Editor’s note: This was written in late winter, but delayed due to various circumstances. The next post in this series will be a new, current one and hopefully the series stays up to date from now on.
In honor of my German heritage, I decided that sauerbraten should be in my cooking repertoire, as I enjoy it when prepared by Eric. So, in spite of my plan to minimize “meat and potatoes” meals in this series, I decided to embrace and feature that combination…this time. Why? For a culturally complete meal, I wanted to serve the sauerbraten with potato pancakes, another German specialty that I make routinely. Our dwindling storage potato supply suggested that I either make this now or wait until July, the earliest more potatoes could be ready for harvest. Sauerbraten in July doesn’t sound as appealing, so I opted to prioritize this as a nice winter meal.
Although my parents have handwritten recipes for sauerbraten from my grandmother, I simply went for our cookbook shelf and took guidance from the recipe in Mimi Sheraton’s The German Cookbook, our favorite resource for traditional German cooking. I followed the recipe moderately closely, though of course it calls for beef rather than goat. What matters is the braising theme, and the basic components of this technique are quickly becoming familiar: brown the meat, saute some aromatics, add some liquid, put it all together, and slow cook. The twists here are that sauerbraten starts with a specific marinade, and final preparations include making gravy.
I pulled the shoulder out of the freezer and allowed it thaw fully in the refrigerator, until I found time to make the marinade (shown left), which included:
- 1.5 cups cider vinegar (purchased)
- 1.5 cups water
- 1 small carrot, chunked (ours)
- 2 smallish onions, slightly sprouting (ours)
- ~5 each: cloves & peppercorns (purchased)
- ~1 tsp mustard seed (purchased)
- ~2 tsp coriander (ours)
I brought these to a boil, simmered for ~5 minutes, then allowed to cool. I unwrapped the goat shoulder, put it in a glass baking dish, and covered it with the marinade. I added a bit more vinegar and water (in equal ratios) to cover more of the meat, but didn’t fully submerge the meat because the potential for spillage would have been too great. I covered this with aluminum foil (since we unfortunately don’t have a pan with a reusable lid big enough to hold a kid shoulder) and put it back in the refrigerator. I turned the shoulder a couple of times in the marinade during its refrigerator stay.
My original plan was to cook it after marinating for 3 days, but on the target day, the weather was too nice for outdoor work to justify much time in the kitchen. Thus, I postponed an extra day, which didn’t matter as sauerbraten is supposed to marinate for a long time.
As is typical of braises, cooking begins with drying and browning the meat. This was challenging since the shoulder didn’t really fit in our biggest cast iron pan. With careful handling, most surfaces of the meat managed to touch the pan enough to achieve decent browning.
Next step: aromatics, in this case just onions. These were our largest two remaining onions, both of the Redwing variety. Overall, our onions stored very well this year (harvest time is late summer), which explains why onions keep showing up in these kid cooking posts. However, as with potatoes, the storage season for bulb onions is nearing its end, with green onion season just around the corner. In any case, I sliced these up…
…and cooked them in chicken fat. Meanwhile, I had strained the marinade, as the recipe directed. However, I couldn’t bring myself to discard the leftover carrots and onions. I went ahead and added those to the skillet of freshly sliced onions, making sure to remove the cloves and peppercorns; some mustard and coriander seeds came along for the ride.
The sauteed veggies, meat, and marinade liquid (which I had brought to boiling) went back into the same dish. I put the aluminum foil back over this, then popped it into the oven at 300ºF. I let it cook for a bit more than 3 hours, turning the meat after each hour.
I started making the potato pancakes towards the end of the third hour. When those no longer required my concentration, I moved the meat to another dish and kept it warm in the oven. Meanwhile, I strained the liquid (again). This time, the liquid would go to the gravy, the onions and carrots to the plate.
Gravy: I’ve never been a big fan of gravy, so I had never made it before, but the process is similar to making a white sauce with a roux. I followed the directions from the cookbook, first melting 1 oz of butter, then adding 3 Tbl of white flour and 2 Tbl of white sugar. The mix seemed a little dry, but I stirred it anyway until I could detect some darkening in color. At this point, hunger overcame the desire for perfection, and I poured in some liquid, pausing to see how much thickening would occur, then adding additional liquid until I had a consistency that I liked. I also added a half cup of purchased organic raisins that I had soaked in water, according to recipe directions (Eric sometimes soaks these in rum instead when making sauerbraten). I tasted the gravy and decided that the sweet-sour flavor balance was close enough for my taste buds; Eric agreed.
Here’s the meal: Sauerbraten (with gravy & the onions/carrots cooked with the meat), home-fermented sauerkraut, and potato pancakes with home-preserved applesauce. The plate looked oh-so-monochrome, so I couldn’t help but snip some tops off of sprouting onions to provide at least a little green. We agreed that the result was a success: tender, tasty meat, and gravy that even I approved of. The marinade had definitely done its job, resulting in piquant flavor that could be considered overly strong by some palates, but that we enjoyed. A shorter marinade time would likely reduce this effect.
Leftovers! Some people don’t like leftovers, but we love them. No matter how much I enjoy cooking, I’m always happy to know that the refrigerator holds another tasty meal (or more). After the first serving, we enjoyed three more meals centered around this goat shoulder. The pancakes were gone after the first round of leftovers, and then we added a couple more twists. The photo on the right shows sauerbraten leftovers served on rye injera, an Ethoipian-inspired flatbread that is the easiest way to keep a sourdough starter happy on a busy day–no rolling necessary, the batter just cooks on a hot pan. Eric happily declared it an “Ethopian sauerbraten burrito.” Although we enjoy making culturally “normal” meals–such as sauerbraten served with potato pancakes and kraut, we have no qualms about mixing and matching world cuisines on our plates; who cares as long as it tastes good! Eric made a nice side salad of sweet corn, peas, and lime basil, all preserved from last summer’s bounty. Yum; hooray for the fusion cuisine of Chert Hollow.