Food: Something old, something new for the New Year |

Food: Something old, something new for the New Year

Angela Shelf Medearis and Gina Harlow


A modern slow cooker provides a delicious twist on this classic Alsatian choucroute garnie recipe. The seasoned layers of tender pork, potatoes, apples and vinegary sauerkraut, coupled with a variety of flavorful spices, makes this the perfect dish to welcome in the New Year.


1 large yellow onion, cut into thick rounds

4 large garlic cloves, sliced in half

1 1/2 tablespoons salt, divided

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

2 pounds prepared or homemade sauerkraut, drained and excess liquid squeezed out

2 teaspoons dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon caraway seeds

1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes or redskin potatoes, scrubbed and cut into roughly 1 1/2-inch chunks

2 pounds boneless country pork spareribs, cut crosswise into 3-inch pieces

1 tablespoon dried rosemary

1 tablespoon fresh thyme

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3 Golden Delicious apples, peeled, halved and cored

2 bay leaves

1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Dijon or whole-grain mustard, for serving


1. Place the onions and garlic in a large bowl; season with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, toss to coat, and place in the slow cooker. Place the sauerkraut, brown sugar and caraway seeds in the bowl, season with 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper, toss to combine and lay evenly over the onions.

2. Place the potatoes in the bowl, season generously with 2 teaspoons of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, toss to coat, and place in an even layer over the sauerkraut.

3. Generously season spareribs all over with remaining salt and pepper, the rosemary, thyme and cayenne pepper.

4. Arrange pork over the potatoes in an even layer. Place apples and bay leaves over the pork. Pour chicken broth and apple cider vinegar around the edges of the food in the slow cooker.

5. Cover and cook on low heat until pork is fork tender and almost falling apart, about 6 to 8 hours. Remove and discard bay leaves. Arrange meat, apples, potatoes, sauerkraut, onions and garlic on a serving platter and drizzle with any remaining juices. Serve with Dijon or spicy whole grain mustard, if desired. Makes 4 to 6 servings

For thousands of years, people have marked the start of the new year. The new year is a new beginning … a time when we honor the past and look forward to what will come. This also is a time for ceremony and celebration. In 1904, the first-ever celebration of New Year’s Eve in Times Square took place. For more than 100 years, New Yorkers have continued this famous party, while across the nation, countless other festivities, big and small herald a new year. Whether it is a quiet night of prayer, reflection and reverence or a rowdy affair with fireworks, we see New Year’s as a time to feel hopeful and inspired.

Cultures around the world use different calendars to determine the start of the new year, but all have traditions that celebrate the event. New Year’s customs range from the Japanese tradition of sending thank-you cards to friends and relatives, to Estonia’s fabulous feast of 12 meals on New Year’s Eve. Each meal is believed to impart strength for the following year.

There are customs around the world that express our human desire for good fortune or special blessings in the coming year. In Ireland, single women place springs of mistletoe under their pillows in hopes of finding a husband. The Chinese and Japanese perform a special cleaning of their homes, to rid themselves of bad luck. Some cultures burn effigies that represent the misfortune of the previous year.

There also are traditional foods that are prepared on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Many of these dishes symbolize prosperity and fortune. Foods such as pig and fish are eaten in hopes of having a bountiful future. Many New Year recipes have cakes or puddings with some kind of treasure buried within. Some cultures put special significance on round food or baked goods because the shape represents a completed circle or course of time.

In the United States families celebrate in countless ways with food and drink customs handed down from one generation to the next. My recipe for Slow Cooker Country Pork Ribs with Sauerkraut and Apples is popular in the Northeast, while in the South, black-eyed peas and greens are often served on New Year’s day.

Of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with starting new traditions that symbolize all the hope and gratitude we all feel at beginning of another year. Happy New Year!

Angela Shelf Medearis is an award-winning children’s author, culinary historian and the author of seven cookbooks. Her new cookbook is “The Kitchen Diva’s Diabetic Cookbook.” Her website is To see how-to videos, recipes and much, much more, Like Angela Shelf Medearis, The Kitchen Diva! on Facebook. Read Gina Harlow’s blog about food and gardening at Recipes may not be reprinted without permission from Angela Shelf Medearis.

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