Recipe: Limburgs zoervleisj (zuurvlees)

Limburgs zoervliesj mit fritteOne advantage of running your own blog is that you can add an additional post category with the click of a mouse. Welcome to the food category! In this first post, a recipe for ‘Limburgs zoervleisj’, or ‘zuurvlees’ in non-dialect Dutch. Its direct English translation is ‘sour meat’, which originates from the vinegar to marinate and break down the meat. Limburgs zoervleisj is a regional dish originating from my area of the Netherlands, with a sweet and sour taste. Traditionally, it was made from horse meat, which was cheaper than beef. Nowadays though, beef is used as horse meat is scarce and actually more expensive. We typically eat it with chips, but leftovers are often reheated the next day for lunch with some bread.

One of my pet peeves with blog-style recipes is that they typically have a 600 words prelude on how the author had a profound life experience related to the dish and how making it is going to make the world a better place. So without further ado, lets go to the recipe and NOT do that!

What you need (for roughly 8 portions of zoervleisj)

  • 1 kg / 2.2lbs chuck roast / braising steak (runderriblappen)
  • 5 large yellow onions (uien)
  • 5 dried cloves (kruidnagels)
  • 8 crushed juniper berries (jeneverbesjes)
  • 3 bay leaves (laurierblaadjes)
  • 1 teaspoon of nutmeg (nootmuskaat)
  • 250ml / 1 cup of vinegar
  • ~250gr / 0.5 lbs ontbijtkoek. This might actually be a hard thing to acquire abroad, as it is a typical Dutch thing. Search for ‘Peijnenburg ontbijtkoek‘.¬†Get the regular/natural one, not the gluten free/sugar free kind.
  • 4 generous tablespoons of ‘rinse appelstroop‘. Again, this might take some searching to acquire: you’re looking for a sweet-sour apple syrup. Dutch people typically put it on their sandwiches.
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Butter
  • 1 bottle (0.33l / 0.7 pints) of brown ale at room temperature. I typically use ‘oud bruin’, which is a low alcohol (3.5% ABV), sweet (16 IBU) beer. Untapped categorizes it as Lager – Euro Dark.

You also need a large, heavy pan with a lid and several utensils like spoons, knives and forks.

Making the Limburgs zoervleisj

Cut the meat in several large pieces (e.g. quarter it) and salt it generously. Leave it out of the fridge so it can warm up a bit while you cut the onions. I typically vary the cuts of the onions, where I dice a few onions and cut the remaining onions in quarter rings.

Add butter to the pan and sear the meat at high heat. It doesn’t need to be fully well done, as long as it is browning on the outside. If your pan isn’t big enough, sear the meat in 2 batches. When a batch is done, scoop out the meat and put it on a plate while you sear the other batch.

Scoop out all the meat, add some fresh butter to the same pan and glaze the onions. When done, put the beef back into the pan, including any moisture that might have accumulated on the plate. Now add the vinegar. Stir anything that sticks to the bottom of the pan loose; the vinegar should help with that. Add the nutmeg, the bay leaves, the crushed juniper berries and the cloves. Finally, add some pepper: I use 4 seasons pepper in a grinder.

Next, add the bottle of beer. The liquid in the pan should now just about cover the meat. Put the lid on the pan and reduce heat so it slowly simmers.

limburgs zoervleisj pre-stew
Let simmer for 3 hours (give or take).

Leave it to simmer for 3 hours and stir it once an hour or so. The meat should start to fall apart over time.

After roughly three hours, fish out the bay leaves. Add the rinse appelstroop and the pieces of onbijtkoek. After that, stir and let simmer for another 10-15 minutes until the ontbijtkoek fully disintegrates. The ontbijtkoek helps absorb some of the fluids in the stew. If it is still a bit too liquid at this point, leave the lid off the pan to help reduce it further. You’ll have to pay a bit more attention at this point, as your stew will now tend stick to the bottom due to the added sugars. Taste it occasionally, and add salt/pepper (or stroop) to your liking.

Eventually, you should end up with something that looks like this:

Limburgs zoervleisj almost done

Now all that is left to do is to bake some chips or French fries, scoop some Limburgs zoervleisj on top of it, and dig in. Enjoy!