I wanted to try something new for diner this weekend, and since my wife had already planned a Lasagna I wanted to compensate with meat & potatoes. I decided to try the dish which is famous in my city of birth Maastricht. It is called zoervleis (a word in the Limburg dialect which translates to sour meat). Even though I have been eating it regularly all my life (my wife likes to cook it) I never actually attempted to make zoervleis myself.
Zoervleis is a stew, typically meant to do something useful with meat that would otherwise not be eaten: by marinating meat, usually horse’s meat, in vinegar for hours or even days, even the toughest meat can be made tender.
In my recipe below, I used pork steak. This does not have to marinate for hours like other types of meat (like beef). Instead, I prepared the stew a day in advance so that the meat can rest in the acid liquid overnight, effectively giving it the same tenderness. If you use beef or horsemeat (zoervleis is typically made with horsemeat) you need to marinate the meat for 12 to 24 hours in the same mix of vinegar, water, cloves, juniper berries and bay leaf which is used below to cook the stew.
- 500 grams of meat, cut into 3cm chunks
- 3 large onions, sliced into (quarter) rings
- 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- pepper, salt to taste
- 25 cl vinegar
- 25 cl water
- 3 cloves
- 4 juniper berries
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tbs (tablespoon) of muscovado (brown sugar)
- 2 tbs sweat-sour apple syrup (the “rinse appelstroop” from the province of Limburg)
- 1 slice of gingerbread (typical dutch “ontbijtkoek”)
For cooking a stew, you need an iron kettle with a thick bottom. This will ensure that the heat from the flame is distributed evenly and will allow you to simmer the meat on a small fire for a long time.
The night before you serve the zoervleis:
- Heat the butter until it stops bubbling (which means the watery components have evaporated) and begins to darken. Fry the meat for about 5 minutes until the chunks have a nice brown colour.
- Turn the heat down a bit and add the sliced onions and chopped garlic. For the next 5 minutes or so, stir the meat plus onions from time to time until the onions have turned a golden brown.
- Add pepper and salt to taste
- Add the cloves, juniper berries, bay leaf, vinegar and water (these are the ingredients which you can alternatively use as the marinade if the meat needs tenderizing before you start cooking. Note that the pork steak I used does not need marinating)
- Bring the mixture back to the boiling point, and then add the muscovado, apple syrup and gingerbread (these ingredients add the necessary sweet counterbalance to the sourness of the vinegar)
- Put the lid on the kettle, turn the flame down as low as you can, and leave to simmer for at least two hours
The next day:
- The zoervleis has rested in the acidic liquid overnight, which has allowed the meat to become tender and the aromas to mix. You’ll notice that the stew is no longer watery – the liquid is being bound by the other ingredients.
- Put a very low flame underneath the kettle and let the stew slowly heat up for an hour.
You serve zoervleis with apple sauce and pommes frites (french fries if you are american, or chips if you are british).
Instead of serving pommes frites, I cooked a few potatoes for about 10 minutes, let them cool down, cut them into slices of half a centimeter thick and fried those slices in a shallow pan in butter for another 15 minutes. Nice and crispy!
Enjoy this dish from my home county!
Image taken from http://ah.nl/