I had my parents and sister here for dinner the other night as an excuse to make a huge and complicated meal. Have you ever done that? I know people other than me must do that.
At least a month ago I bought a little packet of German sauerbraten spices from a European import deli in Tampa. There was a suggestion on the side for trying it with venison! I was immediately hooked. Well, if you’re going to the trouble of making sauerbraten then of course you need a whole big meal to go with it. Right?
I started the sauerbraten 3 days before the actual dinner.
Day 1: Take venison shoulder roast out of the freezer, unwrap, and place in a large bowl. Pour 3 tbl of kosher salt over the meat and cover with cold water. Cover and put in the fridge.
Day 2: Take out the bowl and drain the water and blood that has been drawn out of the meat by the salt. Place the marinade ingredients (spices, red wine, red wine vinegar) in a saucepan and bring to a boil, then let cool. Rinse the meat, put it back in the bowl, pour over the marinade and cover again tightly. Put it back in the fridge.
Day 3: Turn the meat in the marinade, and return to the fridge.
Day 4: Cooking day! In the morning, place a couple hands-full of whole dried shiitake mushrooms and a pound of carrot chunks in the bottom of the crock pot. Take the meat out of the marinade and place over the vegetables. Then strain the marinade and pour the strained marinade over the meat and vegetables. Throw away the marinade spices. Sprinkle with a teaspoon or so of salt and plenty of cracked black pepper. I also added a few fresh juniper berries, I love the flavor of juniper berries. Then cover and set on low. Cook for seven hours.
The whole point of sauerbraten is supposed to be the gravy- the drained juices from cooking the meat, combined with gingerbread cookie crumbs, sugar, and sour cream. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Well, in all the last-minute prep chaos right before dinner, I forgot all about the last steps of the sauerbraten gravy-making and just served the sauerbraten au jus. The venison was a little dry but the real star of the dish were the shiitake mushrooms cooked along with the venison all day. Shiitake sauerbraten, who knew?
To go along with the 4-day masterpiece I made pureed gratin of rutabaga with plenty of sour cream and butter, a cold salad of sliced cucumbers with my homegrown dill, white balsamic vinegar and sour cream, and small onions roasted with bits of homemade pancetta and fresh rosemary. My father brought his famous sauerkraut with apples and onions, which my children fight over. It was a helluva feast.