In December, my husband and I traveled to territory unfamiliar to us, Austria and Bavaria. This beautiful part of the world was not unknown, however, to many of our friends and relatives who had been there at the same magical time of year. Each one had a different idea about what we should see and do and taste, but all agreed on one thing: try the glühwein (recipe below).
This spicy mulled wine had me at first sip. Offered in the traditional Christmas markets (as well as most bars and restaurants), glühwein is the perfect way to wind down after a chilly afternoon exploring the medieval cities or browsing the markets’ outdoor craft stalls. Now addicted, I’ll keep this tradition going at home throughout the winter and suspect I’ll love it just as much on Valentine’s Day as I did in early December.
After our late afternoon fix of glühwein, we explored the eateries of Munich, Salzburg and Vienna trying bratwurst, wiener schnitzel, chestnut soup, goulash, pan-fried zander (pike-perch) or char, roast duck with braised red cabbage, potato dumplings, apple strudel and the ethereal nockerl, Bavaria’s version of isla flotante.
Of all the dishes we tasted, my favorite was one I can make easily at home – schweinebraten, or braised pork shoulder (recipe below). It meets my requirements for serving a crowd: you can make it ahead of time, and, if you cook it longer than the recipe calls for, no harm done.
1 bottle red wine
½ cup or less brandy (optional)
1 orange, sliced
½ lemon, sliced
8 whole cloves
2 sticks cinnamon
3 thin slices fresh ginger (optional)
⅓ cup sugar
Simmer over very low heat for 20-25 minutes, careful not to let it boil. Add a little more sugar to taste if you prefer a sweeter drink.
Schweinebraten (Braised Pork)
¼ tsp. ground caraway seed
½ tsp. onion powder
½ tsp. ground paprika
¼ tsp. celery salt
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
4-5 lbs. boneless pork shoulder roast
3 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into large pieces
2 medium onions, quartered
2 whole cloves garlic
2½ cups dark German or Belgian beer
Heat the oven to 350 F.
Mix dry ingredients together and rub onto the pork. Then spread mustard onto the pork.
Heat oil in a Dutch oven and brown the roast on all sides. Push roast to the side or remove from pot. Add carrots, onions and garlic and saute until brown. Add beer, then cover and transfer pot to the oven to cook for 1½ hours, stirring halfway through.
After 1½ hours, uncover pot and stir onions and veggies, scraping the bottom of the pan. Turn roast over and continue to cook uncovered for 1 hour. If too much liquid evaporates, add water.
Transfer pork to a plate.
For the sauce, strain the remaining liquid and solids through a fine meshed strainer into a saucepan. Simmer, stirring, just until sauce is reduced slightly. Adjust seasonings if necessary.
Slice roast into thick slices and pour sauce over them. Serve with boiled potatoes and red cabbage or sauerkraut.