Kapusta {Braised Sauerkraut} for New Year’s Day – The Recipe ReDux

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Kapusta (Braised Sauerkraut) | Teaspoonofspice.com
I’ve been giddy about this month’s Recipe ReDux theme since we announced it:

Good Luck Foods: What will you be serving to get the New Year started with a little luck? Be it black eyed peas and greens, Chinese noodles or even a special family recipe you serve on New Year’s Eve or Day. Please share your good luck dish to start off 2014 in a healthy way.

For just about every one of my forty plus years on this earth, New Year’s Day meant an open house party at my grandparents’ row home in South Philadelphia and going to see The Mummers* (for a Mummer tutorial, see bottom of post.)

My mom grew up in South Philly, which has a strong Italian-American presence (if you’ve seen the movie Rocky, you’ve seen South Philly.) It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I realized my Nana wasn’t actually Italian at all like Pop Pop but her parents were from Russia and Austria-Hungary (now part of modern day Poland.)

Nana certainly cooked all the Italian-American classics and adopted the mannerisms, culture and even the Roman Catholic religion but certain dishes from her heritage remained a part of her cooking repertoire and family get-togethers: Piergori. Blintzes. Borscht. Kapusta.

Kapusta (Braised Sauerkraut) | Teaspoonofspice.com

Along with bean soup and rosemary pork roast, kapusta was always on the stove New Year’s Day. It’s a simple dish made with sauerkraut, fresh cabbage, onion and cooked with a bit of bacon. Some prepare it as a thin soup or some, like my Nana, braise it on the stove. The more it cooks, the mellower and creamier it gets.

Kapusta is fantastic with pork, oven roasted potatoes or just on its own. (You can make a vegetarian version using a little olive oil and smoked paprika instead of bacon.)

Kapusta {Braised Sauerkraut}

Makes 8 - 10 servings


  • 2 slices center cut bacon, diced
  • 1/2 cup diced onion (about 1/2 of medium onion)
  • 1 tablespoon white whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can sauerkraut, drained and liquid reserved
  • 1/2 head of cabbage, shredded (about 8 cups)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt to taste


  1. In a large pot over medium heat, cook bacon for a few minutes. Add onions and saute for another 5 minutes or so until bacon is crisp and onions are translucent.
  2. Add flour and pepper and mix well (the mixture will be dry.) Add liquid from canned sauerkraut and mix to form a roux (about 1 minute.)
  3. Add sauerkraut and cabbage. Mix well until roux is incorporated throughout mixture.
  4. Add bay leaves, reduce heat to medium low and cover. Cook for at least an hour, until all the cabbage is wilted. Stir occasionally during the cooking process.
  5. Remove bay leaves and salt to taste before serving. Serve with pork, over potatoes or on its own.

My Nana passed away a few years ago but we still do a small family gathering at the row house with bean soup, kapusta and a strut one block over to watch the Mummers march up Broad Street.

Kapusta (Braised Sauerkraut) | Teaspoonofspice.com

* SIDE BAR: What the heck is a Mummer? The Mummer Parade is a 100+ year tradition and an all-day New Year’s Day parade in Philly with a Carnival/Mardi Gras like feel. The highlight is the string bands that play banjos, basses, accordions and saxophones and perform choreographed routines in elaborate feathered costumes. If you are from South Philly, you probably learned to do the Mummer Strut to the song “Oh Dem Golden Slippers” before you learned to walk.

Case in point: My mom showing my daughter Mia at 18 months how to get her strut on in Nana’s kitchen on parade day:

A few pics of the Mummers at my wedding:

Mummers | Teaspooonofspice.com

Mummers | Teaspooonofspice.com

Mummers | Teaspooonofspice.com

Mummers | Teaspooonofspice.com

What do you prepare or eat for good luck in the new year? Any special traditions you do every New Year’s Eve or Day? (There’s also a lot of college football watching for me between getting on my Mummer’s strut.)

Check out the rest of the ReDuxer’s good luck New Year’s foods below!

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  1. says

    Love the story, pics, and especially the video. Your mom has some moves!! Oh, and the bowl in the background of the first pic – the one w the chicken on it – my mother has that too! Once I saw that I had to see what recipe you posted!!

  2. says

    Oh Deanna! Love love love this post. It’s something about this time of the year that makes us all nostalgic, but that video of chaos in the kitchen and dancing is just love all round. I bet eating fermented foods helped counter the excesses of Christmas too…..traditional combos have hidden secrets, don’t they. Wishing you a wonderful family time this year. xx
    Emma Stirling recently posted..Gluten Free Lemon Polenta Lucky Cake – by Emma Stirling APDMy Profile

  3. Ricky says

    Sauerkraut was when I was still at home always the first food we ate when coming home from the New Year’s celebration after midnight. We ate it with blood and liver sausage and cured ham. It is said that you would never run out of money when your first food in the new year is sauerkraut.

  4. says

    I grew up just north of Philly, and watching the Mummers was a big part of our New Years day too. We only traveled down into the city a few times to see it live. But I loved to sit on the couch for hours and watch the costumes. I love the video of your mom. How funny! It totally brought it all back! And how the heck did you score Mummers playing at your wedding? That must have been the COOLEST!
    Katie | Healthy Seasonal Recipes recently posted..coconut shrimp with mineola saladMy Profile

  5. says

    Cara Deanna, Love this story…my grandma was from Slovakia (or the Slovak part of Czechoslovakia) and these kinds of dishes were on the menu. Even if not exact version that you put. So , I must make this and will pin it now on my RECIPES TO TRY!!! We have a lot in common-I grew up about an hour from you. Happy New Year-wishing you and your beautiful family lots of good health and happiness for 2014. xo Mary

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