Literally translated as 'Pound Pot', Pfundstopf is a German party dish - a mixed meat casserole made with 1 pound of each ingredient. A variety of meats and vegetables are slowly braised in a savoury sauce. It's a great dish for feeding a crowd or entertaining (or feeding your family with leftovers for another meal) - just layer all the ingredients, pop it in the oven, and forget about it!
Oooh, yes, it's that time of year again. Time to cocoon inside and wrap the kitchen in the savoury aromas of long-simmered stews, soups, and baking spices. Time to invite a tableful of dear friends, light the candles, pour the wine and share stories and laughs and cozy times. When I think of times like that, I think of the German dish 'Pfundstopf'.
This generous dish is made of layers of different meats and vegetables in a piquant sauce, slowly braised in the oven to emerge as a deeply-flavoured, meltingly tender comfort food dish that fills and warms every nook and cranny of our stomachs and souls. It's a way to show your guests you care about them and that feeding them well is a gift you are giving them. If the way to anyone's heart is through their stomach, then this dish is the vehicle to do it.
What is 'Pfundstopf'?
This savoury meat dish was made popular in Germany in the 70's. It's a great dish for entertaining - you just fix it and forget it. There's no browning of the meats or pre-cooking of the vegetables. Many of the original recipes included bottled sauces like Zigeunersauce, Schaschliksoße, or barbecue sauce. Since these can vary so much, I like cooking a simple but flavourful sauce on the stove and pouring that over. Both the sauce and additonal cream are usually part of a Pfundstopf. During that long, low braise in the oven, they all meld to become a wonderful mix of tender meats and vegetables with fantastic flavour.
I first tasted this dish at a dinner cooked for us by my German friend, Ruth, and was instantly smitten by the wonderful flavour. I begged for her recipe and have made it several times since. She and I had some discussions and tweaked the recipe together to replicate the original flavours of the dish without using bottled supermarket sauces. It has been an absolute hit with all of the guests I've served it to, with second helpings eagerly taken and rave reviews given every time.
The German word for the weight measure of a pound (lb.) is 'Pfund' and the word for pot is 'Topf', so literally this dish translates as 'Pound Pot'. Not too glamorous, eh? The name does not relate to the depth of flavour from this relatively easy dish which feeds a hungry crew. A pound of each of the different meats and vegetables is layered in a large dutch oven or medium roasting dish. The German pound is equal to 500 grams (18oz) while our pound is equal to 454 grams, so the exact amount of each ingredient isn't necessary.
The beauty of a Pfundstopf is that you can be quite flexible.
- Have more or less of one of the meats? - no problem.
- Want to omit one meat or add another? - no problem.
- Change up the order of the layers? - no problem.
- Use different vegetables? - no problem.
- Add mushrooms, or carrots, or artichokes? - no problem.
- Sprinkle in your favourite herbs or spices? - no problem.
- Add a generous glug of wine? - no problem.
- Use sour cream instead of whipping cream? no problem.
- Cook it a little longer or shorter, higher temp or lower? - no problem.
Lots of Layers
You can layer your ingredients any way you wish. I like to end with the bacon so it crisps up on top and gets deeply browned, but you could end with the vegetables if you wish. Here are my layers, but you do you.
Cook up a piquant sauce, pour it over, and let the whole pot simmer in the oven for 2½ to 3 hours. Open the lid to that steaming blast of nose-tingling aroma, and you're set to feed your family or guests.
If you make this dish during the coming holiday season (or the long winter ahead), you'll be the host with the most! It looks pretty simple on the plate, but that flavour . . . . your guests will be licking the pot clean.
Make Your Life Easy
You can get the Pfundstopf assembled in the morning, set it on to slowly roast 3 to 4 hours before your dinner party, then put it in a low oven to keep warm til dinnertime, allowing you the afternoon to read a book, have a bath, or even get some shopping done before your guests arrive.
Make a simple green salad to serve on the side. Cook up some potatoes, rice, or noodles to serve with your Pfundstopf, or just pick up a beautiful loaf of crusty bread to sop up those flavourful juices. Your guests will be drooling as soon as they open up your front door and smell that wonderful aroma.
It's time to pour the wine. 😋
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Pfundstopf (German Meat Casserole)
- large dutch oven, braiser, or roasting pan with lid or cover with heavy duty tin foil
- Note: the German lb. is equivalent to 500 grams, so a range between 450 and 500 grams (16-18oz) for each of the meat and vegetable ingredients would be fine in this recipe.
- 1 lb. (450-500gms) beef stew meat
- 1 lb. (450-500gms) pork stew meat
- 1 lb. (450-500gms) onions (about 4 medium), halved and sliced crosswise
- 1 lb. (450-500gms) sweet red bell peppers (about 3 medium), sliced into strips or diced
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 1 lb. (450-500gms) lean smoked sausages, thinly sliced (about 4 cups sliced), like mettwurst, bratwurst, or kielbasa
- 1 lb. (450-500gms) tomatoes diced (about 2 cups) or 1 can (14-19 oz/400-540gms) diced tomatoes with their liquid
- 1 lb. (450-500gms) lean ground beef
- ½ lb. (225gms) thick-cut lean bacon, diced
for the sauce:
- 4 tablespoons cornstarch or potato starch
- 1½ cups (360ml) beef broth or chicken broth
- ¼ cup (60ml/4 tablespoons) tomato paste
- ¼ cup (60ml) pickle juice (liquid from a jar of pickles)
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon vinegar
- 2 tablespoons sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon hot smoked paprika or ½ teaspoon cayenne
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 cups (480ml) whipping cream
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
- You will need a very large dutch oven, casserole dish or roasting pan that has a capacity of at least 6 litres (6.3 quarts). If you're not sure of its size, measure the dish's volume by filling it with 6 litres/6.3 quarts of water and see how high the water is. The recipe ingredients add up to about 5½ litres of volume, so make sure to leave a bit of headspace so the casserole doesn't boil over in the oven.
- Cut the onions in half, then cut them crosswise into half-moon slices. Core the red peppers and cut them into lengthwise strips. Mince the garlic. Slice the sausages thinly into coins. Core and dice the tomatoes. Crumble the ground beef. Dice the bacon into ½-inch (.5cm) pieces. You can partially fry the bacon before using it and discard the bacon grease, or use the bacon raw and then spoon off the excess grease from the finished casserole when it is cooked (this is what I do to save a step).
- In the large dutch oven or baking dish, layer the first 9 ingredients in the order they are listed above, or change the order to your liking.
- In a large saucepan, whisk together the cold beef or chicken broth and the cornstarch. Whisk in the tomato paste, honey, pickle juice, vinegar, sweet paprka, smoked paprika, salt, pepper and thyme. Bring the mixture to a boil.
- Remove from the heat. Stir in the cream.
- Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables in the dutch oven. (If you're assembling the dish a few hours ahead, let the sauce cool before pouring it over the meats.)
- Bake, covered, for 2 to 2½ hours. Remove the lid and bake for another ½ hour to reduce the sauce somewhat.
- If there is an excess amount of fat floating on the surface of the Pfundstopf, scoop off as much as you can with a spoon. (Save it for making oven-roasted potatoes or vegetables.)
- If needed, the Pfundstopf can be covered and kept warm in a low oven (150°F/65°C) for several hours.
- Makes about 16 cups of meat stew, serving 10 or more. Serve with crusty bread, mashed potatoes, rice, or buttered noodles and a green salad. Leftovers reheat well.
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