Monday, February 21, 2011

German Sauerbraten

My husband's birthday is on Valentine's Day. This is also a day we never, ever go out to eat. Since birthdays are a family affair in our house taking 3 kids to a restaurant on Valentine's Day is less then desirable for us and probably all the other couples who are trying to have a quiet romantic meal. So cooking at home it is. Most years I will cook a meal my husband requests, some years, like the one where he received a BBQ smoker as one of his gifts, he insisted on spending the whole day smoking a piece of meat. This year though, it was up to me once again and he asked for an authentic German/Bavarian meal to be cooked. Are you wondering yet what he chose? Well, he went with Sauerbraten, Semmelknoedel and Blaukraut. I bet right now you are going "what"? OK, one more time in easier terms Sauerbraten, which is literally translated into "sour roast", German bread dumplings and red cabbage. Better?

I promise to showcase all of the recipes, but today I'm concentrating on the Sauerbraten. Let me preface by saying that different regions in Germany will produce different recipes for this. Mine is simply a family recipe which might not be "authentic" by other German standards, but is a special recipe handed down from my dad to me. Sauerbraten simply refers to a beef roast that has been marinaded in a brine of vinegar, spices, root vegetables and red wine for a few days. The cut of meat is usually a tougher cut, like a bottom round roast and by marinading the meat in something acidic for several days the notion is it will help tenderize the meat. Most people will keep the meat in the brine for 3 to 4 days, but I've even heard of people leaving the meat in for a full week. After the meat is removed and dried off, it will get a good searing on all sides in a heavy pot. The marinade, along with the seasonings and vegetables is added to the meat, which is then cooked for a couple of hours on the stove top. After the meat is fully cooked you get to work on the gravy.

Many people know Sauerbraten with a thickened gravy containing gingersnaps, this is NOT the way it is prepared in the region of Franconia (upper Bavaria) where I grew up. We also don't add rasisins to the finished gravy, this is more of a rhineland addition. My gravy, which is just the way my family cooks it, is achieved by caramelizing sugar in a pan with butter, flour is added and finally some of the cooked marinade and red wine round out the gravy. German gravy is fairly thin and never gloppy like many American gravies tend to be. A final touch of a little red currant jelly (for sweetness) and creme fraiche round out this fantastic sauce. You can use sour cream, but keep in mind not to boil the gravy anymore or it will curdle on you, which creme fraiche wont. The finished roast is typically served with "Preiselbeeren" which are similar to cranberries or lingonberry jam along with dumplings and red cabbage (both of which I will be featuring in the next few days).

I hope I have peaked your interest in this very famous German dish and you might want to give it a try yourself. Considering that my husband has been craving this dish every year for almost 20 years, you know this is a keeper!

German Sauerbraten

For the marinade:
4 cups water
1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups red wine
1 stalk celery, preferably with leaves, cut into thirds
1 onion, cut into 8 pieces
1 carrot, peeled and cut into thirds
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon whole peppercorns
8 juniper berries
3 whole cloves
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
3 lbs. beef bottom round roast

For the roast and gravy:
 2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
4 teaspoons sugar
4 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup red wine
1 tablespoon red currant jelly
4 tablespoons creme fraiche (sour cream will work as well)

For the marinade: Wash meat and place in a large non-reactive bowl (glass or plastic works well). Add all the marinade ingredients to the bowl and cover. Set in refrigerator. Keep meat in marinade for a minimum of 2 days, up to a total of 4 days, making sure to turn the meat once a day.

For the roast: After 3-4 days, remove meat from marinade and dry. Strain vegetables and seasonings from marinade, reserving both. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy duty dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the meat and sear from all sides. Add the reserved vegetables and seasonings to the seared meat along with 4 cups of the reserved marinade. Reduce heat and simmer roast for 1 hour. Turn the roast and simmer for an additional hour. After 2 hours remove meat and keep warm while you prepare the gravy.

For the gravy: In a medium sized pot add butter along with the sugar and caramelize until golden brown. Add flour and cook for about 1 minute. Add 2 cups of the cooked marinade along with any meat juices that have accumulated and the 1/2 cup of red wine, making sure to whisk well to avoid lumps. Cook gravy on low for about 20 minutes then whisk in the red currant jelly and add the creme fraiche (if you add sour cream make sure not to boil this anymore or the gravy will curdle).
Cut meat against the grain and serve with gravy and lingonberries (or cranberries) on the side.

Adapted from: My dad


  1. Susi, I have to send my daughter over to your page. She spent 3 weeks in Germany visiting a friend last summer and fell in love with the country. Now she wants to live there, lol. She's going back in May and is very excited. She constantly talks about the food she had while there. I never knew what Saurbraten was (until now). Does it ever look and sound good! I should make this for her, she would be thrilled!

  2. I enjoyed reading about this dish. I have never attempted to make Sauerbraten but you have peeked my interest. It does sound delicious and is probably very tender after marinating in all those wonderful flavors. I am looking forward to the German bread dumpling recipe. Blessings, Catherine

  3. Susi this sounds delicious! I absolutely love German food- one of my favorite things about going to Europe is getting to eat delicious food! We found some places in TX to get good German food but now I can make some of it at home with your delicious recipes :)

  4. Our husbands are very lucky, aren't they? Mine wants Schweinelende mit Pfeffersosse und Spaetzle for his birthday.
    Sauerbraten musste ich als Kind immer essen und mochte es nicht, daher hab' ich noch nie welchen selbst gemacht. Vielleicht sollte ich es doch mal in Angriff nehmen.
    Du, einer meiner Freundinnen hier kommt auch aus Franken.

  5. This meals looks and sounds absolutely delicious, and Susi, I think this is my favorite post from your blog. I look forward to the rest of the recipes and maybe I will attempt the same meal for a special occasion.

  6. I love Sauerbraten...I even enjoy eating it for breakfast with my rolls :).

  7. This looks delicious!

  8. I don't speak any German but sounds pretty darn delicious to me!

  9. Susi - The way you have presented your sauerbraten is so beautiful. It looks like a meal at a five star establishment! The color of the gravy and the clean thin slices of sauerbraten are calling to me. Looks gorgeous.

  10. Susi, this is one of my dad's favorite dinners..and I'd love to make your recipe for him :)

  11. Susi, I've never tried saurbraten- in fact, I didn't even know what it was before now! It looks really tasty though. I think it would be fun to try. :)

  12. I have never eaten anything like this, it looks so flavroful

  13. I have had the pleasure of traveling in Germany. Sauerbraten is a much treasured dish. Your family version looks really good. I can see why your husband would request this meal. Awesome.


  14. This looks wonderful. You have peaked my interest!

  15. Wow, looks great, Susi! And I love how it's adapted via your "dad." Heehee, I get my best inspired ideas from things he's created and whipped up. Everything looks so colorful and rich with flavor and history! Love it!

  16. this looks so good:) i cant wait to try this out soon.

  17. This has me intrigued. I haven't made sauerbraten in years because I wasn't thrilled with the recipe I used. Yours is quite different and well worth a try. I hope you husband had a fabulous birthday. I hope you have a great day. Blessings...Mary

  18. This sounds so good and so different from the sauerbraten that my German grandmother made. I love that there are so many variations! I am definitely trying this!!

  19. I have to admit that I've never had sauerbraten. My Dad though, has, and he saw your post and actually called me and said "Hey... I saw this sauerbraten on Susi's blog and I want you to make it!" My dad has becmee such a foodie! Both of his parents were born in Germany and he misses the food!

  20. I tried a lot of German meals but never this..My ex sister in law is German so you got the point :D
    This looks really really good! Love the nice colors, and happy belated b-day to your hubby!

  21. I always wondered what this dish was Susi! It sounds incredibly delicious - the meat must be so flavorful and tender. My family would love this. Can't wait to hear about the sides!

  22. I miss the sauerbraten I used to have at a small restaurant run by an older German couple. They were only open in the Summer in a small, very small resort area in Nor Cal. It was one of my favorite things to eat and I looked forward to the opening of their restaurant for years. But, finally the wife, who did all the cooking, wanted to quit so they retired;-( But, now I have your recipe and I'm dying to try it with the dumplings and red cabbage, my mouth is watering as I write this;-)

  23. Susi this looks sooooooooooo delicious!! Thanks for posting, will be making the roast really soon. My husband isn't here, so I will be the only one who will love the cabbage :( I can not wait to try this and the dumplings! Fantastic photos as well!!

    Thanks for pushing me to cook more German food. I know you didn't do it intentionally, but these are posts I needed to see. I'm so excited- cheers!

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