I am going to begin by telling you about one of my fondest culinary memories from the time we were stationed in Germany. During the summer, quite often on the first Friday of the month, my husband’s flying squadron would throw a huge party after a long week of work. It would include all the squadron members and their families. These events were especially significant if someone was being promoted or we were saying goodby to a squadron member who was moving, or if the guys had just returned from one of their long training missions or deployments.
Because the weather in Germany during the summer is gorgeous, the guys would often grill out on the huge grill in the back of the squadron. And no grilling event would be complete without the sound of the Schwenkbraten sizzling over the coals. Picture this…dozens of fighter pilots surrounding a grill, with beer in hand, all telling “war stories” and debating on how the meat should be cooked.
So, you are asking yourself, “what is a Schwenkbraten?” Well, I am going to tell you. It is an incredibly flavorful and tender, grilled pork loin steak. The recipe originated in the Saarland or Northwest region of Germany. Basically we were smack dab in the middle of Schwenkbraten Country where we were stationed at Bitburg AB. In this region, the Schwenkbraten were also called Schwenksteaks and the grill they were cooked on was know as a Schwenker. The Schwenker consists of a fire bowl and a swinging grill hung from a tripod. I am sure it is what made the Schwenkbraten cook so perfectly! (And the expertise of 20 or so fighter pilots!) The Schwenkbraten were often served with crusty German brotchen (sandwich rolls) and all the delicious side dishes we would bring to share.
What made this grilled delight so incredibly delicious, was the cut of meat and the marinade. We were lucky because we could get the steaks already marinated from the base commissary or local butcher shop. Since I have not found anything quite like it, I have recreated the recipe and am passing it onto to you. The recipe starts with a super tender pork loin steak that closely resembles a beef tenderloin. Then it is marinated for 24 hours, yes, 24 hours in slices of onion, garlic and a blend of paprika, curry powder, juniper berries and other spices.
Now, I know juniper berries just stopped you in your tracks and you are saying to yourself, “I do not want to make any recipe with a weird ingredient that costs a lot.” In this recipe though, the spice is key to the flavor. Almost every recipe I have found for Schwenkbraten contains juniper berries. And I have a little tip for you. I buy unique spices like these from Penzey Spices or Savory Spice Shop. They sell them in small amounts so you are not left with a huge bottle of a spices that will just sit in the pantry.
However, after you try this incredible recipe for grilled Schwenkbraten, you will be the master chef of a German delicacy and will be using those juniper berries more than you thought. So, try something new for your next grilling event. Pair it with a Cool and Creamy Cucumber Salad or a Warm German Potato Salad. It will take you to Germany for a little while and be memorable for sure!
- 4 large onions, cut into ½ inch slices
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 7 dried juniper berries, crushed
- 1 tablespoon German stone ground mustard
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 tablespoon curry powder
- 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
- 8 (8 ounce) boneless pork loin chops
- Place the onion slices in a bowl. Use a large spoon, or muddler to gently press the onions until they release some of their juices.
- Combine the oil, garlic, juniper berries, mustard, thyme, oregano, paprika, curry powder, cayenne pepper, and black pepper with the onions and mix to combine.
- Arrange the steaks in a large baking pan. Pour the marinade evenly over top of the pork. Cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours.
- Remove pork from marinade and allow to come to room temperature as you preheat the grill. Wrap the onions separately with foil to create a pouch. Discard marinade.
- Preheat grill for medium heat.
- Grill the pork steaks and onions until the pork is no longer pink in the center, about 10 minutes or until an internal temperature of 165 degrees is reached.
- Serve on crusty rolls.