Sauerbraten, or known in the barbarous vulgar English as "German Pot Roast," is prepared with a slow marinade of vinegar and spices that give the beef a nice aged, seasoned flavour. It was allegedly created by Charlemagne sometime in the early 9th century as a way to preserve and prepare leftover, not-so-fresh meat. The dish, and many variations thereof, have survived throughout the centuries, and it remains an easily recognizable staple of German (particularly Rhenish) cuisine.
Making your own (Serves eight):
4 pounds (1.8 kilos) rump or boneless bottom round roast
2 onions, thinly sliced
4 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
1 cup (240 mL) vinegar
1 cup (240 mL) water
1/2 cup (120 mL) cider vinegar
1/4 cup (60 mL) oil
1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) salt
1 cup (240 mL) water, boiling
1/2 cup (120 mL) sour cream
1 tablespoon (15 mL) flour
10 gingersnap cookies, crushed (yes, you read that correctly)
First, the marination, the most timely step of the procedure. Place the meat in a glass dish, deep enough to hold it. Add the onions, peppercorns, cloves, and bay leaf. Pour vinegar, water, and cider vinegar over the meat; chill, covered, for four days. Turn the meat twice each day.
On the fifth day, remove the meat from the marinade, pat it dry, and strain the marinade into a bowl. Keep the onions and 1 cup (240 mL) of the marinade in the pan.
In a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, braise the roast on all sides in oil. Sprinkle it with salt and pour boiling water around the meat. Spread the crushed gingersnap cookies on top, and simmer covered for 1-1/2 hours. Turn it often in order to brown it evenly.
Place the roast back in the pan with the marinade you've saved, slide it into the oven, and cook everything at 375 degrees Fahrenheit (190 degrees Celsius) for two hours. Remove the meat and strain its juices into a large saucepan.
In a small bowl, mix the sour cream with flour. Stir it into the cooking juices and cook, stirring, until the sauce is thickened and smooth. Slice the meat and serve with gravy and the rest of the meal. I usually consume it with some form of processed tuber (usually Reibekuchen or parsley potatoes), steamed vegetables, and a glass of nice red wine, though I'm sure other combinations would work just as well if not better.