German sauerbraten: marinated roast beef with gingersnap gravy

Sauerbraten is a classic German dish. The meat is tangy, with a hint of pickling spice, while the gingersnaps add just the right sweetness and spice to the rich gravy.

The Runaway Spoon
Sauerbraten is a classic German roast beef with tangy meat and a touch of gingersnap in the rich gravy.

The first signs of fall are just beginning to show, so my mind turns to hearty, meaty meals with bold flavors, and this recipe fits the bill perfectly. Spiced, seasoned and slow cooked, it will make you house smell like autumn and it is a great weekend cooking project. It’s a warming and comforting Sunday night supper, or marinate during the week for a wonderful weekend feast. And perfect for an Oktoberfest celebrations!

Sauerbraten is a classic German dish, or so I am told. I’ll admit, I don’t know much about German food. But my father once requested that I make it, so I tinkered and learned until, after a couple of tries, I got it just the way he wanted it. I wish I had made it for him more often. It may sound a little odd – marinating meat in so much vinegar and using cookies in the gravy, but it works perfectly and will make total sense when you first taste it. The meat is tangy, with a hint of pickling spice, while the gingersnaps add just the right sweetness and spice to the rich gravy. It may not win any beauty contests, but I promise it will win you over.

I know it takes three days and then four hours of cooking to make this – but the actual work involved is minimal. It just takes a little patience. I love to serve this with mashed potatoes or egg noodles. I have yet to perfect the technique for spaetzle, but that would be a perfect combination if you possess the skill. Leftover meat makes a wonderful sandwich!

German sauerbraten
Serves 6

1 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 cups water
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 carrot, roughly chopped
1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
3 sprigs fresh marjoram
2 dried bay leaves
1 sprig sage leaves
2 Tablespoons pickling spice
3 to 3-1/2 pound bottom round beef roast
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper
5 ounces old fashioned gingersnaps (about 18 – 20)

1. Pour the vinegars and water in a medium sized saucepan, then add the onion, carrot, celery and herbs. Stir in the pickling spice and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Cover the pan, lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool to room temperature.

2. Pat the roast beef bottom round dry with paper towels, then rub the olive oil over it and sprinkle all over with salt and pepper. Heat a 4 to 5 quart heavy non-reactive pan over medium high heat (I use an enameled cast iron dutch oven). Sear the bottom round all over until just browned, a few minutes on each side. Leave to cool for a few minutes, so the pot is not too hot, then pour over the marinade. Cover the pot and refrigerate for 3 days, turning the roast over a few times a day.

3. When ready to cook the sauerbraten, heat the oven to 325 degrees F. Place the pot with the meat and marinade in the oven and cook for 4 hours. Crush the gingersnaps to very fine crumbs in a food processor, or just place them in a ziptop bag and whack with a rolling pin until you have a nice fine rubble.

4. Remove the cooked roast from the cooking liquid to a platter and cover with foil. Strain the marinade through a sieve into a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Stir the crushed gingersnaps into the gravy and cook for a few minutes until thick. Strain the gravy again (you can put it in the rinsed out Dutch oven to avoid dirtying another dish) and pour back into the sauce pan and keep warm over low heat.Slice the meat and serve with the gravy spooned over.

Related post on The Runaway Spoon: Pumpkin Cream Tart

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