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Sauerbraten [at britishfoodinamerica! ?]

If, as some sources maintain (see our essay in the critical) Philadelphia pepperpot is of German origin, then sauerbraten is British, which gives the Editor an opportunity to share a cherished family recipe handed down by her mother from her Aunt Carrie decades ago. There are more elaborate recipes but none better nor even, we think, as good. The Editor’s mother never adds gingersnaps to the gravy.


-2 heaped Tablespoons commercial pickling spice (see the Notes)
-a peeled and sliced onion
-1 cup cider vinegar
-1 cup water
-a beef top or bottom round roast
-salt and pepper
-2 Tablespoons neutral oil
-more vinegar and water mixed in equal proportion

for gravy;

-2 Tablespoons flour
-2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
-Kitchen Bouquet
-no ginger snaps!

  1. Mix together the pickling spice, onion, vinegar and water.
  2. Put the beef in a plastic bag followed by the marinade and refrigerate it for three days, turning the bag over twice a day.
  3. Remove the beef from the marinade and wipe it clean of the spice fragments but do not rinse it. Pat the beef very, very dry and generously salt and pepper it all over.
  4. Strain the marinade and keep the liquid. Rinse the onion and keep it too.
  5. Put the oil in a big heavy pot over high heat until it begins to smoke, then sear the beef all over.
  6. Reduce the heat to medium, add the marinade and onion to the pot and top it with enough vinegar and water to reach halfway up the side of the beef.
  7. Bring the sauerbraten to a boil, for that is what it is becoming, reduce to a simmer that is the merest occasional burp, then cover the pot and let it go until the meat is tender to the point of melting, about 4 hours.
  8. Remove the sauerbraten from the pot and keep it warm; bring its bath back to a boil.
  9. While the vinegary bath bubbles off, whisk together the butter and flour to make a white roux, then slowly ladle small amount of the bath into the roux so that it stays smooth and does not lump.
  10. Reduce the heat under the pot to low and slowly swirl the roux liaison into the bath, add a dollop of Kitchen Bouquet for depth and color, and check for salt and pepper. If the gravy is too thin for your liking, boil it down.
  11. Always serve sauerbraten with red cabbage and either mashed potato or dumplings.


- Any brand of pickling spice, even bog standard McCormick’s, works a magic with this recipe.

- If you like New Orleans crab boil, use that, but not the liquid variation. Most new Orleans blends have an undertone of anise.

- Some cooks use chuck; the Editor’s mother never does. Authentic variations on sauerbraten use pork, and some use chunks of meat rather than a whole roast, but not ours.

- It is nice to slice the sauerbraten thin.

- Some recipes add carrots and celery to the marinade. They are unnecessary.

- It is not traditional to the family, but the Editor likes to substitute beef stock for some or all of the water.

- Many cooks like to add crumbled gingersnaps to the gravy as an alternative thickener. Eliminate the roux and simply dump the snaps into the bath is not a bad move but it is not our move.