|Category||Main course recipes|
|Servings||6 - 8|
|Time||prep: 2 hrs|
Schweinsbraten (“Bratl“, roast pork)
„Bratl“ is a traditional meal of the Austrian, Bavarian and even Bohemian cuisine. Back in the „old days“ – in fact not even a century ago – electricity was not available for the majority of households, and hence there was neither a freezer nor a fridge for food conservation. People had to come up with other ways of keeping food (especially meat) edible for more than just a couple of days. Common techniques back then were (and even today are) to pickle or to salt it. Adding herbs to the salty “bath“ gave more taste to salted meat or pork. This is the origin of the Bratl, a roasted piece of salted pork, which has become a very common dish for the rural society, especially for farmers in the Austrian regions called “Innviertel” and “Hausruckviertel”. To pickle meat or pork increased its keeping quality, but not for an unlimited time. Therefore, it was not unusual for our grandparents to be served a putrid piece of Bratl. People usually ate all of it, as nobody dared to throw away valuable food at that time. Nowadays, this would be unthinkable.
Pigs were kept on farms merely as the source for pork, whilst other livestock such as cattle was also used as draft animals. In times when taxes were paid in kind, farmers were allowed to keep a limited number of pigs for that purpose (this is the origin of the German expression “Schwein haben”, which means being lucky). The fatter the pig, the better it was. Fat was an important source of nutritional value for the hard working rural citizens. During World War II pork was rationed. In order to nourish themselves, people used to secretly slaughter pigs or cattle under the cover of the night, and therefore they did not have to let any valuable livestock to the army.
Even until the middle of the last century, farm life was determined by daily hard work which was done by farmhands and maids. The well-established hierarchical structures among the farm servants were also evident on the dining table. For example, when a Bratl was served for lunch, the biggest chunk of pork was reserved for the head of the servants (the “Großknecht”) and marked with a slice of potato on top of it. Precut pieces of Bratl were served to each person on the table and the size of the piece reflected one's position within the hierarchy of servants. After the ranking, it was everyone’s own choice how much of the lunch ration was eaten for lunch and how much was spared for dinner. Considering the hard daily work people had to do back then, this was certainly not an easy decision. Even plenty of dumplings and cabbage were not much more than a cold comfort.
Nowadays, a Bratl is a dish for social events rather than an everyday meal. Served in a tray as “Bratl in der Rein”, it is often the highlight of social get-togethers. Typical side dishes are “Stöcklkraut” (parboiled and roasted cabbage) and “Knödel” (dumplings). Even the cold Bratl is a very tasty snack, particularly in combination with bread, horseradish and a glass of beer or “Most” (a typical Austrian beverage, which is comparable to cider). This plain fare is worth a try.
Schweinsbraten is a famous, legendary and delicious Upper Austrian dish. Try this easy but tasty meat recipe!
Makes 6 to 8 servings:
- 1 (12-ounce) bottle of lager beer (for beer glaze)
- 1 piece of pork (1,5 kg)
- 8 pieces of potatoes (medium)
- 2 tablespoons of caraway seeds
- a pinch of salt (to taste)
- a pinch of freshly milled black pepper (to taste)
- 1 clove garlic (crushed)
- 2 yellow onions (medium)
- Preheat the oven to 170 – 190°C.
- Wash the meat thoroughly and pat it dry with a paper towel. For a crispy crunch on top of the meat, cut a diamond pattern (each about 1 inch long) into the fat side.
- Rub salt, pepper and garlic well into the meat.
- Fill a roasting tray with water to a depth of 2 cm and place the meat with the fat side down in it. Sprinkle it with caraway seeds and place onion rings on it.
- Wash the peeled potatoes and place them next to the roast. Now roast the meat in the oven at 220C° for about 1 hour.
- As soon as the potatoes are soft, take them out of the dish and cover them with foil. Then turn the fat side of the meat up, sprinkle it again with caraway seeds and thinly sliced onions.
- Roast it for another 30 – 45 minutes, basting it frequently with juices from the dish or beer. If there is not enough liquid, you may add water. Only baste with little broth each time. Brush the crispy rind once more with cold beer towards the end of the cooking time. This ensures a crispy crackling.
- The meat is done when only juice oozes out (no blood), and the crust should be brown and crunchy.
- Deglaze the pan with beer and hot water and season it with salt and pepper. Scrape all browned bits sticking to the pan for a tasty sauce. Cut the meat into thin slices and arrange them with gravy, potatoes, and bread dumplings on a plate.
The ideal roast gravy is brown and translucent. Don’t thicken it with flour or cornstarch. This is deemed a deadly sin for Bratl-Connoisseurs! To add a wonderful aroma to the gravy, pour some beer over the meat shortly before it is done.