No wedding feast or similar is complete in Austria without the obligatory Schweinsbraten: a joint of pork roasted in a shallow broth. And menus in traditional Viennese restaurants almost certainly feature the dish.
- Pork shoulder typically seasoned with caraway and garlic
- Commonly served with bread-based dumplings and sauerkraut
- Still very popular in Viennese households
- See also:
What is Schweinsbraten?
(A common dish at event buffets)
Behind Vienna’s imperial grandeur, dulcet musical tones, and contemporary cosmopolitan flair lies an earthy, unrefined, solidly working-class, traditional Viennese soul.
It flairs up occasionally in the older kind of coffee house waiting staff or in the heavily-accented grumblings of a passing senior citizen.
You see it in the stoic, prepared-for-the-worst faces of tram travelers for whom one of the world’s most efficient and inexpensive public transport systems is merely a portent of the imminent end of days.
And it lives, particularly, in the traditional meat dishes that survive every health and culinary fad that strikes the city. Wiener Schnitzel, for example. And the good-old Schweinsbraten: a dish that dates back to the time of the celts.
Schweinsbraten translates as roast pork, which tells you most (but not all) you need to know.
At home, we usually use some kind of shoulder joint but, as you might imagine, various recipes exist. The key elements are the seasoning, the roasting environment, and the side dishes.
Before roasting, you season the surface of the meat with caraway, garlic, salt, and pepper (or, if you’re lazy like me, with a pre-bought Schweinsbraten seasoning mix).
The trick is to get a tasty crust to add that little extra to each slice of pork.
The joint roasts in around half an inch of liquid, typically a self-made broth or simply water and a soup cube. You top up the broth where necessary and use it to regularly baste the joint.
You also add a few vegetables to the roasting tin: I like to put in blocks of onion, leek, and carrot.
During the cooking process, the broth becomes strongly flavoured by the meat and vegetables to give you a gorgeous basis for the sauce or gravy. Most times, you just pour it out of the dish straight into the gravy boater.
Equally, the vegetables also take in the broth’s flavour in a taste merry-go-round.
Most Austrians serve Schweinsbraten with bread-based Knödel (look for Semmelknödel or Serviettenknödel on that page) and sauerkraut. Those of us who regard the latter as an invention of Satan simply ensure enough vegetables fill the roasting tin to act as a side-dish in their own right.
As you can imagine, Schweinsbraten makes an excellent Sunday roast or a meal for special occasions (I’m vegetarian, but do one for my wife’s birthday, for example.). And most traditional Viennese restaurant menus feature the dish.