Sauerbraten

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Meats | Sauerbraten

(German marinated beef pot roast)

Sauerbraten is one of those iconic German dishes, with origins stretching back into the mists of time. A hearty cut of beef rests in a marinade of vinegar, wine, spices and seasonings for up to 5 days, setting the stage for a fork-tender roast with incomparable flavor.

Image Creative Commons by Josef Türk

Each region of Germany has its own version of sauerbraten. This recipe is closest to a popular variation from the Rhineland in the western part of the country. Start marinating on Wednesday or Thursday for a Sunday dinner.

4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

Marinade

  • Water -- 2 cups
  • Red wine vinegar -- 1 cup
  • Red wine -- 1 cup
  • Peppercorns -- 1 tablespoon
  • Juniper berries -- 8
  • Whole cloves -- 4
  • Bay leaves -- 2

Roast

  • Beef rump or round -- 3 to 4 pounds
  • Salt and pepper -- to season
  • Oil -- 3 tablespoons
  • Onion, thinly sliced -- 1
  • Carrot, cut into thin rounds -- 2
  • Celery, thinly chopped -- 1 stalk
  • Sugar -- 2 tablespoons or to taste
  • Raisins, soaked in warm water and drained (optional) -- 1/4 cup

Method

  1. Place all of the marinade ingredients into a large pot and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes then remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
  2. Place the beef in a large, non-reactive container large enough to contain it and the marinade. Pour the marinade over the beef. There should be enough liquid to cover the roast by about two-thirds. If not, add an equal mixture of wine and vinegar until it does.
  3. Set the roast and its marinade in the refrigerator and marinade for at least two and up to five days. Turn the beef once or twice daily.
  4. Remove the roast from the marinade and pat dry. Season with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high flame. Brown the roast well on all sides. Remove the roast and set aside.
  5. Add the onion, carrot and celery to the pot and saute until the onion is cooked through and translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes. Return the roast to the pot and pour in the marinade. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Cover the pot tightly and simmer for 3 to 4 hours, or until the roast is fork tender.
  6. Remove the roast and set it aside to rest while you make the sauce. Strain the sauce through a fine-meshed sieve. Discard the soldis and return the liquid to the pot. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Stir in the raisins, season to taste with sugar, salt and pepper and simmer for 5 minutes.
  7. Slice the roast thinly and serve with its sauce and a side of blaukraut or apple compote and potato dumplings or spaetzle.

Variations

  • Meats: Most sauerbraten is made with beef these days, but the recipe works equally well with lamb, pork or venison. Originally, sauerbraten was often made with horse meat.
  • Marinade Variations: Add chopped onion, celery and carrots to the marinade if you like. Substitute cider or white wine vinegar for the red wine vinegar. Additional spices you can add include nutmeg, ginger, thyme and coriander.
  • Sauce Variations: Many recipes call for thickening and enriching the sauce. The most famous thickener is crumbled gingersnaps or lebkuchen. Stir in about 1/4 to 1/3 cup just before you add the raisins. Other thickeners include roux, cornstarch slurry or a healthy dollop of sour cream.
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