German food is something I love but do not eat that often. Of course, much of German cuisine has been incorporated into the regular American diet (ie. hot dogs, hamburgers). However, there are relatively few “German” restaurants in the United States. From my infrequent visits to German restaurants, I have found my favorite dish is Sauerbraten, a form of pot roast. Over the years, I have worked on perfecting an at home version of this dish. This is my well-tested German Sauerbraten recipe.
On the rare times I go to a German restaurant I usually order Sauerbraten. The one German restaurant in San Diego we go to every few years is Kaiserhof in Ocean Beach. I have actually tried quite a few things on their large menu but it is hard to pull me away from the Sauerbraten. The only other German restaurant we frequent on rare occasions is Haus Heidelberg in Hendersonville, NC. We also have been to Austria Hof by the ski slopes in Mammoth Lakes but the $29 price tag for the dish has scared me off. Austria Hof has great Happy Hour specials we usually take advantage of.
The point is Sauerbraten is not easy to find on a restaurant menu, so I had to learn to make it myself. I was inspired to start making my own Sauerbraten from David Rosengarten’s It’s All American Food. Erin discusses this book in her list of favorite cookbooks and I firmly agree. However, over many years I have tweaked this recipe far beyond what was in that book to something I feel is fairly unique.
Whether my version is “authentic” is debatable. I don’t really go too much for authenticity, but instead focus on something that myself and family enjoy. Furthermore, like with my efforts to create a goulash dish, I think that Sauerbraten varies widely and there is no one authentic version. I have had Sauerbraten in Germany that was not nearly as good as some I have had in America. Personally, for me this recipe beats them all, but that is just my opinion.
Two things that I do feel are essential to call it Sauerbraten are 1) it needs to marinade for a few days and 2) it needs to have gingersnaps and juniper berries. This is a fairly easy to make recipe, but you definitely need to plan ahead. I suppose you can experiment with different types of meat, but I always use rump roast or bottom round roast (usually whichever is on sale). Generally, rump roast is a more tender cut of the bottom round, and thus more expensive. Because it marinates and cooks for a long time at a lower temperature, I don’t think it makes much of a difference.
We serve this dish with spaetzle and Erin’s German red cabbage. Spaetzle is a style of German noodle/dumpling that is very decadent and buttery. Erin makes the spaetzle and once again, after starting with the recipe from Rosengarten’s book she has developed her own recipe. We have even invested in our own spaetzle maker. You can find Erin’s recipe for spaetzle here and her recipe for red cabbage here.
You do need to start this dish three days in advance. Make the marinade and pour it over the roast. I use our large sous vide container, but any large container should do.
After three days you remove the meat and pat it dry.
Meanwhile strain off the marinade and throw away the solids. The liquid is kept to make the sauce.
Brown the meat. Next you saute fresh veggies. Now combine marinade, meat and veggies in a pot and cook for 3 hours.
At the end you thicken, and sweeten, the sauce with the addition of crushed gingersnap cookies. I like to add a lot!
Sauerbraten requires three days to marinade, but other than that is basically like cooking a pot roast. The unique taste comes from the juniper berry spice and the sweetness the gingersnaps add. This recipe can easily serve eight along with side dishes. It is perfect for an Oktoberfest style party you can pair with the appropriate German beer.
- 5 lb rump roast or bottom round
- 2 onions coarsely chopped
- 1 carrot coarsely chopped
- 1 stalk celery with leaves coarsely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic coarsely chopped
- 3 cups beef broth
- 2 cups red wine
- 1 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 2 tsp thyme or 3 sprigs
- 1 tablespoon crushed whole black pepper
- 1-1/2 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon mustard seed
- 6 cloves
- 20 crushed juniper berries
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon parsley
After 3 Days
- 4 slices bacon
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 2 teaspoons pepper
- 2 tablespoon butter
- 1 onion finely chopped
- 2 carrots finely chopped
- 2 celery finely chopped
- 3 tablespoon flour
- 1 cup water
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 cup crushed gingersnaps
Combine Marinade ingredients in pot and bring to a boil on stovetop. Let cool and add beef. Cover tightly and refrigerate for 3 days (72 hours).
Set oven to 325 degrees. Remove meat from marinade, dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Pour marinade through strainer, reserve liquid and discard solids. Cook bacon as desired, retaining bacon grease. Crumble bacon into bits and set aside. Heat bacon grease and butter in Dutch Oven. Add meat and brown on all sides for about 15-20 minutes. Remove and set aside.
Add onions, carrots and celery and saute for about 5 minutes. Add flour cook for 3 minutes. Add 1 cup water and stir.
Add reserved marinade, bacon and meat to Dutch Oven. Cover and put in the oven for 2 ½ to 3 hours. Remove meat to a platter. Add sugar and gingersnaps and whisk (or blend if desired). Simmer for 10 minutes stirring frequently until sauce thickens.
Slice the meat and cover with some of the sauce, reserving the rest of the sauce to serve tableside.