What is Sauerbraten?

Niki Foster
Niki Foster

Sauerbraten, literally "sour roast" in German, is a German form of pot roast, usually made with beef. However, it can also use lamb, mutton, pork, venison, and other types of roasting meat. Originally, sauerbraten was made with horse meat. The meat is marinated in red wine vinegar and water with spices and other seasonings before cooking.

Red wine vinegar, which can be used to marinate meat for sauerbraten.
Red wine vinegar, which can be used to marinate meat for sauerbraten.

Sauerbraten is considered a national dish of Germany, and different regions have their own variations on it, differing in the spices and other ingredients used in the marinade, and in the traditional side dishes. It is traditionally served with cabbage, boiled potatoes, potato dumplings, soft egg noodles called Spaetzle, and potato pancakes in some areas. It is often eaten with beer, but can also be served with wines such as Burgundy, Gewurtztraminer, Pinot Noir, Riesling, and Shiraz.

Nutmeg is often included in a sauerbraten marinade.
Nutmeg is often included in a sauerbraten marinade.

Sauerbraten is usually marinated for three to ten days before cooking. The acidic marinade helps tenderize tougher cuts of meat. The meat should not be marinated in a metal container, as the acid in the marinade can react with the metal.

Peppercorns are often added to the marinade used to make Sauerbraten.
Peppercorns are often added to the marinade used to make Sauerbraten.

Spices in the marinade often include bay leaves, cloves, nutmeg, juniper berries, and peppercorns. Less common ingredients include cinnamon, coriander, ginger, mace, mustard seed, and thyme. Some recipes add buttermilk, wine or beer to the marinade, and sometimes vegetables like carrots, celery, and onions are marinated along with the meat. Adding apples or raisins can create a more sour-sweet flavor.

Julius Caesar is sometimes credited with the creation of sauerbraten.
Julius Caesar is sometimes credited with the creation of sauerbraten.

When removed from the marinade, the meat is dried, then browned in lard or oil. Next, it is braised, or slowly simmered, for at least four hours in the marinade in a covered dish, either on the stove top or in the oven. Finally, the marinade is strained and thickened in a saucepan, usually with gingerbread or gingersnaps, flour, sour cream, brown sugar, or a mixture of any of these. A roux, a cooked mixture of wheat flour and butter, can also be used to thicken the sauce. The thickened marinade is poured over slices of the roast before serving.

In Germany, sauerbraten is often served with potato dumplings or pancakes.
In Germany, sauerbraten is often served with potato dumplings or pancakes.

Sauerbraten is served in German restaurants around the world. It is a hearty and comforting dish, perfect for cold weather. Legend holds that it was invented by Charlemagne as a way to use leftover roasted meat, but there is no historical evidence for this story. Julius Caesar and Saint Albertus Magnus are also sometimes credited with inventing the dish.

The sauerbraten marinade usually contains sour cream.
The sauerbraten marinade usually contains sour cream.
Niki Foster
Niki Foster

In addition to her role as a wiseGEEK editor, Niki enjoys educating herself about interesting and unusual topics in order to get ideas for her own articles. She is a graduate of UCLA, where she majored in Linguistics and Anthropology.

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