A New Year’s Tradition

Alright, I’m going to let you folks in on a little secret – the Corporate Writing Pro loves to cook! – down home, Southern, West Virginia and low country Virginia cooking. And there is nothing more fortunate on New Year’s Eve than to eat pork and sauerkraut at midnight (apologies to my Muslim friends, but it’s the truth, asalaam alaikum).

I personally believe this is because if you are fortunate enough to have money to purchase pork and friends enough to help you eat it, you are already blessed. So I’m going to share this year’s recipe, because the love in my heart says I should.

butterfly pork chopsStart with a beautiful piece of pork. Traditionally people use pork loin, but feel free to pick out whatever cut your butcher has that looks sweet, plump, and delicious. This year, I found two fat butterfly chops are simply perfect.

Trim the fat. I know Emeril Lagasse says pork fat rules, and it is tasty, but it’s bad for your heart. Braise the pork in olive oil instead. You’ll get a great flavor while being kinder to your body. And season that puppy!

This year, I used salt, pepper, onion, garlic, and New Orlean’s Kickin’ Cajun (cause I like it spicy – I know you weren’t surprised by that!). You want a nice brown crust all around. AFrom left to right – Jessika, Zachary, Gary, Tyree, Erikand don’t be afraid to stand that thing up sideways in the pan to get it. The ends count too.

Forget about turning on the exhaust. Let the smell waft through the house. Spread the joy and the anticipation, because isn’t that what New Year’s Eve is all about – waiting for time to pass and good things to come?

While the oil and the heat and the spices and the meat are working their magic in your pan (and I hope you’re using iron on gas – it’s the elements that matter; get back to basics, people), pre-heat your crock pot, and pull out your sauerkraut and some chicken stock.

Don’t worry about the quality of your kraut. Go ahead, buy the freshest, crispest sauerkraut on the market. You’re about to put it in a crock pot for 6-8 hours! It’s going to get mushy! WhFrom left to right – Jessika, Zachary, Gary, Tyree, Erikay bother? And as for flavor, you’re about to season it with pork and stock and all of your loving goodness. Spend your money on the things that matter, like electricity.

But invest in stock!

I roasted a chicken on Christmas Eve. And the day after Christmas, I boiled the carcass with onions and carrots, and a stick of real sweat cream butter and I ladled the stock into my ice trays, and I got a gallon and a half of thick, rich, brilliant chicken stock. And don’t you think for one second that I’m putting those cubes into the microwave. Oh no.

I poured my kraut into a bowl; added some salt, pepper, garlic, onion, anFrom left to right – Jessika, Zachary, Gary, Tyree, Erikad a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar; set my braised chops atop of the lot; and proceeded to deglaze the pan with about two cups of frozen golden cubes of goodness. Oh yes.

Michelle's family

From left to right - Jessika, Zachary, Gary, Tyree, Erika

And now it’s all sitting in the crock pot, waiting to fall apart, soak into each other, and melt away, not into oblivion, but into nutritious, energetic goodness – just like my family’s been doing for the last 12 years – my stepdaughters and my husband and me, my puppy dogs, and now my new baby grandson.

Happy New Year everyone. May it be as rich and beautiful and delicious as you make it!


  1. Michelle,
    Our family trees must cross somewhere–my mother’s tradition was always pork and sauerkraut too! I’ve got lots of fond memories with family and enjoy the thrill of starting new traditions, keeping older traditions alive and seeing what a new year unfolds for me.
    Happy 2012 to friends and families everywhere.

    • Kristen – it must be that southern, West Virginia thing. One reason I like sauerkraut is because we make it with apple cider vinegar, which I love! My family used to catch me drinking it behind the pantry door. It became sort of a joke, so much so that my aunt bought me my very own bottle for my 10th birthday! But I also like it because I used to call it sauer-crap. It was the only “bad” word I was allowed to say. I guess my family thought it was cute.

  2. I read that pork is good luck because the animals, on their “snout cruise” (Plath), move forward; thus, pork represents progress and growth. [When reading these legends, myths, and superstitions, we must suspend disbelief, refusing to ask ourselves: which animals eat while moving backward?) Thanks for sharing this! My family clings to greens of all sorts, symbolizing good fortune; black-eyed peas with bacon and/or ham hock representing new beginnings; fish, and round foods (sushi, cake, etc.) also representing good fortune. Have a grand 2012!

    • How interesting! A mindless forward progress, propelled by the desire to be nourished – I like that. It’s important to find symbols, and to live by them. Thanks for sharing this Connye, and a prosperous 2012 to you too.

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