Sauerbraten is a favorite dish throughout Germany and is served in most German restaurants throughout the U.S. It is a roast (usually of beef or venison) that has been marinated for 3 to 4 days in a marinade of vinegar, wine, vegetables, and various spices. Marinating the meet acts as a tenderizer, resulting in tender, soft, juicy meat.
There are several regional variations of the Sauerbraten, differing mainly by ingredients of the marinade. Rheinischer Sauerbraten, a specialty of Rhineland-Palatinate (Rheinland Pfalz) and North Rhine-Westphalia (Nordrhein-Westfalen), is the most well known version. Unique to the Rheinischer Sauerbraten is that it is served with a a slightly sweet sauce made with raisins.
Other regional varieties include Swabian, Franconian, Thuringia, Saxon, and Westphalian.
Region: Throughout Germany
Historically, horse meat was used to make Sauerbraten. However, today beef or venison is most often used. Variations also include Sauerbraten of pork (known as Pepse) and turkey.
Common spices of the marinade include mustard seeds, pepper, dill, coriander, bay leaves, allspice, juniper berries, basil, caraway seeds, cloves, cinnamon, and taragon.
As the name suggests, Sauerbraten has a slightly sour flavor. However, it is served with a complementing sauce that balances this out nicely. In some variations, such as the Rheinischer Sauerbraten, the sauce has a slightly sweet flavor. Also, Sauerbraten should be very tender and soft. The marinade serves both as a flavoring agent and as a tenderizer. The longer the meat is able to marinade, the softer and more flavorful it will become.
Sauerbraten is traditionally served with potato dumplings (Klöße or Knödel), red cabbage, and apple sauce. If you don't care for potato dumplings, Sauerbraten also goes very well with Spätzle, potato pancakes (Kartoffelpuffer or Reibekuchen), and boiled potatoes.
The origins of Sauerbraten date back over 2000 years to the time of the Romans. Meat was preserved in red wine to be transported to the many Roman settlements and cities.