Beef · Oktoberfest · Pickling · Sauerbraten

Oktoberfest 2007 – Part 3 – the Sauerbraten


I've been posting about a dinner that my husband and I put together this past Saturday – a big selection of German menu items accompanied by a selection of German beers. 

You can see the menu and read Part 1 – the Sauerkraut – here, and Part 2 – the Onion Cake – here.

Today, I'm writing about the Sauerbraten.

Sauerbraten is basically pot roast that has been pickled for several days before it gets cooked.  Why is it pickled?  Sauerbraten is one of those marvelous dishes that transforms a cheap cut of meat into falling-apart, mouth-watering, fighting-over-the-last-shredded-bit bliss.  The perfect accompaniment is a generous serving of Spaetzle , which are bumpy little German noodles or dumplings.  We made them, too, and I'll post that recipe tomorrow or the next day.

But back to the beef portion of our story.

My husband made the Sauerbraten – he's made it once or twice before – and I'll be printing the recipe he uses.  However, I have to tell you, I wasn't sure I wanted to reference this specific recipe because of the baggage it brings to the table.

So I was going to type up another Sauerbraten recipe, from a different cookbook.  But that didn't sit well with me either.  So I deleted that original post (which was part of the Sauerkraut post,) and put it on the back burner for a while.

And then I decided, okay, I'm going to post the real recipe because it's the one we used, and I can't vouch for the other recipe, though I'm sure it's perfectly  good.  But still.  It's not the one we used. 

Why all the dancing around the point?  The cook who wrote the cookbook used to have a rather popular cooking show on public television…he was bearded and exuberant…and later on all sorts of ugliness and accusations bubbled up to the surface, and that was basically the end of his popularity and career.  This book was published a little before all of that, in 1990.   Its author died several years ago.

I don't want to post his name or the name of the cookbook, because I don't feel like dealing with any traffic that might reach me because of those particular words and that particular story.  So I'm not going to.  My blog.  My decision.

The recipe, however, is excellent, and should not be relegated to the recycle bin because of the author.

So now, without further confusion, we have

Sauerbraten (German Pickled Beef Roast)

You will need the following:

One 4-5 lb beef pot roast, with bone.  (Bill got two smaller nearly 3 lb pieces, and I don't think they had the bone, but it certainly didn't seem to ruin the meal at all.)

For the Marinade:

1  1/2 cups red wine vinegar

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup dry red wine

1 medium onion, peeled and chopped

1 medium carrot, chopped

1 stalk celery with leaves, chopped

8 black peppercorns

4 whole allspice (which I didn't realize we had, but I just checked, and Bill said we did)

4 whole cloves

2 bay leaves.


Place the beef in a deep glass, earthenware, or stainless steel bowl. (We used the same crock we'd used for the Sauerkraut…I should probably take a picture of it, important member of the family that it is...)  Combine the marinade ingredients in a medium saucepan and heat to boiling over high heat.  Cool.  Pour the cool marinade over the meat, turning to coat all sides.  Cover and refrigerate 2 to 3 days, turning the meat several times each day.

To Cook the Meat:

3 T peanut oil

1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped

1 stalk celery, finely chopped

1 medium carrot, finely chopped

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup red wine

1/2 cup crushed gingersnap cookie. (About 5 medium sized cookies)

Three to four hours before serving, drain the meat,


reserving the marinade,


and pat the meat dry with paper towels.

  Heat a large saucepan.  Add the oil.  Add the meat and brown on all sides, turning frequently, about 30 minutes.  (When you are browning meat, be patient.  Don't mess with it.  Just place the meat on a side, and leave it alone.  If you try pulling it off the pan and it doesn't want to go – leave it alone!  It's not browned enough yet.  You want a nice dark color on each side.  Just in case you were wondering….)


Remove the meat from the pan and reserve.  Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat.  Saute the onion, celery, and carrot in the fat until tender, about 10 minutes. 


Return the meat to the pan.  Strain into the pan the marinade plus 1/2 cup water, discarding the marinade vegetables.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, until the meat is tender, 2  1/2 to 3 hours.

Remove the meat and keep warm.  Remove the marrow from the bone (if you had the bone in the meat to begin with.  If you didn't, then perhaps your wonderful spouse will get some beef marrow bones at the grocery store the morning you're going to cook all this, and she will roast the bones in the oven and scoop out the marrow for you to use later when you cook your Sauerbraten.)  and stir into the sauce.  Puree the liquid in the blender or food processor and strain into pan, adding the red wine.  Bring to a simmer and stir in the crumbs.  Simmer, stirring frequently, until the sauce is thickened, a few minutes.

Slice and arrange the meat on a heated serving platter.  Serve hot with thickened sauce.  Garnish with chopped parsley.  (Okay, we didn't do the garnish.  And as far as slicing and arranging the meat?  Ha!  It's hard to slice something that just falls apart when you try to lift it from the pan.  Oh yes.  FALLS APART.)

This is just great with German Dumplings.  The gravy is perfect for the dumplings. 

And that's about it.  The German Dumplings are, of course, the Spaetzle, which, as I said earlier, will be the next recipe I post from this feast.

Below is the only picture I took of the whole spread of food out on a table.  It was snapped quickly and it didn't come out all that great, but whatever.  The sauerbraten is falling apart there on that red, rectangular platter in the front.  The gravy is in the white bowl to the right, and the spaetzle is in two bowls at the right front corner of the table.  My brother-in-law is helping himself to some in this picture.  Now, behind the platter of sauerbraten is a smaller glass bowl of sauerkraut, and behind that is the onion cake.  (All our time and energy went into preparing the food – then we just kind of threw it all on the table, stacked up some plates, and let everyone help themselves.  Very relaxed, everyone spread out through the house to eat.  Nothing fancy.  But no one left hungry.) 


We've decided we need to make sauerbraten a bit more often than once every several years.  It's way too good to go without for so long.  Same with the spaetzle, topped with some of the gravy from the sauerbratensigh.

Anyway, hope that made you want to pickle some beef and then cook it for a long time some time soon.  You won't regret it. 

Coming next, the Spaetzle….


2 thoughts on “Oktoberfest 2007 – Part 3 – the Sauerbraten

  1. oh! i remember watching the frugal gourmet as a kid! wow. anyway, that image of the raw pickled meat stained red makes my stomach growl. thanks for posting your recipe! i always like to see how other people make it. i just made one last week, actually! i do have to recommend to you finding a juniper bush in your town and pulling off some berries. that hoppy pine-taste is essential to my sauerbraten and you may find it essential to yours after you try it 🙂 i love the shot of the table with the different wursts and spaetzle and kraut – what a dreamy sight…

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