I made a salad with mustard dressing with beetroot and pickled celery. I’m happy to say that the tart sauerkraut and tasty morsels of pork went well with the Japanese rice. Oishii!

Is there a traditional dish that you’d eat to celebrate the new year? What would you do with the leftovers (if there were any)? 


4 replies on “What has onigiri to do with pork and sauerkraut?

  1. This post is a work of art, Angelina! Everything about it: Your reflections on the history of Pennsylvania, your discussion of how animals search for their food (and how that translates into symbolism for us humans), and your musings about the preparation of your beautiful meal(s). Plus, your photos! Wow. Thank you so much for taking the time to write and share this. You may yet inspire me to head into the kitchen in 2015! 🙂 I wish you and AB a very happy, very prosperous New Year.

    1. Thanks Heather and am glad that you enjoyed reading this post! Happy new year to you too and you’ve still got some 360 days to venture into the kitchen for 2015 😉

  2. He (German-Canadian) and I do not come from turkey dinner family traditions, so our Christmas and New Year’s Day dinners are eclectic every year. Whatever we feel like. Seafood, bison (high quality in Alberta), etc.

    I can see the appeal of sauerkraut with a rice dish twist…the fermented cabbage is similar to some of the other Asian fermented veggie stuff. Well sort of. Less spicy.

    My blog has some Asian fusion homemade recipes –sautéed bison marinated in soy sauce, maple syrup, etc. (his invention), stir fried beet greens (mine), berry focaccia with ginger root, etc.

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