It’s autumn, and our desire for comfort food grows as the leaves turn red and gold. Our gaze drifts to that dark corner of the kitchen where the slow cooker has been sitting, neglected all summer. And we begin to think of all of the scrumptious meals that will practically cook themselves, with just a little upfront work on our part.
To inaugurate our slow cooker this season, we take a cue from that most autumn of festivals, the Bavarian Oktoberfest, to make one of Germany’s renowned dishes, sauerbraten.
Sauerbraten is a perfect candidate for slow cooking. After spending up to a week in a flavorful marinade of wine, vinegar, and spices the roast is placed in the cooker. We set the timer for 7 to 8 hours and forget about it until dinnertime. It is the perfect make-ahead meal, served with braised red cabbage (which can be made a day in advance) and potato dumplings, latkes, spaetzle, or egg noodles. In the photo above we used spaetzle-like egg noodles from Germany.
This recipe is based on “Erna’s Sauerbraten,” from Rick Rodgers’ Slow Cooker Ready and Waiting Cookbook: 160 Sumptuous Meals That Cook Themselves. We’ve used this book over the years with consistently good results.
Slow Cooker Sauerbraten
- 1 cup red wine
- ½ cup cider vinegar
- ½ cup water
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 1 medium carrot chopped
- 1 medium celery rib, chopped
- ¼ teaspoon whole cloves
- 1 tablespoon juniper berries, crushed
- 1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 (2-pound) beef bottom round roast, trimmed and tied
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (optional; see below)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 medium carrots, finely chopped
- 1 medium celery rib, finely chopped
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup gingersnap cookies, crushed
- Make the marinade: Combine all ingredients from the red wine to the bay leaves in a nonreactive saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat; cook for 5 minutes. Let it cool completely.
- Place beef in a nonreactive bowl or large resealable plastic bag. Add the marinade, thoroughly coating the beef. Cover bowl/seal bag and refrigerate for a minimum of two and up to seven days. Turn the roast a few times per day to ensure that it thoroughly marinates.
- After # of days remove the beef from the marinade and pat dry. Strain the marinade into a bowl. Discard the solids.
- [This step is optional. *] Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Brown the beef on all sides, about 10 minutes total.
- Transfer the beef to the slow cooker. Add the onion, carrot, and celery, then pour over reserved marinade.
- Cover and slow cook until the meat is tender, 7 to 8 hours on low (200°).
- Transfer the meat to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm.
- Make the sauce: Skim the fat off the surface of the cooking liquid, then puree the broth and vegetables in a blender until smooth. Pour into a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.
- Bring to a boil, then add the crushed gingersnaps. Simmer over low heat until sauce is thickened. Season with salt and pepper, then taste. It should have a gentle sweet and sour flavor, redolent of spices. If necessary, add a tablespoon of vinegar or a teaspoon of brown sugar to balance the flavors.
- Slice the roast across the grain into ½-inch slices. Pour sauce over and serve.
Serves 4 to 6 persons
* Many recipes include this browning step. It adds a little bit of depth to the flavor but not enough, in our view, to warrant the extra work.
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