Aachener Sauerbraten: A Flavorful Journey into Germany's Tender, Tangy Pot Roast Tradition
Aachener Sauerbraten with gingerbread gravy is a traditional German dish that originated in the city of Aachen, my hometown, located in the western part of the country. It is a type of pot roast made with marinated beef, vinegar, and spices, and is typically served with potato dumplings and red cabbage. There are a couple of regional differences on what to put in the sauce, but I will show you here the traditional Aachener way of making it. It takes time and fridge space to make this recipe, but it’s totally worth it. Warm winter flavors come to life when you taste the combination of sour marinated beef with a sweet gingerbread flavored gravy. A dish especially for the colder winter months, because you can’t pack more Christmas flavors into one pot, even if you tried.
How to make Aachener Sauerbraten
The marinating process is what sets Aachener Sauerbraten apart from other pot roast recipes. The beef is marinated in a mixture of vinegar, red wine, spices, and vegetables for several days before being cooked. This allows the flavors to penetrate the meat and gives it a tangy and slightly sweet taste.
One of the most important ingredients in the marinade is the vinegar, which not only adds flavor but also tenderizes the meat. Traditionally, Aachener Sauerbraten is made with a type of vinegar called Rübenkraut, which is made from sugar beets and has a slightly caramelized flavor. However, other types of vinegar, such as red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar, can also be used.
Once the beef has been marinated, it is browned in a pan and then simmered in the marinade until it is tender and juicy. The potato dumplings and red cabbage are usually cooked separately and served alongside the meat.
A taste of History
Sauerbraten, which translates to “sour roast,” has its roots in medieval times. Back then, vinegar and other acidic ingredients were commonly used to preserve and tenderize meats. The Aachener version of this classic dish has a unique sweet-sour flavor profile, thanks to the addition of gingerbread and raisins in the sauce. I’m not a big fan of raisins in the sauce, for that reason I leave them out of my recipe.
Aachener Sauerbraten is a testament to the city’s rich cultural history, blending German, Belgian, and Dutch culinary influences. It’s often served during festive occasions, such as Christmas or Oktoberfest, and is typically accompanied by sides like potato dumplings, red cabbage, or applesauce.
The Art of Aachener Sauerbraten
The multi-day marinade is traditional for sauerbraten, and the theory is that the longer you leave the meat in the acidic marinade, the more tender it gets. This is the way it’s been done for generations in Germany. It’s not difficult at all, and once you’ve assembled your marinade you can stash it in the fridge and forget it for a few days. I like to marinate it right in my enameled cast iron pot, but you can also use a large heavy duty zip lock bag. Just be sure the meat is fully immersed in the liquid, or plan to turn the meat every day so there’s no spoilage.
Variations of a Marinated Pot Roast
There are a lot of regional differences when it comes to Sauerbraten. Some people prefer to add raisins to the gravy to give it an even sweeter flavor. Unfortunately Aachener Printen are difficult to find, especially here in the US. If you can’t find Printen, you can use ginger snap cookies cookies instead.
Traditionally the beef was marinated in vinegar, but I personally prefer a combination of red wine and vinegar to balance the sourness. But you can experiment with different types of meat or flavors for the marinade.
What Beef to Use for a Marinated Pot Roast - Aachener Sauerbraten
A pot roast is a big, tough beef cut (usually a cheap cut perfect for slow cooking), seared, covered and cooked slow with herbs and veggies in a flavorful broth until fall apart tender. Back in the days they used horse meat for a traditional Aachener Sauerbraten, but not anymore of course.
A good pot roast can be made with any cut of beef roast:
- Chuck Roast: it’s cut from the shoulder of the cow. When slow braised it cooks up to fork tender consistency.
- Rump Roast: cut from the hindquarters of the cow, it’s slightly more tender than chuck.
- Bottom or Top Round: these are cut from the rear legs of the animal, and the top round is more tender.
Feel free to choose what sounds best to you and what is available at your local grocery store.
Aachener Sauerbraten is a hearty and satisfying dish that is perfect for a cozy family dinner or a special occasion. It is a true comfort food that warms you up from the inside out. If you’re a fan of pot roast or other slow-cooked meats, then you definitely need to try Aachener Sauerbraten.
Overall, Aachener Sauerbraten is a delicious and unique German dish that is definitely worth trying. Its rich flavors and tender meat make it a true comfort food, and its history and tradition make it a cultural treasure. So next time you’re in the mood for some hearty and flavorful comfort food, give Aachener Sauerbraten a try!
Marinated Pot Roast - Aachener Sauerbraten
- 1 bottle Red Wine
- 1 cup Red Wine Vinegar
- 1 Carrot sliced
- 1 Leek sliced
- 1 Yellow Onion peeled and roughly chopped
- ¼ Celeriac roughly chopped, can be substituted by celery stalks
- 2 Bay Leave
- 4 Cloves
- 2 Allspice Berries
- 10 Pepper Corn
- 3 lb. Pot Roast or Chuck Roast or Round Roast
- 6 Aachener Printen (Gingerbread) the classic ones (not chocolate covered) or you can use ginger snaps
- Put all the marinade ingredients into a large non-reactive pot such as enameled cast iron (make sure it's big enough to hold the marinade and meat.) Bring to a boil, then let cool to room temperature.1 bottle Red Wine, 1 cup Red Wine Vinegar, 1 Carrot, 1 Leek, 1 Yellow Onion, ¼ Celeriac, 2 Bay Leave, 4 Cloves, 2 Allspice Berries, 10 Pepper Corn
- Submerge the chuck roast into the marinade, and cover tightly. Refrigerate for up to 3 days. If your meat is not fully covered in liquid, plan to give it a turn every day so it marinates evenly. You can also do this in a very large heavy duty zip lock bag.3 lb. Pot Roast
- Remove the meat from the marinade (it will be beautifully pink from the wine) and pat it dry, removing any stray bits of veggie as well. Remove the marinade to a bowl and wipe out the pot. Lightly coat the bottom of the pot with oil and heat until quite hot but not smoking. Brown the meat on all sides.
- Add the marinade back into the pot with the meat and bring to a boil. Scrape up any browned bits from the bottom as you heat. Now you have a choice: either turn the heat down, cover, and let gently simmer on the stove for 3 to 4 hours, or you can cover and put the pot into a 325F oven for the same amount of time. Note: whichever method you choose, you want the pot to be a gentle simmer, not a rolling boil, so adjust heat accordingly. I check it a few times during cooking to make sure. The chuck roast should lay ¾ in the marinade, if there is not enough liquid, add some water.
- Carefully remove the meat and place it onto a large piece of tin foil. Turn off the oven. Wrap the meat up and place it into the warm oven.
- Strain the contents of the pot and discard the solids. I like to put the liquid into a large saucepan at this point.
- Bring the gravy back to a boil. Crumble the Aachener Printen (Gingerbread) into smaller pieces and add to the gravy. Let the sauce cook for 5 minutes and use a handheld blender to puree the gingerbread. Simmer until the gravy thickens slightly. If necessary, thicken the gravy by mixing 1 tbsp. corn flour with 1/2 cup of the cold water.6 Aachener Printen (Gingerbread)
- Optional: If you are looking for a richer gravy, you can add the veggies from the marinade to the gravy before you blend the sauce. But you need to make sure that you don't get any of the spices into the gravy. Cook the veggies with the gravy for 20 minutes to soften the veggies. After pureeing, you should strain the gravy through a sieve.
- Season the gravy with salt and pepper
- Slice meat thinly and place it in the sauce. Serve with potato dumplings or Spätzle, red cabbage and homemade apple sauce