Cooler weather – and Oktoberfest! – is the perfect time to enjoy super tender and flavorful Sauerbraten.
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The calendar is telling me it’s fall (although the weather disagrees), and that means we have the official excuse to start making some hearty, rich food to go along with the full flavored beers of the season: Oktoberfest! We love Oktoberfest beer! The rich maltiness and the beautiful amber color just seem to fit with the changing leaves and cool breezes (you know, in places other than Houston). But even if we don’t have the most fall-like weather, Houston is home to our favorite Oktoberfest brewer, St. Arnold’s. We fell in love with their liquid gold when we went to school here, and believe me, we were on the lookout for it whenever we would come to visit. Yes, we were that person asking the store if they had any Oktoberfest beer in April. And since we have this wonderful German inspired beer, we figured we should pair it with some German style food. May I introduce you to sauerbraten!
I would describer sauerbraten as a German pot roast. You take a hunk of beef, marinate it for 3-5 days, and then cook it slowly in a high moisture environment until you’ve got delicious, fork cut-able richness that sticks to your bones as you kick back and watch football (Go Broncos!). I first had sauerbraten in Denver at the Chinook Tavern. Yes, a restaurant in Denver with a name that sounds like it belongs in the Pacific Northwest might be an odd combination for great German food, but here we are. I really enjoyed the slightly sour taste and the luscious richness of the slow cooked beef. It’s been quite a while since I had it, but after popping the top on a bottle of beer (really a great beverage for deep thought), I remembered it. So to the internet I went, searching for a recipe, and wouldn’t you know it? Alton Brown had a recipe. I’m a big fan, and the recipe looked solid, so we’re off to the races. The very slow, multi-day races.
Sauerbraten is not fast. But it IS worth it, and it actually doesn’t take a whole lot of user input. You’ll start by making the marinade, which consists of a LOT of vinegar, and most of your seasonings. Then you sear your piece of beef, place it in the marinade, and park it in the refrigerator for 3-5 days. Added bonus, you get to play food tetris as you figure out how to fit everything else in your fridge around your storage vessel. Don’t forget to flip the meat every 24 hours!
Once you’re ready to cook, it’s pretty simple: assuming you’ve been keeping the meat in an oven safe pot, turn on the oven, add some sugar to said pot, place said pot in said oven, crack open a beer and high five someone (self-fives are permitted). It’s going to be a little while. 100% disclosure, we did ours in a slow cooker, because the oven was otherwise occupied. But the slow cooker and oven work equally well. Cooking duration will vary by the size and shape of your cut of beef, but I’d start giving it a poke at around 3 hours (although it could take up to 4). Your internal temperature should be at least 155, and the outer portion of the meat should pull away with the gentle use of a fork.
At that point, pull your pot out of the oven and remove the beef to a large bowl tented with foil. Place the pot on the stove and add some crushed gingersnap cookies, and then whisk until it thickens.
No, you read that right: gingersnap cookies. I know, right? I was pretty skeptical at first, but I trusted the recipe’s author, so I plunged ahead. It works great! All the sweetness and spiciness of the gingersnaps (you don’t want the gingerly ginger variety) counteracts the vinegar, and you end up with a rich, thick sauce that compliments the beef perfectly. I never would have guessed! Plus that means you have cookies to snack on while you cook.
We would recommend serving this cut thick, with plenty of sauce, alongside something starchy, like potatoes or egg noodles. It’s a nice full meal to cap off a long day, and it reheats very well, so you can take some for lunch the next day. So make like it’s Munich, and tuck into a nice hot plate! Prost!
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup cider vinegar
- 1 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 large carrot, chopped
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt, additional for seasoning meat
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 bay leaves
- 6 whole cloves
- 12 juniper berries
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1 (3½ to 4-pound) bottom round
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- ⅓ cup sugar
- 18 dark old-fashioned gingersnaps (about 5 ounces), crushed
- Add the first eleven ingredients (through the mustard seed) to a large, non-reactive pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, and let cool.
- Rub the beef with oil and season well with salt and pepper. Heat a large pan or griddle and brown on all sides, about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove from the heat and let stand until the marinade has cooled to less than 110 degrees (it will still be hot, but not painful to place a finger in).
- Add the beef to the pot, and refrigerate for 3-5 days. If it is not fully submerged, flip the beef every 24 hours.
- When you are done marinating, add the sugar to the pot and stir until dissolved. Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees.
- Cover the pot, and cook in the middle of the oven until tender, 3-4 hours. Alternatively, you can use a slow cooker on high for around 4 hours.
- When the meat is done, remove to a bowl and tent with foil to keep warm. Strain the marinade through a colander to remove the solids, and return the stove top over medium-high heat.
- Add the crushed gingersnaps and whisk until thickened, 4-6 minutes.
- Pass the sauce through a fine mesh strainer to remove any lumps and remaining solids.
- Cut the beef, and serve with plenty of sauce.