Bavarian pork roast or ‘Schweinsbraten’ (Schweinebraten) is the most quintessential Bavarian dish and one of my favourites. I was born in Bavaria and lived there until the age of 30 with various interruptions of one to four years.
The recipes usually do not vary dramatically with regards to the actual roast and the sauce that goes with it, at least not within Upper Bavaria, the main part of Bavaria around Munich and the Bavarian Alps, which is where I come from. There are many other dishes including pork and sometimes pork roast, but they are not called ‘Schweinsbraten’. There are modern takes on it, but in my view this dish is so divinely delicious that any dramatic changes would only do it harm, so let’s stick with the basic recipe, here we go:
Us Barbarians, which is my wife and me, usually buy between 5 and 8kg of pork shoulder for £12.50 or so per kg, usually at the Ginger Pig at Borough Market, in three large pieces, each of which strung together tightly (by the butcher) into a roll with four to six robust strings, in order to keep it from falling apart, and containing skin on about one quarter to a third of the surface.
We prepare that much of it, because my wife insisted on buying a particularly large casserole which I decided we should make good use of and not just let it sit at the bottom of our cupboard, because it’s just as much work to do 8kg as it is to do 2kg, because we love pork roast, and because we either freeze some of it (and still have enough to eat from it for two or three days) or we invite friends over for a Bavarian dinner with the whole shebang like a selection of fine Bavarian beers and lots of sides, including dumplings and red cabbage, traditional Bavarian salad, slices of radish, whole balls of red baby radish, and Obazda (bits of camembert, bits of boiled egg, cream cheese, chopped onions and chives, salt, pepper, caraway, paprika) with fresh pretzels for starters.
Quite to my shame I have to admit that I’m a nightmare when it comes to anything involving flour, so all my attempts to make dumplings that meet my own high standards have failed so far and I typically resort to the ready-made ones from a carton where they are wrapped neatly and separately in heat-resistant, porous plastic bags which you just have to boil in water. We get them at the German Deli at Borough Market, which is also where we buy the red cabbage from. The remaining veg we buy at Borough Market, most super markets don’t have celeriac root. We found it very difficult to find ground caraway anywhere in London, so would recommend ordering it online at a speciality online herbs and spices merchant (we buy vast amounts of it each time we travel to Germany) or grinding it yourself (it needs to be ground very finely, though, which is not that easy to achieve).
The following focuses on the pork roast and doesn’t refer to any sides:
Here, 2.5kg pork shoulder in one piece, but otherwise choose 2 – 8kg pork shoulder, each piece (if more than one) not more than 3kg’s or so. (Remember that it will have to fit into whatever size casserole you’re using, including lots of other ingredients, so if you are using a small casserole, then use only a small amount of meat. It would be difficult to prepare a proper pork roast with less than 2kg’s of meat, because the skin won’t stay on and the meat will just fall apart.)
1 to 1.5 Knorr beef cubes or other stock. If the stock is salted, like Knorr cubes are and most other stock is, then DO NOT USE ANY ADDITIONAL SALT.
Some sunflower oil or other standard vegetable cooking oil
Some standard flour
1 large onion or 2 medium sized white onions (avoid red onions)
4 medium-sized carrots
1/3 of a celeriac root
2 cloves of garlic
1 sprig of curly-leaf parsley
Ground caraway (a lot of it)
Ground black pepper (also a lot of it)
1 pint of lager beer
You start off by putting a little bit of sunflower oil in the casserole and heating it up to a high temperature on the stove. If after a bit of shaking the casserole’s floor is covered in oil, then you’ve got enough oil for the time being. Add more later, if needed.
You now pan-fry the roast on all sides, including the two ends. Especially the skin should be pan-fried properly, otherwise it will not give a good crackling later on.
This process will take 10 to 25 minutes. During this period you should prepare the vegetables (clean and peel them, cut them into halves or slightly smaller sizes, squeeze them, in order for them to release their taste more readily) and pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius (later on check regularly and you’ll easily get a feel for the need to regulate a bit down or up, depending on the smell and the colour of the roast, nothing should ever turn black, it should all stay nice bright brown and orange colours). The skin of the roast needs to be on the top.
Switch the stove off, put about 1cm of cold water in it to cover the floor around the roast, then add the sprig of curly-leaf parsley, which should continue to lie on the bottom of the casserole and not reach the surface (as it would be burnt). Then place the pieces of vegetable loosely around the casserole and on top of the parsley.
Put 1 or 1.5 cubes of beef stock, the ground caraway and the ground black pepper into a glass, put boiling water on top, stir until dissolved, then put the spiced up beef stock into the casserole.
Put the whole pint of lager beer over the roast (cover all of the roast, in order to moisturise the surface of the roast). Fill in lukewarm water up to about 2cm from the top of the casserole and put the casserole into the oven.
At the beginning check every 20 minutes, add more water all over the top of the roast if needed, and get a feel for the right temperature. Dunk and turn the vegetables, so that they don’t start to burn on that end that sticks out of the sauce. Even if no additional water is needed, you might want to use a spoon to take some of the sauce (make sure no bits of vegetable are contained) and spill it over all parts of the top of the roast in order to moisturise it and give the skin more taste.
Later on checking every 50 minutes is usually fine. A small roast like this is likely to be done in only 4 hours. A larger one or a larger amount of meat cut into two or three roasts will take up to 5 hours, we sometimes leave ours in for 6.5 hours, but regulate the temperature down to 180 degrees Celsius after two hours.
Take the casserole out of the oven.
Extract about 150ml of sauce (without vegetable bits) from the casserole. Add half a tablespoon up to a tablespoon of flour and stir until it’s well-mixed, then put back into the casserole and stir the liquid inside the casserole up so that the thickened sauce mixes with the rest.
Take the meat out and cut it into slices. Serve the slices with sides and the sauce (and bits of the vegetables you used for the sauce). Get a second helping.
And that’s it. Let me know how it went.