Game dishRead
Author: Hanno Meier, Werner Steckmann
Pictures: Werner Steckmann

Venison Sauerbraten

Holidays without a festive roast? – Inconceivable. The mere thought of a crispy wild goose or aromatic venison makes everyone’s mouth water! Venison is popular the whole year round, but it is particularly beloved in the pre-Christmas season. When the fragrance of mulled wine wafts through outdoor Christmas markets and “Last Christmas” is played over and over again on the radio, everyone starts asking – all of a sudden – “Oh! Is it Christmastime again?” Hats off to the cooks that thought to reserve a good piece of venison for their own use or ordered one from a hunter in the fall, during the main hunting season!

For example, for venison sauerbraten with cranberry pears. “For this recipe in particular, I always save a haunch of venison to keep it from being spirited away for some other purpose during the pre-Christmas season,” said Werner Steckmann, our hunter and the source of ideas for “Werner Cooks Game.”


  • 1.3kg venison haunch
  • 150g carrots
  • 100g parsley root
  • 1 onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 10 juniper berries
  • 8 allspice berries
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp. fennel seeds
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 sprigs of thyme
  • 750ml dry red wine
  • 250ml vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 400ml game stock
  • 20g butter
  • 20g flour
  • 100g sugar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 pears
  • 350 ml cranberry juice
  • Salt
  • Pepper

The dish requires a bit of advance planning. Four days before it is prepared, the fat, tendon fibers and sinew must be sliced away from the haunch before it is put in the marinade. Werner reveals several tricks for a guaranteed successful sauerbraten.

The passionate hunter and cook cuts carrots, onions, parsley root and celeriac into 2-cm pieces, crushes garlic and juniper berries, and then puts the coarsely ground peppercorns, allspice and fennel seeds plus the garlic and juniper berries into a disposable tea filter. He carefully ties it closed after adding cinnamon, cloves, bay leaf and thyme. “Next, I bring the vegetable-spice bouquet garni and red wine to a boil, add vinegar and let the mixture cool,” he said. For that special taste, Werner vacuum-packs the meat together with the marinade and leaves it in the refrigerator for four days. The bag needs to be turned now and then to ensure that the spices in the marinade are evenly distributed.

On the day of preparation, he removes the meat from the marinade, which he saves and places to one side. Werner rubs salt and pepper into the marinated meat. After browning it on all sides in a roasting pan, he removes the meat. He adds tomato paste to the vegetables from the marinade and browns the mixture in the roasting pan while stirring constantly. Next, he adds one-half liter of the marinade, the venison stock and 150 ml water to the vegetables and brings the liquid to a boil. Werner returns the meat to the pan, covers it and slowly braises it in an oven pre-heated to 180°C, with upper and lower heat, for two hours. He turns the meat every so often.

For the pears, Werner puts the sugar into a pot and caramelizes it under medium heat until light brown, adds the cranberry juice and keeps it on the burner until the sugar dissolves again. He adds a bay leaf and a pinch of salt. Next, he peels the pears, cuts them in quarters, removes the seeds and cuts each quarter into thirds. Werner adds the pears to the cranberry stock and simmers them at low heat for 4 minutes. He lets the pears cool down in the stock.

After the venison is done, Werner turns off the oven, wraps the meat in aluminum foil and lets it rest in the oven.

While it is resting, he puts the gravy through a sieve, adds salt, pepper and some cranberry-pear stock to taste, and simmers it until slightly thickened. After removing it from the stove, the gravy is thickened with lumps of cold butter. “Remember!” said Werner. “After that, don’t let it boil again.”

The sauerbraten is now ready to be carved and can be served with the sauce, pears in cranberry stock and other side dishes. Red cabbage and bread dumplings are particularly tasty with the dish. When the fragrance of the meat rises from the plate to caress our nose, one thing is certain: Christmas can always be like this.

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