Sauerbraten is a very popular, traditional German dish with a deliciously tangy sauce. A lot of German regions claim to have invented Sauerbraten but the most popular and acknowledged version is from the Rheinland. All recipes share the marinating of the meat in wine and vinegar but the difference is in the finish and the sauce. With or without raisins. With or without mushrooms. With or without sour cream. With or without gingerbread.
Marinating meat in wine to preserve and tenderize it is a practice as old as Julius Caesar and there are sources that believe Sauerbraten was invented in the 9th century. Sauerbraten is traditionally made from beef, or in the old days even from horse meat. I omitted the raisins in my version, as is often done, even though the raisins are what make Rheinischer Sauerbraten actually typical rheinisch.
- a nicely marbled piece of bottom round (about 4-5 pounds)
- kosher salt
For the Marinade
- 2 cups of dry red wine
- 1 1/2 cups of red wine vinegar
- 1 large carrot finely chopped
- 1 large onion finely chopped
- one bouquet garni containing:
- 1 teaspoon mustards seeds
- 1 teaspoon cloves
- 1 teaspoon black pepper corns
- 1 teaspoon juniper berries
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 sprig of rosemary
- 3-4 sprigs of thyme
- 2 sprigs of parsley
For the Sauce and Finish
- 2 onions finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or clarified butter
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 6 gingersnaps, crumbled
- Juice of ½ lemon
- 1/4 - 1/2 cup raisins (optional)
- 2 tbsp. chopped parsley
Create the bouquet garni by forming a little satchel out of cheesecloth containing the herbs and spices. Tie it shut with a cotton string. Bring wine, vinegar, chopped onion, carrot, and bouquet garni to a boil in a large stock pot. Let it cool. You may add 2 cups of cold water to speed up this process. Generally season the beef with salt. Place the beef in a glass, stainless steel or other non-reactive bowl. Pour the marinade over the beef and add up to 3 cups of water to make sure that the beef is completely covered by the marinade. Cover the bowl with cellophane and refrigerate, turning once or twice a day, for 5 days.
Remove beef from marinade and pat it dry. It will be purple! But do not worry, roasting will turn the color into a lovely brown. Pour the marinade through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl and set aside. Reserve the bouquet garni. Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or clarified butter in an 8 qt. Dutch Oven over medium-high heat. Add beef and sear well on all sides, this will take about 25 minutes. Transfer the beef to a plate and set aside.
Heat oven to 300°F. Add the 2 chopped onions to the pot and cook, stirring, until caramelized for about 15-20 minutes. Return beef to pot with 5 cups of the reserved marinade and the bouquet garni. Bring to a boil. Cover and place the beef in the oven. Roast for about 1 1/2-2 hours until beef is very tender - it will feel very soft. Transfer beef to a platter and cover with aluminum foil. Scrape the bottom of the Dutch Oven and then pour the sauce through a fine strainer into a bowl and set aside.
In a heavy saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat. Add the sugar to the butter, stirring constantly until it is nicely caramelized. This will give your sauce a wonderful glow and comforting sweetness. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly until the mixture is lightly browned for about 5 minutes. Whisk in the reserved sauce, the gingersnaps and the lemon juice. Strain one more time if you are worried that clumps have formed. Add the raisins (optional). Bring to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes to reduce. Slice the beef thinly and arrange on a platter. Spoon the sauce over top and sprinkle with parsley to finish. Serve with potato or bread dumplings and applesauce, red cabbage or Späzle.
SOURCE: ADAPTED FROM A FAMILY RECIPE AND
MIMI SHERATON, THE GERMAN COOKBOOK (RANDOM HOUSE, 1965)