Last fall, I cooked a delicious recipe of “Pork Loin Roast with Potatoes, Apples & Sauerkraut” in my crock pot. This was in honor of Oktoberfest, that great beer-drinking festival which is celebrated every autumn in Munich, Germany. Although Octoberfest has long since passed, my slow cooked pork roast with all the fixings makes for a satisfying winter meal. Every now and then, I’ll get out my crock pot. It is the perfect way to cook a large roast which needs moist heat and time to cook and tenderize it. And I love sauerkraut and potatoes; we usually have a jar of sauerkraut in the refrigerator — just because. This is such an easy recipe; simply add the ingredients to the crock pot, turn the setting to high, and leave it alone. In three hours, supper is ready. In the meantime, I became curious about German heritage in New Orleans after a friend shared the story of her great-grandfather. He was a German immigrant to the city in the late 1800’s and became the beer master at the Weckerling Brewing (now the site of the World War II museum). After researching the subject little further, I discovered that New Orleans was quite a German beer-brewing and beer drinking city at one time. I’ve shared my eclectic “discoveries” on that subject at the end of my blog post. It is for the folks who like history in addition to cooking!
Recipe for “Pork Roast with Potatoes, Apples & Sauerkraut”
Potatoes, apples and sauerkraut all remind me of autumn and winter. I am not sure why, but they just seem to go together. I have a large crock pot so I really filled it up with lots of ingredients to make this dish. I used the entire jar of sauerkraut, several apples, an onion and two pounds of potatoes. Yes, we do love sauerkraut at our house — perhaps that Jewish heritage. To provide moisture in the crock pot (and speed up the cooking time) I added in a small amount of warmed apple cider. Or you could substitute apple juice.
Add in a pork roast and you’ve got supper — really several suppers. For this recipe, I used a boneless pork loin roast which weighted about thee pounds.
Making the Recipe
To make this recipe, I seasoned the pork roast with spices and seared it on the stove to lock in the flavors. The dry rub seasoning blend contained garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper. My heavy cast iron skillet came in handy for this task of searing the roast.
To cook this recipe in the crock pot, it is a simple matter of layering in all the ingredients. Sauerkraut and apple cider (warmed in the microwave) went first. Next I added tart apple slices. I nestled the seared pork roast over these ingredients and added onion slices. Lastly, I added a lot of new potatoes. (I love potatoes, too.) Dinner was done in about three hours. I used a meat thermometer to check the temperature and make sure the pork was cooked to the done stage.
Crock Pot Heat Settings
When I cook a recipe in my crock pot, I always use the “high” setting. I guess I’m just a skeptic. First, I don’t like to leave my crock pot cooking all day, especially unattended when leaving my home to run an errand. I’m not crazy about cooking a recipe for 8 to 10 hour. I worry that the ingredients won’t get hot enough in a timely fashion to kill all the bacteria. So, I cook things on the “high” setting in my crock pot. In addition, I also try not to remove the lid of the crock pot to avoid having the heat escape. This recipe took three hours to reach the temperature of 165 degrees or more. The potatoes — layered on top — were nicely cooked and tender.
The juices at the bottom of the crock pot made a wonderful, flavorful gravy. To thicken the gravy, add a slurry of flour mixed with cold water to the juices from the crock pot which have been transferred to a small pot. Bring to a boil, stirring, to cook and thicken the gravy.
Let the pork roast “rest” for 15 to 20 minutes before carving.
For dinner, I added green beans to my menu and served the sliced pork roast with all the fixings. Delicious!
I’ll enjoy many meals from this crock pot recipe. All the venerable, old New Orleans brands of beers (JAX — short for Jackson, Dixie, Regal — lager spelt backwards –and Falstaff) are gone. Instead, I’ll team this dinner up with a full mug of contemporary Louisiana crafted beer! And, I will celebrate Octoberfest in January!
Crock Pot Pork Loin Roast with Potatoes, Apples & Sauerkraut
- 3 lb boneless pork loin roast
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1/3 tsp black pepper
- 1 Tbsp canola oil
- 32-oz jar sauerkraut
- 2 tart apples, peeled and cut into slices
- 1/2 cup apple cider or apple juice, warmed in microwave or on stove
- 1 large, sweet white onion, peeled and sliced
- 32 oz new potatoes, halved
- 1 tsp additional salt
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1 cup water
Method and Steps:
- Trim pork loin roast of excess fat if needed.
- In a small bowl, combine salt, garlic powder, onion powder and black pepper. Rub pork loin roast on all sides with dry rub.
- Meanwhile, add sauerkraut, with juice, to large crock pot (such as a 6-quart crock pot).
- Spread apple slices over the sauerkraut.
- Pour warmed apple cider or apple juice over these two ingredients.
- Nestle the seared pork loin roast over the apples.
- Spread peeled, sliced sweet white onion over steak.
- Arrange new potatoes on top and sprinkle with salt.
- Cover crock pot. Set heat to high and timer to three hours.
- Let cook, undisturbed, for about 2-1/2 hours, removing lid as little as possible.
- When contents are boiling and steam is coming to top, check temperature of roast with meat thermometer. It should be 165 degrees. (Pork roast will continue to increase in heat when removed from crock pot. Check potatoes. Potatoes should pierce easily with knife. If cooked, remove from crock pot to bowl and cover. Keep warm.
- If needed, replace lid and cook for additional 30 minutes.
- When cooked, transfer roast to cutting board. Let rest for about 15 minutes. Then carve roast in thin pieces, transfer to serving platter.
- Remove potatoes, onion, apples and sauerkraut from crock pot and arrange some on serving platter around roast. Place remainder of sides in bowl or reserve for additional meals.
- Transfer juice in bottom of crock pot to medium-size saucepan.
- Dissolve flour in water making a slurry.
- Slowly add flour slurry, stirring constantly, to juices in saucepan.
- Heat gravy over medium heat, stirring constantly until it boils and thickens.
- Pour some of the gravy over carved roast and transfer the rest to gravy bowl. Pass gravy at table.
Germans in Louisiana
While researching this post, I discovered an interesting historical connection between beer breweries in New Orleans and their German counterparts. It turns out that Louisiana has a considerable amount of German heritage. New Orleans is a great beer-drinking city and German immigrants introduced beer as a common, everyday beverage to the city. In the mid-1800’s, the city boasted 30 German beer breweries and their beer gardens; second only to Milwaukee.
Many Germans arrived in the 1800’s from an impoverished Europe as laborer’s to the port of New Orleans. In the mid-1800’s, about 10% of the population of this city was German — more than other city in the South. In addition to introducing beer, German immigrants made other contributions to the culture of the city. Several famous New Orleans bakeries which exist to this day — Leidenheimer Baking Company, Alois Binder Bakery, Reising’s Sunrise Bread, Haydel’s Bakery, Hubig’s Pies — are from German descendants. Can you name me a current New Orleans resident who hasn’t picked up a King Cake from Haydel’s? Germans introduced rice farming in Louisiana — now an important agricultural crop. The accordion was introduced to the Cajun culture by German immigrants. As laborers, Germans served as funeral workers and brought along with their brass bands in the city of New Orleans as a second line after the main funeral procession.
German immigrants were some of the earliest settlers to come to the New Orleans area. The living conditions in Germany at the time were quite harsh and repressive. German were enticed to settle here in the 1720’s through John Law’s Mississippi Land Company. A brochure gave the prospect of lush and prosperous farm land along with a 25-year conscription. Unfortunately, the few people who survived the trip discovered that the promised land was just as miserable in the new country as the German country which they left. But these industrious farmers persevered and provided much needed produce and vegetables to the city They are credited with saving the city from the brink of starvation several times in history. Since these immigrants were from the Rhineland — a disputed area between Germany and France — they blended well with the French residents. In fact, they intermarried with the French and many German names became adapted to a French version (for example, Himmel to Hymel).
The German immigrants were settled north of New Orleans on the west bank of the Mississippi River between St. Charles, St. John the Baptist and St. James parishes. Today, this is known as the “German Coast” or Côte des Allemands of Louisiana. In this concept, “coast” refers to a body of water — the Mississippi River — rather than the coast of an ocean. When John Law’s company folded in 1731, the settlers became “free” and independent land owners. Today, about the only community who maintains a true German cultural identify with an annual German Fest in October is Robert’s Cove, an scattered area close to Rayne, Louisiana, in the Crowley Micropolitan Statistical Area. This is actually located in the heart of Cajun country!
German Beer Drinkers
For years, these German immigrants maintained their own cultural identify and customs. In in the 1800’s in New Orleans, Germans loved to drink beer daily and party on Sundays. In that age, there was no ice. The beer, brewed with a secret recipe, spoiled quickly. One member of the family was designated to go to the brewery daily to fetch beer for the supper meal. German breweries thrived. New Orleans was known as the “1880s Brewing Capital of the South,” with about fifty breweries listed in the city directory. (It sounds like every “mom and pop” establishment had a brewery!)
With the introduction of refrigeration and ice, the German breweries continued to flourish. Many new German breweries opened. Weckerling Brewing is one such example.
JJ. Weckerling opened the brewery on the corner of Magazine and Delord (now Howard) Streets in the building that now houses the World War II museum pavillion. When it opened in 1880, the Times-Picayne Newspaper ran a 3-column story about the brewery. Mr. Weckerling was the German brewmaster. When he died, Mr. William Weiner — another German immigrant who emigrated in around 1877 — assumed that role. His great-granddaughter gave me several interesting photos of the brewery, her ancester and workers.
Here is a photo of the late 1800’s Weckerling Brewery employees. I’m noticing some pretty good looking kegs of beer here!
Before many years passed, the New Orleans Brewing Company leveraged to purchase six of these small, independent German breweries. The alternative was to be bought out by an English syndicate. (Even in those years, it was survival of the largest corporation!) Over the years, there have been other buy-outs and changes.
Other prominent German breweries of this era are JAX’s brewery, across from Jackson Square in downtown New Orleans and named for General Jackson. It now houses restaurants and shops. Dixie Brewery, which opened in 1907, became one of the most popular brands in the city prior to prohibition. The Tulane Avenue plant was damaged in Katrina flooding in 2005 and it never reopened. The building became the Veteran’s Administration Hospital. The American Brewing Company opened in 1891 on Bourbon Street brewing Regal Brand Beer. That is “lager” spelt backwards. Falstaff, a German brewery located in St. Louis, Missouri, operated a facility known as the National Brewing Company of New Orleans beginning in 1937. By the 1960s, Falstaff was the third-largest brewer in America. However, it met with demise and ceased production of it’s namesake beer in 2004 across the country including New Orleans.
Interstate transportation made the city less dependent on local breweries. Prohibition, with the passage of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution in 1920 severely hurt the brewing industry until it’s end in 1933. In the 1950’s and 1960’s recognizable brands of beer brewed in New Orleans included Falstaff, Dixie, JAX and Regal. Sadly, there none of these historic beer breweries remain in New Orleans.
Since these years, the population of New Orleans has expanded and become more cosmopolitian. German traditions have largely been absorbed into the Southern culture. But it is an interesting glimpse into part of the history of southern Louisiana. The German immingrants made many contributions, often subtle and often unnoticed, to the city of New Orleans and greater Louisiana. Just saying.