A New Year’s Roast for Riches: Bacon-Wrapped Pork Loin With Cider-Braised Sauerkraut

Start the year with a traditional German American meal for wealth and good fortune
By Jennifer McGruther
Jennifer McGruther
Jennifer McGruther
Jennifer McGruther, NTP, is a nutritional therapy practitioner, herbalist, and the author of three cookbooks, including “Vibrant Botanicals.” She’s also the creator of NourishedKitchen.com, a website that celebrates traditional foodways, herbal remedies, and fermentation. She teaches workshops on natural foods and herbalism, and currently lives in the Pacific Northwest.
December 27, 2021 Updated: December 27, 2021

2021 has undoubtedly been a tough year for most of us. If you could use a little bit of luck and good fortune in the New Year, you might want to start at the dinner table.

In many New Year’s traditions around the world, the way you start the year is thought to influence the way you experience the rest of it. So, by eating well and to deep satisfaction on New Year’s Day, you ensure you won’t go hungry for the rest of the year, either. (Similarly, plan to shop for groceries before the year ends, because if your pantry and cupboards are full on New Year’s Day, they’ll stay that way all year long.)

For many German Americans, particularly in Pennsylvania and the Midwest, New Year’s Day means roast pork and sauerkraut. Rooted in the Old World traditions of German immigrants, many of whom arrived in the late 18th century and again in the early 20th century following World War I, the meal promises wealth, progress, and good fortune for the coming year.

Pork Brings Progress

Pigs are a symbol of good luck and progress. As they root around and forage for food, they move forward, rather than back, symbolizing forward momentum. By eating pork on New Year’s Day, you’ll be bringing that same energy to the rest of the year.

In German American traditions, this takes the form of roast pork. In Germany, the symbolism is sweeter, taking the form of a marzipan pig, often adorned with a toadstool. These little, lucky confections are given to friends for good luck and eaten as a treat.

Cabbage for Cash

Cabbage, along with other leafy greens, is thought to promise wealth in the coming year. Finding fresh greens in the depths of winter would have been difficult for earlier generations, so instead, they ate sauerkraut, traditionally prepared in the fall during the harvest season. After fermenting, the first few crocks would be ready just in time for New Year’s.

Sauerkraut also makes a natural match for roasted pork, as its acidity helps cut the fatty richness of the meat, bringing balance to the overall dish.

Lentils for Wealth

Just as leafy greens symbolize cash, eating coin-shaped lentils is thought to bring more riches. Lentil soups, especially those made of varieties that tend to keep their shape when cooked, such as green or brown lentils, are the luckiest.

Best of all, lentils pair well with pork, too—especially in the form of ham and bacon. If you don’t have the time to make a big meal of roasted pork and sauerkraut, try your luck with a bowl of lentil and bacon soup.

What You Shouldn’t Eat

Just as these old-school traditions give guidance on what to eat for luck and good fortune during the New Year, they also caution you on what to avoid.

Poultry is off the menu, because unlike pigs, which root forward, chickens and other domestic birds scratch backward as they peck at the ground. Besides, birds might just make all your money fly away, and you certainly don’t want that. Crab, shrimp, and lobster also move backward (or sideways), and cattle tend to stand still as they eat, symbolizing stagnancy rather than progress, so beef’s out, too.

Putting Together Your Lucky Meal

While there’s no real guarantee that roast pork and sauerkraut—or lentil soup, for that matter—will bring you wealth and good fortune, after the past couple of years, you might want to hedge your bets. At the very least, you’ll start the year off with an amazing meal, and that’s always a good thing.

Bacon-Wrapped Pork Loin With Cider-Braised Sauerkraut

In this take on traditional pork and sauerkraut, we dry-brine the pork loin for a day before wrapping it in bacon and roasting it until tender, so remember to plan ahead. Instead of roasting the sauerkraut with the pork, you’ll braise it in pan drippings and hard cider while the roast rests, resulting in a firmer texture and brighter flavor.

Beer makes a fine substitute for the cider, if you prefer. Juniper berries give the sauerkraut a gorgeous flavor, and it’s worth finding them at your local natural foods market or herb shop if you can, but it’s also fine to omit them (or substitute caraway seeds) if you can’t. Try to find fresh sauerkraut in the deli section, rather than canned sauerkraut, which tends to be mushy.

Serve with sharp, whole-grain mustard and enjoy. Leftovers keep in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Serves 8

For the Pork

  • 1 (3- to 4-pound) boneless pork loin
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fine sea salt
  • 16 ounces sliced bacon

For the Sauerkraut

  • 1 medium yellow onion, sliced thin
  • 2 medium apples, sliced thin
  • 1 1/2 pounds sauerkraut, drained
  • 6 juniper berries, optional
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup hard cider

Stir the brown sugar and salt together in a small bowl, and then rub it all over the pork loin. Wrap the seasoned loin tightly in plastic wrap and place it on a plate in the fridge. Let the pork dry brine for at least 4 hours and up to 1 day.

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.

Remove and unwrap the pork, then wrap it with slightly overlapping slices of bacon, securing the slices with a toothpick if necessary. Arrange the bacon-wrapped pork loin on a roasting rack nestled in a roasting pan.

Slow-roast for 1 hour. Then, increase the oven temperature to 425 degrees F, and continue roasting for another 45 to 50 minutes, or until the bacon is crisp and an instant-read thermometer reads 140 degrees F when inserted into the center of the roast.

Remove the roast from the oven, reserving 2 tablespoons of pan drippings, and allow it to rest while you prepare the sauerkraut and apples.

Spoon the reserved pan drippings into a wide skillet set over medium heat. Toss in the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the apples, sauerkraut, juniper berries, and bay leaves to the pan. Pour in the hard cider, and then turn down the heat to medium-low. Simmer, uncovered, until the liquid is reduced and the apples are tender, about 20 minutes. Turn off the heat, and pluck out and discard the bay leaves and juniper berries.

Serve the sauerkraut and apples alongside the roasted pork, with sharp, whole-grain mustard. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Jennifer McGruther, NTP, is a nutritional therapy practitioner, herbalist, and the author of three cookbooks, including “Vibrant Botanicals.” She’s also the creator of NourishedKitchen.com, a website that celebrates traditional foodways, herbal remedies, and fermentation. She teaches workshops on natural foods and herbalism, and currently lives in the Pacific Northwest.