Citizens, Sauerbraten (German: “sour roast” from sauer for “sour” or “pickled” and Braten for “roast meat”) is a German pot roast that can be prepared with a variety of meats—most often beef, but also from venison, lamb, mutton, pork, and traditionally, horse.
Before cooking, the cut of meat is marinated for several days (recipes vary from three to ten days) in a mixture of vinegar or wine, water, herbs, spices, and seasonings. Since usually tougher cuts of meat (like rump roast, or bottom round of beef) are used for Sauerbraten, the longer marinating of the meat acts to tenderize it, resulting in a finished dish that is tender, soft, and juicy. The ingredients of the marinade vary based on regional styles and traditions throughout Germany.
Sauerbraten is regarded as one of the national dishes of Germany and is one of the best known German meals. Thanks to widespread German immigration to the New World (the United States, Argentina, etc.), it is frequently found on the menus of German-style restaurants outside Germany. Several regions’ variations on the dish are well known including those from Franconia, Thuringia, Rhineland, Saarland, Silesia, and Swabia.
Sauerbraten is traditionally served with traditional German side dishes, such as Rotkohl (red cabbage), Knödel or Kartoffelklöße (potato dumplings), Spätzle (an egg and flour noodle), and boiled potatoes. While many German-style restaurants in America pair potato pancakes (either Kartoffelpuffer or Reibekuchen) with sauerbraten, this is common only in a small part of Germany.
Julius Caesar has been assigned a (legendary) role in the inspiration for sauerbraten. as he sent amphoras filled with beef marinated in wine over the Alps to the newly-founded Roman colony of Cologne. According to this legend (Julius Caesar was murdered in 44 BC and the Roman city of Cologne was founded in 50 AD), this inspired the residents of Cologne to imitate the Roman import.
Several sources believe sauerbraten was invented by Charlemagne in the ninth century AD as a means of using leftover roasted meat. Saint Albertus Magnus, also known as Saint Albert the Great and Albert of Cologne, is also credited with popularizing the dish in the thirteenth century.
Sauerbraten was originally made from horse meat, but today is most often made from beef – however, particularly in the Rhineland, there are still many restaurants offering traditional Sauerbraten from horse meat.
Citizens, my recipe has passed muster with my German friends and I hope you find it worthy of inclusion at your own table soon! 🙂
Battle on – The Generalissimo
4 lb. beef bottom round (eye of the round preferred)
For the marinade:
1 ½ c. top-quality red wine vinegar
½ c. top-quality cider vinegar
2 cups bottled water
2 cinnamon sticks
7 whole juniper berries lightly crushed
7 whole allspice berries, lightly crushed
12 whole black peppercorns, lightly crushed
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
1 ½ teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large peeled carrot, chopped
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt, additional for seasoning meat
1 bunch celery leaves
1 bunch fresh thyme
1 bunch fresh parsley
2 c. onions, peeled and roughly chopped
2 c. carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
2 c. celery, peeled and roughly chopped
⅓ cup packed dark brown sugar
18 dark old-fashioned gingersnaps (about 5 ounces), crushed
Beef stock as needed for gravy
To make the beef: Trim the excess fat from the roast. With a fork or skewer, pierce the meat in several places.
In a large non-reactive saucepan over high heat, combine the marinade ingredients. Whisk together. Cover and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
When the marinade has cooled to a point where you can stick your finger in it and not be burned, place the meat in a non-reactive vessel and pour over the marinade. Place into the refrigerator for 3 days. If the meat is not completely submerged in the liquid, turn it over once a day.
When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Heat a large saute pan and add a small amount of vegetable oil. Remove the beef, straining and reserving the marinade. Discard the marinade solids. Add dark brown sugar to strained marinade.
Pat the meat dry, rub with oil and sear the beef in the saute pan until brown on all sides, being careful not to let the oil splatter.
Place the onions, carrots and celery in the bottom of a non-reactive, preferably Pyrex, roasting pan. Place the seared beef on top of the vegetables. Pour the reserved, strained marinade over the top.
Cover and place on the middle rack of the oven and cook until tender, approximately 4 hours.
Remove the meat from the pan and keep warm. Strain the liquid to remove the solids, purée solids. Return the liquid to the pan with the puréed vegetables and put in a non-reactive pan over medium-high heat. Whisk in the gingersnaps and cook until overly thickened, stirring occasionally. Thin with beef stock to taste, simmer 1 more minute.
Strain the sauce through a fine mesh sieve to remove any lumps. Slice the meat and serve with the sauce, spätzle and some shredded purple cabbage.