Ring in the New Year with THE BEST Pork and Sauerkraut recipe! Juicy and packed with so much flavor! Mom’s recipe perfected!
This pork roast is probably the very first roast I ever made on my own. It was after both my Mom and Dad had passed and it was my first New Year’s Eve without them. Now I was going out with friends that night however it’s a tradition in my family to have pork roast and sauerkraut on NYE. Mom always said it was to bring us good luck and fortune.
Mom and her New Year’s Eve superstitions
We never had fortune or good luck but at least we had each other and to me that’s priceless! Now this is the same woman who, every NYE would go outside at the crack of midnight, bang a wooden spoon on the back of a pot loudly 12 times (not sure why 12), put that down and then put some change in her purse, zip it shut and with her right arm (never left) swing it forward around and around like she was winding up to throw a strike. I can still remember her saying “Lori Ann you always want to put in some change and swing it forward, never backward. By swinging it forward you’re capturing all the good fortune and bringing it towards you.” Yeah.. that didn’t work either.
But while we never had money we had other “riches”. We had love, honor, respect, and integrity. We learned to rely on our God-given talents – fortunately for me, it all lied in my brain because God help me if we had to rely on my dancing capabilities. HA! I’m about as graceful as a rabid hippo on skates! Yeah…ponder that image for a minute. LOL
Recipes were never written down
Now if you’re my age, you know…ancient and borderline senile per my darling husband, your parents or grandparents almost NEVER wrote down a recipe. Am I right? Well, this is one of those recipes they never ever wrote down yet the first time I went to make it, it’s like I knew how to make it based on all those years watching her cook it. However, when she made her it was not small and never just one. There were at least 3 or 4 and they all weighed in about 7-8 pounds each. Plus she would make a roaster full of kielbasa, hot dogs and more kraut, baked beans, potato salad, macaroni salad, brownies, a chocolate layered cake with her to-die-for pudding frosting, a huge tray of leftover Christmas cookies, fudge plus chips – potato chips and pretzels. Yes.. we had all of that at midnight .. well after the obligatory pot banging and purse twirling.
Then we’d go to bed and get up the next day only to eat all over again. No wonder all but one of us in the family ended up overweight. Seriously… if I knew then what I know now about healthy eating and everything in moderation I could have been a ballerina. HAHAHA yeah no. There is no tu-tu for this child. Maybe a four-four.. haha
But first, let’s talk about the type of pork to use
This post has a lot of sentimental meaning to me thus it’s very story-based BUT I also know you guys have questions so let’s get to the types of pork to use.
Since this is slow-roasted, you can go with Boneless Pork Loin or Bone-in Pork Loin. As you can see below, mine still has a slight fat cap on top to help keep it moist as it bakes.
I would not use tenderloin as that’s too lean. I’ve had some ask if they could use butt roast or pork shoulder. You can BUT those cuts tend to be higher in fat AND often are used in pulled pork. The higher the fat content allows for that meat to just shred apart. So could you use it in this recipe? Sure but I personally wouldn’t. I like to be able to slice my pork.
Adding Onions and Apples to your pork roast
When I first made this on my own I omitted the onions because back then onions were the anti-christ of foods. Kind of like cherries. Well, yeah, cherries are still evil. But onions, oh dear God I’d rather eat cat food than anything that had a visible piece of onion in it. And for years while the pork was good, it was never “like Mom’s”. About 10 or 15 years ago I started adding in pureed onions to the mix and eventually grew to just throwing in chopped onions that yes, when they were on my plate and visible I’d still eat them. I actually have grown to love cooked onions.
Onions add a few things flavor-wise to this dish:
- It adds a deep, richer flavor. Onions, as they slow roast become sweet and almost buttery.
- It adds cohesion to the flavor profile. Now if you really hate onions as I did, then shred or grate them like cheese. They will honestly melt into nothing but you’ll still get that amazing flavor. Trust me, you NEED them in this dish.
Apples and Pork
So apples pair beautifully with pork and onions but, I add an apple to help curb the bitterness of the sauerkraut. You won’t see them but the light sweetness it adds to the dish really helps balance out the flavors. It’s not necessary to add them, especially if you like a really sour/tangy kraut.
Let’s talk about Sauerkraut, brown sugar and this recipe
I personally love SnowFloss Bavarian Floss. I’ve tried others but that’s the one I always go back to. I like that one as it’s sweetened slightly with a hint of sugar and caraway seeds. Even though I grew up in a German and Slovak family, we were not fans of very sour or tangy kraut. Sure it had to have bite to it but not so much that you got that twinge/sting in the back of your jaw when you ate it.
When Mom made this and when I make it we always taste the kraut straight out of the jar. Sometimes the kraut can be a bit more bitey than the other jar. So always try it first. This is what dictates how much sugar to add, if at all. If the kraut is super tangy, I will add the full amount in the recipe. If it’s not, I will cut back.
Now, if you like it super tangy/sour, you don’t have to add the sugar. It’s all up to you and what you like. The sugar is added to only help balance out the bite of the kraut.
The brown sugar is truly your call and all based off of your preference as to how you like your kraut.
How and where I buy my pork roast
If you belong to Sam’s Club, Costco or big warehouse store, they are your best bet. the prices are super cheap AND you can get a large one that you can slice into smaller portions. During the holidays, I normally buy a 12lb pork loin roast from Sam’s club that I cut up into three-4 pound sections. Since it’s just the two of us, that is way more than enough for us to both eat over several days. And for years Mr. Fantabulous said he “wasn’t a pork fan” even though he’d inhale it every time I made it. Now he no longer says that and will ask me to make pork. Score for me as I love pork! Like clockwork just like years have gone by I made this for New Year for us with a side of my perfect mashed potatoes. It just goes together.
Cooking tips for a super moist, tender and juicy pork roast
- Sear the meat
The trick to getting a super moist and juicy pork roast is searing it first. Searing meat caramelizes the sugars and browns the proteins present in meat, resulting in more appealing color and flavor. It lends to a deep flavor that just can’t be created with no amount of seasonings. Searing over high heat caramelizes the surface of the meat, which enhances the savory ‘meat’ flavor and fills the finished dish with complex layers of nutty caramel and coffee-like bitterness. In technical terms, this is called a Maillard reaction and it’s a flavor profile we omnivores happen to find quite delicious. Without searing, meat dishes can taste flat and boring.
- The meat should be at room temperature before searing and patted dry.
- The pan should be very hot and the goal is to keep the meat raw with just a browned surface. “A quick searing”. If you leave the meat in the pan too long or sear too much meat at a time, it will start to steam and you lose the benefits of searing. You’re trying to achieve what’s called the “Maillard Reaction”. Per Wikipedia, “high temperature, intermediate moisture levels, and alkaline conditions all promote the Maillard reaction. In cooking, low moisture levels are necessary mainly because water boils into steam at 212 °F (Crock Pot), whereas the Maillard reaction happens noticeably around 310 °F (Very hot skillet): significant browning of food does not occur until all “surface” water is vaporized.”
- Add oil to the pan and when it begins to shimmer, add the meat (carefully). Pan sear on all sides for 5-8 minutes. Seared meat also looks way sexier than a taupe colored piece of meat. I mean to see those rich caramel colors glistening is kinda sexy in a meaty-kinda-way. It draws you in and since we eat with our eyes first, it makes you want it, crave it.
- Liquid in the pan
The second thing you need to ensure is that there is always liquid in the pan while it’s cooking. With this you have 2 choices – you can use the liquid that your kraut came with if you really want that sour/tangy punch OR you can go with a cup of water. I suppose you could use pork stock but I’ve personally never tried it.
If you’re making a double batch or your pan is HUGE, you may need to add more. You just don’t want it submerged as then you’re almost poaching/boiling it rather than slow roasting it.
Plus, make sure to check on it every 30 minutes or so to make sure that there is liquid in the pan at all times. If you don’t, the pork will dry out and the kraut will burn.
- Seal it up
The last thing is you MUST have a tight seal on it. This does two things – it keeps the moisture and liquid trapped inside to help keep it moist and tender and second, it helps to prevent it from drying out. This is KEY! If your pan has a lid but it’s not a really good-fitting seal, cover the pan with foil then put the lid on it. It can’t hurt and you’re doing yourself and your pork a favor.
Admit it, this looks so scrumptious. Like you can tell just by looking at the pictures that it’s juicy, succulent and tender. And unless you can’t eat pork for whatever reason, you’re gonna want this… over and over and over! Trust me. THIS is the pork that converted Mr. “I don’t like pork very much” to Mr. “Honey can you make that pork roast again?”
Crockpot and Instant Pot Version for Pork & Sauerkraut
Now this dish you can make in the crockpot on low for about 8-9 hours. Read the notes on how to do this. With regards to the Instant Pot, I don’t use it on this recipe.
- I don’t use the IP on this recipe as it’s more steps and a PITA. If you cook it all at once, the kraut will turn to mush
- You’d have to cook the pork, release pressure, add the onions/kraut and continue cooking.
- Most Importantly: You will never get that slow-roasted taste. I love my IP but I’m sorry it can’t replicate this flavor
The absolute BEST way is slow roasting it in the oven. When I make it for a crowd I’ll still pan sear it but will just throw everything in the crock and set it on low while I go about my business. It’s still just as amazing but I don’t know, there’s just something more sensual about the dish when you pull it out of the oven and you see it all tender and juicy.
Resting your meat – there’s a reason!
Now the trick with this roast is once you pull it out of the oven, you need to remove it from the pan and loosely cover it with foil. Do you know why you do this? Why you partially cover the meat and let it rest after roasting?
Meat proteins are heated during cooking, they coagulate and squeeze out some of the moisture inside their coiled structures and in the spaces between the individual molecules. This drives moisture toward the surface and the center of the meat. As meat proteins cook, they begin to shrink. Up to 120°F, the proteins shrink in diameter only and there is little moisture loss, but above 120°F the proteins also begin to shrink in length, which really puts the squeeze on moisture. By 170°F, most of the moisture will be squeezed out of a lean piece of meat. As the meat rests, this process is partially reversed. The moisture that is driven toward the center of the meat is redistributed as the protein molecules relax and are able to reabsorb some moisture. As a result, less juice runs out of the meat when you cut into it per the author of Cook Wise.
If you want the Best Ever Pork Roast with Sauerkraut or what we call New Year’s Eve Pork and Sauerkraut, make this. It’s EPIC! Mama would be proud of me with this.
- 4 pound pork loin roast – boneless and at room temperature (this is important!) – this should take about 20-30 minutes from being in the fridge
- 2 pounds sauerkraut (I do not rinse mine)
- 1 Tbl caraway seeds *note – you can omit this if you hate caraway seeds but for me it makes the dish
- 1 cup chopped yellow onion
- 1 peeled apple (gala or any sweet apple), chopped * (see note) *optional
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar *add less if you like it more bitter/sauerkraut tangy. see note
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 cup water *optional
- 2 Tbl olive oil
- Preheat oven to 325F, rack in the middle. Pat the pork dry and sprinkle the entire roast with salt, pepper and smoked paprika. Heat a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat and add in the olive oil. When the olive oil starts to simmer carefully place the pork roast in. Sear on all sides until golden brown – ~5-8 minutes per side.
- In a lidded 6qrt Dutch Oven place the sauerkraut all over the bottom. Sprinkle over the caraway seeds, onions, apples and brown sugar. Place the seared pork roast on top nestling it in the sauerkraut. If you’ve drained yours sauerkraut, add the water. If you did not you do not need the water. You want at least a cup of liquid in the pot.
- Cover tightly with a lid and bake for about 2 hours or until a meat thermometer reads between 145F-150F. While it’s cooking check the pot to ensure that it’s not drying out. If needed, add more water. I have never had to but I always add at least a cup of liquid. Remove from the oven once the thermometer reads 145F-150F. Carefully remove the roast from the pan and place on a cutting board covering loosely with foil.
- Allow to cool for about 15 minutes before slicing.
Crock Pot Instructions:
If you want to make this in the crock pot, pan sear the meat following the recipe and in the bottom of a 6qrt crock pot add in the sauerkraut, caraway seeds, onions, brown sugar and pork (water if you drained the kraut). Cover and cook on low for about 8-9 hours. OR If you want your sauerkraut to retain more ‘bite’ cook the pork for ~6 hours without the kraut (make sure to add liquid though!) and then add the kraut in the last few hours of cooking!
I add the apple to help curb the bitterness of the kraut plus it adds such an incredible depth of flavor to the kraut! It’s a must try in my book! If you like it more bitter; omit
Adding Brown Sugar
Adding sugar is completely optional as it to how bitter/sour you like your kraut. If your Kraut is really bitter, add the full amount of sugar. Start with a 1/4 cup if desired.
Prevent it from drying out
You need to ensure that your pot has a tight seal. If it does not, add foil to cover the pot and then the lid. If you do not have a lid, ensure that the foil is fitted snugly.