Cold weather is here, which means I can finally make my all-time favorite dish: Sauerbraten. This German lady and her German husband love love love their sauerbraten, a traditional dish from Deutschland.
Translated from German, sauerbraten means "sour roast". Essentially, it is a roast marinated in vinegar and spices for a few days then slow roasted in the oven. Do not, however, let this description deter you from the dish. I can't describe the taste if you've never had this, except to say it is absolutely delicious. Tart and tangy and sweet, with the most tender fall-apart roast meat. If you like Carolina BBQ, that vinegary sweet thick sauce, then you will love sauerbraten. And it is actually quite easy to make, just takes some planning ahead for that good long marinade.
Just a few asides: for one, I always roast a big hunk of meat when I do this, then I can use the leftovers to make sandwiches for lunch the rest of the week (on rye bread with just a smear of horseradish spread, mmmm). Also, if you can't find juniper berries at your local market, try a spice shop (e.g. Penzey's in KC) or sometimes organic markets will carry them.
2 c. water
1 c. cider vinegar
1 c. red wine vinegar
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. salt, additional for seasoning meat
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
6 whole cloves
12 juniper berries
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 (3 1/2 to 4-lb.) bottom round
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1/3 c. sugar
18 dark old-fashioned gingersnaps (about 5 oz.), crushed
In a large saucepan over high heat combine the water, cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, onion, carrot, salt, pepper, bay leaves, cloves, juniper, and mustard seeds. Cover and bring this to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Pat the bottom round dry and rub with vegetable oil and salt on all sides. Heat a large saute pan over high heat; add the meat and brown on all sides, approximately 2 to 3 minutes per side. When the marinade has cooled to a point where you can stick your finger in it and not be burned, place the meat in a non-reactive vessel and pour over the marinade. Place into the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days. If the meat is not completely submerged in the liquid, turn it over once a day.
After 3 to 5 days of marinating, preheat the oven to 325 F.
Add the sugar to the meat and marinade, cover and place on the middle rack of the oven and cook until tender, approximately 4 hours.
Remove the meat from the vessel and keep warm. Strain the liquid to remove the solids. Return the liquid to the pan and place over medium-high heat. Whisk in the gingersnaps and cook until thickened, stirring occasionally. Strain the sauce through a fine mesh sieve to remove any lumps.
Slice the meat (or if it gets as tender as mine and slicing is impossible, just shred off in big chunks) and serve with the sauce. Serve over noodles, spaetzle, or with dumplings.