Sauerbraten, Spätzle and Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage

This is one of our all time favorite meals. It doesn’t really get more perfect than the combo of tender, meaty beef and flavorful gravy, creamy spätzle, and the hit of sweet and sour from the cabbage. This is a dish that has variations by region and person, and I have never tried another version, because we love this one so much. If you aren’t familiar with it, it is going to sound a little weird. The meat sits in a bath of wine and vinegar for 5 days before you cook it, and the sauce has gingersnaps and golden raisins in it… I know how that sounds… but the resulting gravy is SO delicious. Give it a try and I promise you will thank me.

This recipe does require some prep, since you need to buy and marinate the meat 5 days ahead of time. The nice thing is it is super quick to start, and then you leave it alone and do nothing for 5 days. You also need a few hours to cook it since it is basically a pot roast, and you won’t get tender meat without slow cooking. It isn’t much work though overall, you just need time.

If you haven’t had spätzle, it is a sort of small dumpling, made from a egg and flour batter dropped into boiling water, then usually drained and fried a bit in some butter. Some restaurants serve it with cheese and well, but we like it with the gravy poured over it. It is really simple to make (although a bit messy).

This meal is really enhanced by the sweet and sour cabbage on the side. It has such a punch of tartness and flavor that cuts the richness of the rest of the meal. It also takes a bit of cooking time but couldn’t be simpler as a side dish.

For the roast:

1 3-5 lb beef eye round (I haven’t been able to find eye round lately, but you can also use chuck roast. It is just a bit fattier so you will need to remove some fat from the juices after cooking.) I love this fat separator I have, and often use it to remove extra fat from broth/sauces.

  • kosher salt
  • 2 cups red wine (I usually use a blended red for this)
  • 1 1/2 cups red wine vinegar
  • 3-4 cups water
  • 3 large onions (peeled, one cut in half, 2 thinly sliced)
  • 1 large carrot, cleaned and cut into 2 large pieces
  • 1 tbsp pickling spices
  • 14 whole cloves
  • 8 whole black peppercorns
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp dried thyme (or fresh)
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 package of bacon, chopped
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 6 gingersnaps (or 1 tsp ground ginger)
  • juice of 1/2 lemon

Season the beef with a decent amount of salt and pepper. Place into a large sealable container. Bring the wine, vinegar, the 2 onion halves, the carrot, the spices, and 3 cups water to a boil in a sauce pot. Pour over the beef and allow to cool. Cover and put into the fridge for 5 days. If the meat isn’t fully submerged, turn it over every day to marinate it all equally.

On day 5, remove the meat from the marinade and save the marinade because it will be the sauce. Dry the beef. Heat your oven to 325. If you are using a large roast, cut into 2-3 pieces. In a large oven safe dutch oven, heat 2 tbsp butter and the bacon and cook over medium low until it is browned and rendered. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Reserve it for topping your finished dish. Add the 2 sliced onions, and cook for about 15 min until they start to caramelize. Return the beef to the pot. Strain the marinade through a fine mesh strainer, and add to the pot. If using ground ginger, not gingersnaps, add that now too, and the golden raisins.

Bring the pot to a boil, cover, and transfer to the oven. Cook for 2-3 hours (or maybe longer, really depends on the size of your roast) until the meat is very tender. Remove the beef to a plate, and pour the sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl.

Return the pot to medium and add the remaining 2 tbsp butter, add the flour and sugar, and cook whisking constantly, until the flour is lightly browned. Add the sauce, lemon juice and gingersnaps if you are using. Add the beef back to the pot and simmer until the sauce has thickened, about 10 minutes. Taste and add more lemon juice or salt if needed. During this time, cook your spätzle. When everything is done, put some cabbage and spätzle on the plate and top the spätzle with the meat and gravy. Sprinkle with the reserved bacon and some chopped parsley if you have it.

Spätzle:

I usually double this recipe for our family of 5, because my kids like a lot of spätzle. We don’t have leftovers when I do this. 🙂

  • 1 cup AP flour
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • a pinch white pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp butter for frying

Combine the ingredients other than the butter in a bowl, mixing well. You may need to adjust the thickness of the batter with a little water. It should be like a thick pancake batter. It needs to be able to be pushed through a large holed strainer successfully. Not runny enough that it just drips through, but not so thick you can’t push it through. You can adjust with water and flour until it works.

Heat a large pot of water to boiling. I use my salad spinner basket to make my spätzle because it has holes slightly larger than my colander and it makes the right size dumplings. You want them to be about 1/2-3/4 of an inch thickness. They will be free form in shape because they are dripping into the water. You can use a colander with large holes, a grater with large holes, whatever works. Push your batter through your strainer into the boiling water and let boil for about 5 minutes. Drain the dumplings and fry briefly over high heat in some butter, seasoning with extra salt if needed. You just want to brown them slightly, not overcook them. Serve topped with the meat and gravy, or with butter and cheese.

Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage:

  • 1 head red cabbage thinly sliced
  • 1/2 red onion thinly sliced
  • a few tbsp sugar to taste
  • 1/4 cup or more red wine vinegar to taste
  • few tbsp bacon fat from cooking the bacon if you have it
  • salt and pepper to taste

Place the bacon fat, or some butter into a large sauce pan. Add the onion and cabbage and cook over medium for a few minutes. Add the salt, sugar, vinegar, and some water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook for about 1 1/2 -2 hours until the cabbage is fully soft and it has absorbed all the flavors. Adjust the seasoning as needed. Remove from heat and serve.

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