How to cook nicely browned and incredibly tender pork with sauerkraut in the oven.
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Read on for a few relevant tips and step by step pictures (2 mins)
About this Easy Pork and Sauerkraut Recipe
My grandmother made the best oven baked pork shoulder with sauerkraut. She frequently cooked it for my extended family during the cold months – when we gathered at her house to try my grandfather’s new red wine or visited for New Year’s Day.
This is her recipe, the only thing I’ve done differently is use store bought sauerkraut instead of the homemade naturally fermented sour cabbage she used.
The pork is literally fork tender, the kraut maintains a good texture and there is enough tasty liquid from the braising to be mopped up with fresh, crusty bread.
What Cut of Pork to Use?
The best cut of pork to use in this dish is boneless pork shoulder (aka pork shoulder butt). It is generously marbled with fat which translates to flavor and juicier meat.
Alternatively you can select country style ribs or pork collar (the latter is a bit harder to come across).
Even though you could use lean cuts such as pork tenderloin or center cut loin (pork loin roast) – they are easy to overcook and become dry and are not appropriate for this recipe.
Other Ingredients for Oven Baked Pork and Sauerkraut with Beer
Pork. As discussed above, I recommend pork shoulder for this recipe.
Salt and pepper. To flavor the pork before searing it.
Olive oil. To brown the pork, substitute with vegetable oil.
Onion. Yellow, red or white onions are all suitable.
Spices. This recipe calls for paprika (imparts lovely sweetness and lends the sauerkraut a rich color) and bay leaf, but you can also use caraway seed which goes really well with both pork and sauerkraut.
Dark beer. Go for a rich, flavorful malt forward style with toasty notes. I used an Altbier this time around but also like dunkel lagers, bocks, Vienna lagers (i.e. most dark Mexican lagers). If you are in Europe – a dark Czech lager is just what you want. The beer balances the tart notes of the sauerkraut and uplifts the flavors of the dish. If you do not want to use beer consider adding apple cider or apple juice to create a richer flavor base or simply use water to deglaze.
Brown sugar. Optional. If you are interested in balancing the tartness of sauerkraut add some brown sugar to the braising liquid for the pork (to the tune of 2 tbsp). You can do this instead of using dark beer or in addition to it.
Sauerkraut. Go with naturally fermented sauerkraut vs the kind packed in vinegar – the flavor of the former is milder. Drain before using.
The process is very easy – you braise the pork in the oven until tender and then you add the sauerkraut to it and proceed to bake the duo uncovered to finish up the dish. A low oven temperature is key – slow cooking the pork results in both flavor and tenderness as the fat melts away.
- Step 1. Cut the pork into pieces and generously season them with salt and pepper. Over medium-high heat sear pork pieces on all sides (work in batches) and remove from pan.
- Step 2. Sauté the onion. Deglaze with beer (or cider or water) and scrape off the brown bits. Add the paprika, stir, then add water. Place pork back in, bring the whole thing to simmer, cover and place in a 275 to 300 F oven to braise – until the pork becomes really tender.
- Step 3. Take out the pork from the oven and arrange the sauerkraut around it, then bake for about 20 minutes – uncovered.
How to Serve
- If you cut the pork into smaller pieces from the get go serving is as easy as scooping the tender meat pieces and sauerkraut onto a plate. As a side you can always prepare mashed potatoes – a classic for this dish. In our family we prefer a warm loaf of crusty bread instead.
- Plate as many pieces of the pork per person as desired, on top of the baked sauerkraut and with a liberal helping of the tasty cooking liquid.
- A dinner knife will most likely remain unused – the meat is so tender and juicy that a fork is more than sufficient to shred it into pieces.
- There is not much you can do to beautify the dish – it is what it is and its culinary merits most certainly do not derive from its appearance.
- Pair with a malty, dark beer with toasty, bready notes to counter the acidity of the sauerkraut or a rich red wine.
TIP: Leftovers save well for a couple of days refrigerated or can be frozen in an airtight container. Thaw on the counter at room temperature and warm up in an appropriately sized pot on medium-low heat.
The Pork and Sauerkraut Tradition
The tradition of eating pork and sauerkraut to ensure good luck for the New Year is prevalent in both Eastern Europe and Germany. Naturally, it was brought over to the US by immigrants and is alive and well, especially in Pennsylvania and the Midwest.
But why exactly pork and sauerkraut? Probably the most common explanation I have heard is that the shreds of sauerkraut represent wealth or rather opportunities to acquire it. As to the pork – pigs (especially their snouts) have represented good luck in many European cultures for centuries. Pigs root forward as part of their instinctual, natural behavior which is creatively seen as advancement.
Now is all this true? Hmm… For as many years as we have enjoyed this dish to start the New Year I cannot state that good fortune was inevitably secured by any single member of my family. Sometimes a good year followed, sometimes not.
In reality, the winter holidays are when pigs were traditionally butchered for family feasts, after having been appropriately fattened. Cabbage packed in brine during harvest would transform into sauerkraut around the same time.
Can You Freeze Pork and Sauerkraut?
Absolutley. Allow it to cool down completely then transfer it to a freezer bag, expel all air and seal the bag. Alternatively, cryovac it.
It will keep well frozen for a couple of months. To eat again thaw in the refrigerator overnight, then gently warm in a covered skillet with a bit of water.
Other Recipes You Might Like
- 3 lbs boneless pork shoulder or country style ribs
- 2 tbsp olive oil or vegetable oil
- salt and pepper (use liberally, but to taste)
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 tbsp paprika
- 1 cup dark beer (malt forward, low bitterness) or cider to deglaze
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 cups water
- 4 lbs sauerkraut (drain before using)*
1. Cut the pork (into chops or thick strips as shown above), trim any excess fat and generously season with salt and pepper.
2. Turn on the oven to 300 F.
3. Heat a braiser/Dutch oven or a heavy bottomed pan on high, add oil and brown the pork on all sides, working in batches. Set aside.
4. Lower the heat to medium and saute the diced onion for 3-4 minutes. Add the paprika, stir and deglaze with the beer (or cider). Add the water and bay leaves and bring to simmer. If using braiser/Dutch oven place the browned pork in the simmering liquid, cover and transfer to the oven. If using a pan, transfer the liquid to a roasting pan, add the pork and cover with foil, then transfer to the oven.
5. Braise in the oven until the pork becomes tender - depending on how you cut it this may take 1 to 1.5 hours.
6. Once the pork is tender, arrange the drained sauerkraut around it, add a bit more water if necessary and bake for about 20 minutes.
7. Serve alongside mashed potatoes, baked apples or simply with crusty bread.
*Use good quality naturally fermented kraut. Once drained, the sauerkraut will weigh less - the 4 lbs guideline includes the brine, i.e. two 32 oz jars.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 653Total Fat: 45gSaturated Fat: 15gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 26gCholesterol: 170mgSodium: 1668mgCarbohydrates: 15gFiber: 7gSugar: 8gProtein: 47g