Sauerbraten and Sunday Dinner With Grandma

by Mark F. Weber on June 6, 2011


Sauerbraten is a favorite German food around the world.   Grandma Weber regularly served the sweet-sour dish using an old family recipe.  Grandma did not share the unsavory history of sauerbraten.

History of Sauerbraten

Sauerbraten flavors and preserves tough meats.  In Medieval Germany horse meat was a tough chew.  Marinating the mount in spices and vinegar for a few days crated the first sauerbraten.  Beef is the common substitute, but a Cologne butcher continues to offer the traditional recipe ingredients.

Sauerbraten Recipe

Grandma Weber’s sauerbraten recipe requires nearly a week of preparation.  She purchased 4 lbs of inexpensive chuck roast at the grocer and placed it in a large bowl.   Grandma added the following ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup of apple vinegar
  • 1/2 cup of red wine, (Grandma likely used Mogen David, but I suggest Cabernet Sauvignon)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp paprika, (perhaps there is a Hungarian in the family tree)

Grandma insisted the wine offset the sour vinegar taste, but she lived to a ripe old age taking a few sips per day.  Cover the bowl and place the marinating sauerbraten into the fridge, four to five days.

On Sunday, strain and wipe the meat.  Brown it in a skillet.   Place the meat into an oven casserole dish.  Add 1 cup of chopped onions and 1/8 tsp of ground clove.   Bake an hour at 425 degrees.  Remove the beef, but save the drippings.  Slice and return to the pot.  Pour in 3/4 cup of water.  Bring to a boil, cover, and let it simmer for 1.5 hours.  Remove the slices.  Add flour to the remaining liquid and create gravy.   Pour the gravy on the sauerbraten and serve with sour cream.

Sauerbraten Side Dishes

Sauerbraten side dishes include a starch.  I recommend spaetzle.  Its creamy texture absorbs the gravy.  Red cabbage is a traditional sauerbraten side dish, but that is too much vinegar on a plate.  I suggest grilled spargel/asparagus with side bowls of applesauce.  Add a glass of  Cabernet Sauvignon and the meal is wunderbar.

Sauerbraten recipes come by the thousands.  Some include venison.  Ginger is a common spice.  Mushrooms and sauerbraten are a match.   Few require a week fo prepare.  Grandma probably knew how to expedite it.  She respected tradition and this recipe came to America with the Weber’s in 1858.  To Grandma, sauerbraten was a labor of love and a delicious magnet for family to join her Sunday dinner.

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I am an international business professor in Pittsford, NY who managed a business unit for a German company. My passion is family and friends, plus roaming the countryside on my road bicycle.

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