My son made rouladen (German beef roll-ups) a couple of weeks ago for dinner as part of his Health Class assignment to cook something from a different culture than our own. Previously, we had the opportunity of going out to eat at a restaurant which served food from a different country that we had not yet tried. This was surprisingly a small number of countries as we love to try new tastes and traditions. Our options included: Epthiopian, African, Russian and Argentinan. We went with the Russian and had an amazing meal at Pomegranate in San Diego, CA. The salad sampler gave us the opportunity to try a variety of salads and the lamb in the Chakapuli was so flavorful that I can’t wait to go again! It is a quaint restaurant on El Cajon Blvd and people have written poetry or other inspirational thoughts on the walls with markers. It’s entertaining to read them as you wait for your meal.
Back to tonight’s dinner, we took photos of each step while creating (and obviously, eating) my grandmother’s rouladen dish. Depending upon which area of Germany your family is from, you may put pickles in the middle of the beef roll-up or carrots. Zac’s grandmother on my father’s side, Ernestine Rech Brendel Bange, was the second of eight Rech children living on Bingen am Rhein; we use pickles. However, I think that what may be unique to Oma’s recipe in that we use sweet pickles while most others use dill pickles. As one of the eldest daughters in the family, Erna learned to cook and cook she did. However, my great aunt, Irmgard, the youngest of eight children, did not. Years after my grandmother passed away, I made Sauerbraten for Irma. It brought tears to her eyes and she weepily said it tasted just like her mother’s. Of course it was, I explained that the receipe was handed down to Oma, then to my mom to cook for our father, and then to me when I was upgraded from salad chef to full dinner cook at the age of 14 as my mother had returned to work full-time.
I loved to cook and the variety of dishes my mother had in her recipe file box. I distinctly recall watching what I believe to be the predecessor of The Food Network… cooking shows on PBS. In particular, I rarely missed an episode of The Frugal Gourmet with Jeff Smith. He urged us to get with our grandparents, aunts and uncles and cook – write down their recipes, because when they are gone, their recipes may be lost, so preserve them today. He had so many little tips and tricks that I remember to this day. For example, “hot pan, cold oil, food won’t stick” or soaking anchovies in milk to reduce the salt. Cooking, and I include shortcuts which include using a prepared mix or jarred item in this category, is a distinct handmade activity, a gift for others that comes from the heart.
Back to my son’s assignment… Rouladen uses the liquid from the pickle jar and water in the sauce that cooks the beef. We needed more liquid than anticipated, as I often save the liquid from previous jars for just this purpose, so we had leftover sweet pickles (gherkins). I coarsely chopped these and the remaining 1/2 onion, put them in the food processor and decided to make pickle relish. Browsing the Internet for a recipe, I found only a few variations that start from an already pickled cucumber, so I created my own recipe. Here it is:
- Sweet pickles (gherkins), chopped fine… about 8-10 made about 1 1/2 – 2 cups chopped pickle
- Onions, chopped fine… about 1/2 a large onion
- Fire roasted red pepper, chopped fine… one large jarred pepper, drained and chopped
- Stone ground mustard, about 2 teaspoons
- Celery salt, pepper, and turmeric… not as much as if you were going to pickle a cucumber so start with 1/2 teaspoon each and taste, adjusting as seasoning requires
- Apple cider vinegar, about 2 Tablespoons, and agave syrup, about 1 Tablespoon
- Water… not to cover but to cover at least two-thirds of the ingredients in the saucepan, probably about 1/2 – 3/4 cup
Place ingredients in a medium-sized saucepan; bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Let cool and then store in a jar in the refrigerator. Bring on the hot dogs, deviled eggs, mega sandwiches, etc.
It being the holiday season, my hope is that you share a handmade meal or food gift with others and be very thankful to those who do the same with you in return. Look for my next part of Handmade is Heartfelt, when I talk about gifts we make for others.
Here are the step by step photos of Zac’s meal with the recipe to follow:
Thinly sliced round steak, rump roast, breakfast steak, or meat for carne asada, sliced large enough to roll
sliced bacon onion slices salt pepper sweet pickles and juice oil toothpicks
Lay breakfast steaks on flat surface and salt and pepper. Form rouladen by placing a slice of bacon on top of each steak, trimming if too long. Place a couple of onion slices on top of each bacon piece. Place one sweet pickle on top of the onion and roll everything up. Secure with toothpicks. Brown in oil on all sides. Remove from pan and drain oil. Return to pan and cover with half of the pickle juice and additional water to cover. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer. Cook 45-60 minutes depending on thickness of steaks, adding more juice if necessary.
Recipe from Erna Bange