New Year’s Day in Berks County, Pennsylvania means one thing. Folks in home kitchens, fire halls, and other community centers are simmering pork and sauerkraut. It’s the traditional good luck meal to ring in the new year.

My grandmother made this dish every year. We gathered around our large kitchen table that my grandfather crafted by hand to enjoy each other’s company and renew our hope for better, easier times. We didn’t know the history of the dish, but it didn’t matter. It was branded into our DNA. Brought over by our ancestors. And it kept us rooted and appreciative of our commonality.

William Woys Weaver, Pennsylvania’s leading culinary historian, explains, “Pork and sauerkraut didn’t start out as the fixed dish connected with New Year’s Day. Instead, it was an outgrowth of the mid-winter feasting associated with butchering the family hogs. At that time, usually near Christmas, families invited relatives and hosted big dinners. When home butchering declined in the later 1800s, the big pork dinner tradition simply continued, either for Christmas or New Year’s.”

When Phil and I opened August First, we stuck to a philosophy. Focus on food that makes you feel good. As I thought about sharing my family’s traditional pork and sauerkraut recipe, I remembered how, while it tasted great, it often left me feeling heavy and tired. So, I started a new tradition in our home. A lovely dish of slow braised mushrooms and sauerkraut.

The technique of shredding and flash roasting oyster mushrooms creates a chewy, crunchy meat-like texture that rounds out the dish. With an assortment of mushrooms that can be found at most supermarkets, common herbs, fresh sauerkraut, this dish is bright and healthy.

It’s certainly a good harbinger for a new year full of abundance, health and joy.

Mushrooms

Jodi's Family

Oyster Mushrooms

Braised Mushrooms

Braised Mushrooms and Sauerkraut

A traditional Pennsylvania Dutch New Year's dinner to bring an abundance of health and joy.
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Servings 4 people

Ingredients

For the Braised Mushrooms

  • 1 lb oyster mushrooms, shredded lengthwise by hand
  • 6 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 2 large shallots, sliced into ¼" rounds
  • 3 large portobello mushroom caps, wiped with damp towel and cut into 1" chunks
  • ½ lb shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, wiped with damp towel, sliced
  • ½ lb button or baby bella mushrooms, wiped with damp towel, chopped into ½" chunks
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried sage
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • ½ cup red wine
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • ½ cup water
  • salt and pepper

For the Easy PA Dutch Sauerkraut

  • 16 oz sauerkraut, ideally from refrigerated section of store
  • 1 apple, cored and sliced into 8 pieces

Instructions

For the Braised Mushrooms

  • Pre-heat the oven to 400°F.
  • Place shredded oyster mushrooms on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Roast the oyster mushrooms on the top rack of the oven, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms just start to crisp, about 18-20 minutes. Remove and set aside.
  • Lower oven temperature to 325°F and carefully reposition rack to lower third of the oven.
  • While oyster mushrooms are cooking, heat ¼ cup of olive oil in a heavy, oven-proof pot over medium-high heat.
  • Add the shallots and ¼ teaspoon of salt, and lower temperature to medium-low. Saute, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes, or until soft.
  • Add the portobello mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, button mushrooms, thyme, sage, and garlic. Saute for 1 minute to release flavors, then add red wine, balsamic vinegar, water, ¼ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper. Stir gently.
  • Increase heat to medium-high. When liquid begins to simmer, remove from heat. Add the oyster mushrooms and do not stir. Cover the pot and place in oven.
  • Bake for 30 minutes, checking at 20 minutes to see if more liquid is needed.

For the Easy PA Dutch Sauerkraut

  • Heat sauerkraut and apple slices in a saucepan over medium-high heat until just simmering.
  • Lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring frequently, until sauerkraut is soft and the apple has dissolved.
  • Serve mushrooms and sauerkraut with mashed potatoes.

Happy New Year!

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