Pork Roast with Crackling (Schweinekrustenbraten) with Red Cabbage and Home-Made Potato Dumplings

Region: All over Germany, but most predominant in Bavaria and the neighboring countries of Austria and Switzerland.

Schweinekrustenbraten.

Now, there is a long German word for you… and it is by far maybe just average length when it comes to German nouns. We have long nouns, we chop up verbs into two parts and scatter them across a sentence so you really only get the meaning of the sentence until you have listened till the very end. Or as Mark Twain used to say: “Whenever the literary German dives into a sentence — that is the last you are going to see of him until he emerges on the other side of his Atlantic with his verb in his mouth.

When it comes to Schweinekrustenbraten, it is similarly complex. Wherever you look, be it internet, cooking magazines or your library of German cookbooks, nobody seems to agree on how the perfect pork roast with crackling is made. Even what part of meat to use (I use the shoulder) divides the nation. Yet, all agree, it is all about the crackling crusted skin of that roast. Or as Tim Mälzer, TV-cook celebrity in Germany put it: “The perfect pork roast should be 80% crackling and 20% meat, unfortunately it is always the other way around.”

So I have been reviewing an array of recipes and finally decided: “Screw it, time to do my own version…” In the end, I did stay quite traditional when it comes to the sides.

I am combining it with  sides such as a red cabbage, homemade potato dumplings and a fantastic sauce made with Malt Beer.

Follow my instructions and your guest will wonder in awe: how did you get the meat so soft and the skin so crunchy. But a word of warning. This is a traditional Sunday dinner in Germany. While it is not difficult, it is a bit of work, so don’t think you can prepare it for dinner after work on a school day. Also, if you have access to quality ready-to-use potato dumplings dough (and I don’t mean the freeze dried stuff you buy off the shelf, but the kind you find in the refrigerated section) consider using it. Makes this meal so much easier.

So here it is. Enjoy

Serves: 4              Difficulty: medium        Preparation time:  3 hours.

Ingredients:

For the Roast:

  • 1.5 kg (5.3 oz) of pork shoulder deboned, with a good layer of skin and fat
  • Water
  • 1 Ts instant chicken broth
  • 4 Ts of grainy salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1½ TS dried Rosemary
  • 1½ TS dried Thyme
  • 1½ TS dried Marjoram
  • ½ TS freshly ground Nutmeg
  • 8 Tbs olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, not peeled
  • 2 large carrots
  • 1 small leek
  • 1 small celery root
  • 3 onions, cut into quarters
  • 1 bottle (350 ml or 12 fl oz) of dark beer or sweet malt beer
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 TS Caraway seeds
  • Freshly ground salt and pepper
  • 1 TBS redcurrant jelly
  • 1 TBS Starch (potato or corn)
  • 3 TBS of cold water
  • Meat Thermometer

For the Red Cabbage:

  • 1 red cabbage (ca. 1 kg or 35 oz)
  • 2 onions
  • 2 TBS clarified butter or lard
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • 1 Cinnamon stick
  • 200 ml  (7 fl oz) Red Wine
  • 6 Tbs Apple Vinegar
  • 3 Tbs Sugar
  • Salt to season
  • 2 apples with high acidity
  • 3-4 Tbs Redcurrant Jelly

For the Potato Dumplings:

  • 3 slices of toast or ready to use French croutons
  • 25 g  (1 oz) Butter
  • 1 kg (35.5 oz) large soft cooking potatoes
  • 1/2 l  (17 fl oz) Milk
  • 2 TS Salt
  • Freshly ground nut meg
  • 125 g  (4.5 oz) Semolina
  • 1/4 bunch of chopped fresh parsley

Preparation:

The Roast:

  1. Take the roast and cut a squares or a zigzag pattern into the skin using a very sharp knife or a carpet cutter (ideally, have your butcher do it for you, save time and work). You want to cut into the fat, but not into the meat itself. That is usually about 1 cm or a little bit less than ½  inch (0.3937 to be exact).
  2. Place roast SKIN DOWN into a frying pan or pot large enough to hold the roast. Add enough water so it levels just slightly above the fat. Add one TS of instant chicken broth and bring to a boil. Once boiling, immediately reduce heat to simmer and let cook for about 20 mins. Pre-heat oven to 240°C (460°F) and place a baking pan into the oven.
  3. After 20 mins remove roast from water and let cool.
  4. In the meantime combine salt, 2 bay leaves, 1½ TS dried Rosemary, 1½ TS dried Thyme, ½ TS freshly ground Nutmeg and 1½ TS dried Marjoram in a food blender or mortar and pestle and grind while gradually adding 8 Tbs olive oil. This will be your marinade for the pork.
  5. Roughly chop 3 unpeeled cloves of garlic, 2 large carrots, 1 small leek, 1 small celery root and cut 3 onions into quarters
  6. Massage the marinade onto the skin and sides and ensure you get it deep into the cuts.
  7. Drop 1 Tbs of lard or clarified butter into the pre-heated and hot roasting pan and place the roast SKIN UP into the grease. Insert roasting pan into the lower 3rd of the oven and roast for 20 minutes at 240°C ( 460°F) with upper and lower heat (avoid the using the fan).
  8. After 20 mins, reduce the heat to 140°C  (280°F) and place a meat thermometer into the roast. Distribute the vegetables around the meat and add the malt beer and the cinnamon stick. Insert a meat thermometer and let roast for 1. – 1.5 hours.
  9. In the meantime prepare the cabbage and dumplings (see below).
  10. The meat is done when the thermometer is on the pork meat icon, or (if you do not have a meat thermometer) when you stick a metal skewer into the meat and only clear liquid drips out.
    Remove meat from oven and off the roasting pan and set aside. Start your oven’s grill. If it does not have one, bring to the highest temperature.
  11. For the gravy, strain the liquid and vegetables from the roasting pan through a sieve. Press soft vegetables through the sieve into the liquid using a cooking spoon. Bring sauce to a boil and reduce to about 1/2 of volume. Season with freshly ground salt and pepper and 1 TBS red currant jelly.
  12. Combine 1 TBS of starch with 3 TBS of cold water and mix evenly. Pour starch mixture into the sauce and increase heat until the sauce thickens.
  13. Place the meat under the oven grill in the center of the oven and grill for 5-10 minutes. The skin will start to pop almost like pop corn. Once you have an evenly crunchy crust, remove from heat and serve.
  14. Cut the meat into slices and serve with the gravy, dumplings and red cabbage as desired.

For the red cabbage:

  1. Take 1 whole red cabbage (1 kg or 35 oz), remove outer leaves, and cut cabbage into quarters. Grate or cut the cabbage into fine strips. Peel the onion and cut into small strips or dices.
  2. In a large cooking pot, heat 2 TBS if lard or clarified butter. Glaze the onions and add the cabbage, Bay leaf, 1 Cinnamon stick, 200 ml (7 fl oz) red wine, 6 Tbs Apple Vinegar, 3 Tbs Sugar, 1 Cinnamon stick, and 2 TS salt.
  3. Let cook on low heat for 1 hour, occasionally adding water so it does not burn.
  4. Peel and pit the apples, cut into dices and add to red cabbage about 15 minutes before cooking time is over. Season with 3-4 Tbs red currant jelly and more sugar and vinegar if needed.

For the dumplings:

  1. Cut 3 slices of toast into cubes and roast in 25g (1 oz) butter until golden brown. Peel the potatoes. Fill a large bowl about half with cold water and place a clean kitchen towel into the bowl so that the sides of the towel hang over the rim of the bowl. Grate potatoes into the towel. Once done grating, close the towel by twisting it and squeeze all the water out into the bowl. Put the water aside so that the potato starch has time to settle to the bottom of the bowl
  2. Bring ½ ltr. of milk with 1½ TS salt and some ground nut meg to a boil, remove from heat and add 125g (4.5 oz) of Semolina. This will quickly create a thick paste. Set aside a let cool slightly and then combine the semolina with the grated potatoes and fold to an even dough. Pour off the water until only the starch at the bottom of the bowl remains. Add starch to the potato-semolina dough and mix evenly.
  3. With wet hands, roll dumplings placing 2-3 bread crumbs into the center. The size of the dumplings should be somewhere between a ping pong ball and a tennis ball, definitely not larger than a tennis ball.
  4. Bring a generous amount of salt water to a boil. Reduce heat and let the dumplings soak in the simmering water for 20 minutes
  5. Sprinkle some freshly chopped parsley over the dumplings when serving.

Serve with sliced roast, gravy to like and red cabbage and now…

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