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
* 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
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.
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.
© 2003 Raymond Sokolov. All rights reserved.