Sauerbraten

German Marinated Pot Roast

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Serves

    6 to 8

Appears in

The Cook’s Canon: 101 Recipes Everyone Should Know

The Cook’s Canon

By Raymond Sokolov

Published 2003

  • About

Sauer is for the vinegar in the marinade. Braten is the roasting that follows 5 days of marination in the vinegar, red wine, vegetables, and spices, If it weren’t for the vinegar and the long marination, with its mild pickling effect, this could be just another pot roast, a big piece of not-so-tender beef stewed in a pot until tender. But with sauerbraten, the stewing (really braising) liquid is the marinade; so the flavors intensify further, and the resulting liquid turns into a sweet-and-sour sauce at the end when it is thickened with gingersnaps crushed in a mortar or in a blender and raisins, the addition of which makes it officially a Rhenish sauerbraten.

Eliminate step 6 if you’d rather not have a traditional, roux-thickened sauce. And don’t feel bad about leaving out the gingersnaps or otherwise departing from tradition. No German gastronomic police are circulating in the land, and even the most echt German cooks have departed radically from sauerbraten tradition, if it is true that the dish started out as a way of dealing with horsemeat.*

The grandest piece of sauerbraten lore goes back to the ninth century, when Charlemagne (Karl der Grosse in this context, and he was crowned at Aachen) decided to use fresh meat instead of the leftover roasts favored at the court of Albrecht of Cologne. I wouldn’t swear to it.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium carrots, scraped and cut in rounds
  • 2 celery stalks, trimmed and cut in rounds
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and finely chopped
  • 4 cloves
  • 8 juniper berries
  • 2 bay leaves, crumbled
  • 1 bottle red wine
  • 1 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • pounds top round of beef
  • 2 tablespoons lard or butter
  • 1 cup crumbled gingersnaps
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 tablespoon lard or butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Method

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the carrots, celery, onions, cloves, juniper berries, bay leaves, red wine, vinegar, and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl, add the beef, cover, and refrigerate for 5 days. Turn the beef twice a day.
  2. Remove the beef from the marinade and rinse. Strain the marinade and reserve the solid ingredients as well as the strained liquid.
  3. Melt 2 tablespoons lard or butter in a large, heavy pot. Brown the meat in the hot fat on all sides.
  4. Remove the meat to a plate. Deglaze the pot with the marinade liquid. Add the solids (discarding the bay leaf), simmer for 5 minutes. Then put in the meat. Hermetically seal the pot, either by placing a clean dish towel around the rim and then putting the lid on top of it or by stretching a piece of aluminum foil across the pot and then putting on the lid. Simmer for 1½ hours or until the beef is tender. (At this point, you can refrigerate the beef for 2 days before serving. Let it cool with the lid ajar.)
  5. Remove the beef. Puree the cooking liquid in a blender with the gingersnaps. Return to the boil, add the raisins, and simmer for 15 minutes.
  6. Optional roux: As soon as you have started this final cooking stage, melt 1 tablespoon lard or butter in a small skillet and stir in the flour. Continue stirring over low heat until you have a smooth brown roux. Stir in ½ cup of the cooking liquid or a bit more, to produce a smooth slurry. Whisk this into the liquid in the main pot. Add salt and pepper.
  7. Remove the beef to a platter, slice and nap with some of the cooking liquid. Pass the rest of the cooking liquid separately.

* Horsemeat has been sold legally in France since 1811. Special butchers, identifiable by the horsehead “busts” hanging in front of their shops and the phrase boucherie chevaline, still operate in France but less widely than a few years ago. The meat is said to be sweeter than beef, appropriate for all dishes normally prepared with beef, and particularly recommendable for steak tartare because, according to Larousse Gastronomique (2001), horses do not suffer from tuberculosis or tapeworm (or presumably mad cow disease).

In America, there is a small vocal underground of gourmands who favor horse fat for frying potatoes. I have not tried this but it may be so, since horse fat was used to fry potatoes at the most spectacular of all recorded horse banquets. In 1865 in Paris, Flaubert, Dumas, and the revered epicure Dr. Véron tied into a meal composed entirely of horse dishes, from horse consommé with vermicelli to filet of horse with mushroom salad in horse oil to a rum cake with horse bone marrow. Edmond Goncourt did not enjoy himself.

During World War II, to supplement the limited supply of beef, the Harvard Faculty Club put horsemeat on its menu. It was so well liked that it remained a club standby for many years after the war.