Often marinated for days in vinegar and wine, German-Style Pot Roast is tangy, sweet and full of rich, beef flavor. In this recipe, the marinating process is replaced by the slow cooking process in a crock pot. Whether you call it German Pot Roast, Bavarian pot roast, or Sauerbratan, dinner is done in hours instead of days.
I have a hobby. Well, actually, it is more than a hobby; it is an addiction. I LOVE genealogy, aka Family History. I love finding out about my family and their past, where they came from, what their lives were like and what may have brought them to America.
The earliest ancestors I can find came from England to the American colonies in the early 1600’s, on the next ships after the Mayflower, settling in Massachusetts and Connecticut. I have distant aunts and uncles that came over on the Mayflower…can I count that as being a Mayflower descendant? No? Dang it.
I do have a copy of a plat map of Hartford, Connecticut from when it was first settled and I can find family names on the map. THAT’S exciting (to me). Yep, my roots go very deep in American soil.
My roots not only go deep into American and British soil, they also go wildly deep into German soil as well. Many of my ancestors, on both sides of my family, came from Germany. My dad’s German ancestors settled in Canada and Wisconsin. My mom’s German ancestors settled in South Carolina.
I feel really sorry for those poor Germans who came to the low country of South Carolina. They left the beauty of Germany and came into the wild, sweaty, bug biting, steaming hot summers of South Carolina. They traded the Rhineland for the swamp land.
In honor of my German heritage, I decided to make something a bit German-ish: a German-Style Pot Roast, aka Bavarian Pot Roast or Saurbraten. When I first encountered a recipe for this style of pot roast, I was skeptical about its authenticity. Was there really such a thing as “Bavarian” pot roast? Or was it a made-up name for a food item, sort of like “Hawaiian Haystacks“?
With a little research and some lucky hits on You Tube, I found that the typical German-style pot roast, sauerbraten, is customarily brined for several days in vinegar, wine and a few common spices. Just like pot roast in America, recipes vary regionally and of course from family to family.
Following my foray into research on German pot roast, I feel relatively comfortable with the recipe I have provided here. I chose not to marinate the meat, but instead slow cooked it in a crock pot. The roast gets tender and the flavors are well infused throughout the meat.
Flavor Profile Ingredients
A German pot roast has a sweet and sour combination—lighter on the sweet, heavier on the sour. In keeping with a German flavor profile, I chose to use red wine vinegar. I think that balsamic vinegar would be outrageously good, but it wasn’t quite right for this meal. Sometimes beer is used as the liquid, but wine along with vinegar seemed to be more common.
Apples are also a common ingredient in pot roast in some parts of Germany. Instead of the apples, I decided to go with apple cider, which I saw used in several recipes.
In all of the recipes that I reviewed, and there were many, the typical spices used in this style of pot roast remained constant. Essentially, they are pickling spices—bay leaves, peppercorns, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and allspice. Some recipes called for these spices to be added whole, as in a bouquet garni, while other recipes used the spices ground. The bay leaves were typically used whole.
The most interesting ingredient that I found in quite a few recipes was gingersnap cookies. They are added as a thickening and flavoring agent for the gravy. Sometimes the cookies are placed whole in the liquid and dissolve as the roast cooks. In other recipes the gingersnaps were crushed and added to the gravy to thicken it after the roast had been removed. At the last minute, I opted out on the gingersnaps. Call me a chicken, I don’t care.
As for the cut of beef, there were differing opinions. Frequently a chuck roast was used. Eye of round was another choice I saw periodically. A chuck roast will become “fall apart tender” as it cooks, whereas an eye of round roast will become tender, but can still be sliced…if it doesn’t get too obliterated by the sloooooooow cooking.
Prep Time: 10 minutes | Cook Time: 5 hours 15 minutes | Total Time: 5 hours 25 minutes
Red wine vinegar, apple cider and sweet pickling spices bring robust flavor to beef roast. Slow crock pot cooking achieves rich traditional flavor in a few hours without having to spend days marinating the roast prior to cooking.
- 4 pound chuck roast or eye of round roast
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 large onion, medium dice
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cup unsalted beef stock
- 1 cup apple cider
- 3/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon ginger
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup corn starch
- Sprinkle the roast liberally with salt and pepper; rub into roast. Heat a braiser or deep frying pan over medium high heat. Add oil and swirl pan to coat bottom with oil. Brown the roast on both sides. Note: When browning, the roast will naturally release from the bottom of the pan when it has browned enough. If the roast sticks to the pan when attempting to turn it over, then it is not yet ready to be turned.
- While the roast is browning, place garlic and onions in bottom of crock pot. Place browned roast on top of onions and garlic. Place bay leaves around roast.
- Deglaze braiser or frying pan with 1/2 cup beef stock. Add remaining beef stock, apple cider, red wine vinegar, tomato paste, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and allspice. Stir or whisk until ingredients are well mixed. Pour over roast in crock.
- Cover crock pot and cook on high for 4-5 hours, until roast is tender.
- Remove roast to platter and set aside. Mix together water and corn starch until smooth. Add just enough slurry to liquid in crock pot to thicken to desired consistency. It may not take all of the cornstarch slurry. Allow to cook in crock on high until of desired consistency.
After being cooked, a beef chuck roast will be fork tender and will break apart in chunky pieces. An eye of round roast, on the other hand, will generally stay more intact and can be sliced.
Recipe by Terri @ that’s some good cookin’.
Thinking about beef reminds me of one of my German ancestors, living in South Carolina in the mid to late 1700’s. I found an index of people who helped support the cause of the American Revolution. My fifth great grandfather, John Henry Croft (Johann Heinricht Graff) was recorded as having given “2 beeves” to the army.
When I first read “beeves”, it took me a moment to figure out that the word was in reference to cows—beef. John Henry had given two cows up for slaughter so that the soldiers would have something to eat. That’s a lot of beef. I wonder how it was prepared. 🙂
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