Amish Sauerbraten

When I was a kid in Korea, my parents used to take me to my Grandma’s house for a big family meal every Sunday. It was the most fun-filled day of the week. I got to share so many delicious meals and stories with my Grandma, uncles, aunts and cousins. The simple joy of family life and that strong sense of “togetherness” is something I’ve missed greatly ever since we moved to the US in the 80’s. Here, we always seem to be on-the-go. In today’s modern world, emails, texting and TV also seem to have conveniently replaced many endearing face-to-face interactions we used to have with our family, friends and neighbors. Last week, on the way back home from NYC, I stopped by an Amish village in Pennsylvania for a few days. Surrounded by peaceful farmland, I got completely mesmerized with the Amish folks’ humble, simple and green way of living and their delicious hearty foods. What impressed me most was seeing such a strong “connectedness” in their community, which reminded me of my Grandma’s Sunday gatherings. What an amazingly rich culture these plain Amish people have been able to keep for hundreds of years, while the world kept changing around them! Deeply admiring the beauty of their culture, I’ve decided to make a simple yet rich Amish Sauerbraten in my California kitchen to share with my friends and neighbors on Easter/Passover.

To start, in a big bowl, mix 1 ½ cup red wine vinegar, ½ cup sherry vinegar, 2 cups water, 3 bay leaves, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, 1 teaspoon black pepper, 6 whole cloves, 1 Tablespoon ginger (finely chopped), 1 Tablespoon brown sugar, 1 Tablespoon sea salt and 1 teaspoon ground allspice. Then, marinade 4 lbs round steak in the mixture for 2-3 days in the refrigerator. On the day of cooking, drain the meat, preheat some 7th taste mushroom olive oil in a pot, brown all sides of the meat and set it aside. Next, preheat some more mushroom olive oil in a fry pan and sauté 4 carrots (chopped), 4 onions (chopped) and 4 turnips (chopped) with some sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Then, combine all vegetable and meats in one big pot and pour over the vinegar marinade. Bring it to boil and simmer with the cover for 2-4 hours, until meat turns tender. Right before serving, spoon the sauce over the meat to keep it moist and sprinkle some Italian parsley. It’s great to serve with some sliced sourdough and mashed potato.

Origin­ating in Germany, like many of the Amish, Sauerbraten is basically a sour pot roast. The acid of the vinegar balances the richness of the meat so nicely that this dish doesn’t taste as heavy as other pot roasts. The meat is also so tender that you can just break if off with a fork. The highlight of this dish is the sauce. Carrots and turnips add a nice note of sweetness to the vinegar mix, while cloves, allspice and ginger blend in their wonderful flavors. In fact, this sauce has such complexities that a bite of carrots soaked in it tastes like mashed yam and a bite of turnips tastes like a sweet pickle. Soaking a piece of sourdough in the delicious sauce will also delight your taste buds. Enjoy the discovery of the “simple, yet rich” Amish flavors. Happy cooking!

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