RR Cooks! Sauerbraten
In many ways, this recipe is what got me started on the idea of RR Cooks! Back in June 2019, Gemma did a profile on Manuel Schlich who had been appointed head referee for the upcoming ERMC. That week he entertained a few guests at his home with some German cuisine and Gemma took a photo of this delicious looking sauerbraten.
I thought it looked pretty amazing, and soon hit up Manuel for his recipe, which he clearly takes some pride in and gladly shared. And while this is the first recipe that I gathered and prepared at home, I’ve saved it until now because it is…a bit of a process. I will say that I have had to make a few assumptions on things due to the difference in available ingredients and terms, but I think I have stuck pretty close to Manuel’s original recipe. Just look for the Cooks Notes.
- 1 kg (2-3 lb) beef shoulder clod
- 1 L (4 cups approx.) red or white wine vinegar
- 0.5 L (2 cups) red wine
- 0.5 L (2 cups) water
- 2-3 carrots
- 3 onions
- 3 bay leaves
- 10 juniper berries
- 12 black pepper seeds
- Handful of mustard seeds
Cooks Notes: Shoulder clod isn’t a term generally used in my region, but it refers to large shoulder muscle group that is usually broken down into other commercial cuts. It may see common use in Europe. For my recipe, I simply went with a bottom round roast which is a lean shoulder cut.
Juniper berries aren’t easily found in my local stores either, but you can get them readily online.
Final Prep Ingredients
- Brown sugar or molasses
- Potato starch, or alternatively some pumpernickel bread
Cooks Notes: The starch or pumpernickel is for thickening the sauce into a gravy. I found some German pumpernickel near the import and kosher foods of a local grocery, so I used that with mixed results.
You’re going to marinate your roast for about a week, so be prepared to commit some space for it.
- In a pot, heat all the marinade ingredients (without the meat) and bring to a boil.
- Set aside and allow to cool until just warm.
- Place the meat in a ceramic dish or large pot (whatever you have) and fill up with the not too hot marinade until meat is covered. Top up with water if not sufficient.
- Cover and let it marinade for about one week at a cool place. A cool cellar if you have one; a refrigerator if not.
Don’t worry about your meat spoiling. As long as it is cool and covered, the wine and vinegar will keep the meat from turning. It should be nice and pickled by the time you’re ready to cook it. Once it is ready…
- Preheat your oven to 120°C (250°F).
- Also heat up a large skillet for searing. Use a bit of oil if you need to.
- Take out the meat, wipe it dry and free from seeds. Keep the marinade! It will become your sauce.
- Sear the beef in your skillet or pot, turning all sides until nicely brown.
- Return the beef to the marinade, cover, and put in the oven for about 2 hours to your preferred level of done. I like medium-rare or medium for this, so use a thermometer to check the center.
- Once done, remove the beef once more from the marinade, cover, and set aside somewhere.
- Strain the sauce through a colander into a large sauce pan and heat to a low boil. Reduce the volume to about half. Make sure you’ve given yourself plenty of time for this as well – it can take around 30-45 min.
- At this point the sauce is very sour. Add brown sugar to sweeten it and salt to taste.
- Add the starch to thicken. Alternatively, break up the pumpernickel and add it to the sauce; the bread will break down and thicken the sauce while also adding it’s own rich flavor.
- Once ready, cut the meat into slices about as thick as your thumb.
- Serve with plain potatoes or potato dumplings and red cabbage.
The result is a deliciously tender roast that is rich and sour in flavor. The sauce helps offset with a bit of sweetness, but you’ll want some variety on your plate to give your taste-buds a break. Hopefully I have done well by Manuel’s directions.
Cooks Notes: There’s a lot going on here between the searing, braising, this pot and that pan. It helps to organize yourself in advance and know exactly which vessel you are using for each step.
If you want to remove your roast a little early, you can cover it and put it back in the oven on low heat to finish while you reduce the sauce. This will make sure your meat is still warm when serving. It’s fine cooled though.
I used the pumpernickel that I found to thicken, though I don’t think I would do it again. I loved the richness that it added to the already flavorful sauce, but this particular bread has a lot of rough grains in it. The end result make it feel just a bit lumpy. If I use it again, it will be with a different type of pumpernickel, or I will strain it once more before serving.
Manuel also gave me a recipe for his red cabbage that can be prepared on the day of your meal, but I haven’t included it for two reasons. First, I don’t think I did it justice, so I’m not confident I can represent it well here. Second, it also uses red wine, vinegar, and juniper. Next to the sauerbraten, that is a lot of similar flavor profile on one plate that would benefit from some variety. I recommend a fresh vegetables next to the potatoes/dumplings that Gemma mentioned in her profile on Manuel.
Speaking of potatoes…
You’ll notice that my images here feature some whole young potatoes served with the roast. To date this is my favorite way to prepare potatoes for this kind of meal. These are salt potatoes that have a long history from the Syracuse area of New York state in the U.S.
Salt potatoes aren’t just small potatoes boiled in a bit of salt. They are boiled in a LOT of salt at a high heat. The heat develops the starches in the potatoes nicely, and once finished and drained, the salt crusts in a dusty coating on the skin. The have a nice tight skin that pops when you bite in, and a smooth texture inside.
It is pretty simple to make.
- Boil about 6 cups of water in a pot and stir in a cup or so of salt. (Reduce your heat before adding the salt so it doesn’t boil over.)
- Add about 2 lbs of young golden/yellow potatoes.
- Return to a boil and keep uncovered for about 15-20 minutes until potatoes are tender. (If you cover, you are likely to get boil-overs.)
- Strain through a colander and let drain.
- Serve with butter.
While draining, you’ll notice that the potatoes will get that white dusty look as the salt crystallizes to the surface. While this is one way to do it, I prefer to do mine in my Instant Pot by mixing 1 cup of salt and enough water to cover, then cooking under pressure for 10 min. A steam basket makes it east to remove the potatoes.
Enjoy, and please let a comment with your feedback if you make any of this delicious food!
Submit to RR Cooks!
I would love to receive more recipes from our readers to try out and feature on RR Cooks! There a few guidelines below.
- Fresh ingredients are preferred. I’d rather not do stuff-out-of-a-can recipes. No judgement on anyone that cooks this way. It is just not what I’m going for in RR Cooks! Sometimes a canned ingredient is necessary, and that is O.K.
- Ingredients should be commonly available. I plan to prepare the recipes in my own kitchen, so it can’t have ingredients that can only be obtained at that one dairy by your great-grandmother’s village in rural France. If it is something I can easily order online, that is O.K.
- It would really showcase our diversity if the recipe held some sort of personal note about you or when you come from; barring that, I’d love to hear about the kind of dish you really get excited about!
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