The onset of Fall and the approach of Winter can remind you of Robert Frost, of pumpkins, of trips to the mountains to watch the changing leaves. Sweaters. Socks. But for me, it means it’s time to harness all my upper body strength and haul out the Dutch oven. Although a Dutch oven weighs an incomprehensible amount, it pays you back in food and heat, because using a Dutch oven means turning on the actual oven for at least an hour or so, which means a warmer house. Plus there is also that reward of removing the lid and discovering that you have practically a whole meal in one pot.
But which recipe to make on one of the first chilly nights? One of the many things I love about Bill Smith’s Seasoned in the South is that he groups recipes by the season. And so all I had to do was flip to the Fall section and there it was, my recipe: Pork Roast with Sauerkraut (see recipe at bottom). (No, not a recipe for you vegetarians, all of whom I admire and wish I was equal to, in your ability to subsist without meat. But the fact is that I’m from German stock and I believe we are weaned on meat.)
Bill Smith has a classic recipe that, like all of his recipes, provides the most simple directions, almost like he’s standing next to you chatting. And with full respect to the season, he uses those great root vegetables that are at their height in the Fall (carrots, parsnips), and above all, the much-underappreciated sauerkraut.
But first, before I could get underway, I had to have an altercation with the produce man in Whole Foods, who refused to believe that anything called “bagged sauerkraut” existed, even though the recipe called for it. “Nope, it would never be bagged,” he said. “It comes in a jar. Sorry.” Slightly defeated, I moved onto the meat department to order my Pork Butt (always fun to say), where I saw, in the cold case right below the counter, my BAGGED SAUERKRAUT. See picture below, in case you ever have to hunt this down.
After that, though, everything was smooth sailing. This recipe practically makes itself. You salt and pepper your pork butt, sear it all over in the Dutch oven, pack some sauerkraut around it, add some parsnips and carrots cut into thick slices—
some chicken broth, a sprig of fresh rosemary, and then put it in the oven for two hours. And of course Bill recommends mashed potatoes on the side, because what else goes with Pork Roast?
The pork, as the recipe predicted, became soft and tender, falling away from the bone. The sauerkraut added that vinegary edge to the meat, which went perfectly with the carrots and parsnips. And afterwards, I felt like I should till the fields or split some wood or go ice-fishing. Which is to say that it feels like the kind of food that sticks with you, or that, were you have a power outage and all the local grocery stores simultaneously ran out of food, if you had just eaten this for dinner, I think you’d be fine for at least a week. Or more. Yes, it’s comfort food, but I’d also call it Survival Food. There must be a long German word for that.
Pork Roast with Sauerkraut
Serves 6 generously
1 pork roast (perhaps 3-4 pounds of Boston butt)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons bacon grease or cooking oil
2 pounds sauerkraut (bagged, not canned), rinsed
3 large carrots, peeled and sliced thickly
3 large parsnips, peeled and sliced thickly
1 sprig fresh rosemary
2 cups chicken stock
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Rinse and pat dry the roast. Salt and pepper the roast and brown it on all sides in the bacon grease in a Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid. After the roast is browned, pour off the oil and tuck in half of the rinsed sauerkraut all around the roast halfway up the Dutch oven. Add the vegetables and rosemary and cover the rest with sauerkraut. Add the stock. Cover and bake for 2¼ hours until the meat is tender and easy to pull from the bones. Serve with mashed potatoes.