Tangy and tart, with sweet and earthy notes, sauerbraten is one of those lovely meals that feels perfectly satisfying for the onset of autumn.
Sauerbraten means “sour” or pickled meat; and while it is typically attributed to German cuisine, its creation has also been credited to the Romans. Historical records suggest that Julius Caesar fed his troops by packing meat in large terra cotta amphoras filled with wine, as they traveled through the Alps. The meat would pickle, while the alcohol preserved it and made it available for extended journeys. Current day sauerbraten is much less labor intensive, even though it does involve either some wine or vinegar and marinating for 4 or 5 days. The culinary region dictates the types of herbs that are used with the wine or vinegar during the pickling or marinating process; including flavors like juniper, mustard seed, cloves, mustard and more. Historically, the type of meat used could be beef, horse, or game meats like venison.
Sauerbraten is a tangy, flavorful stew. The meat is marinated for several days and then slow cooked in its own juices.
Once it cooks, the liquid is drained off and combined with gingerbread or gingersnaps to make a thick, brown flavorful gravy. Sauerbraten is typically also served with red cabbage (called rotkohl) and either a potato dumpling called a knodle, or a particular type of egg noodle called spaetzle.
From a health perspective, well, we’re talking about wine pickled meat in gingersnap gravy. Though that might at the onset seem counter to a healthful meal, there are actually some very healthful components if prepared from scratch with quality ingredients. For example, the pickling process makes the protein and any collagen in the meat more easily assimilated. It is also higher in minerals, and it is more easily digested.