Last Updated on 3 years by Tim
Sour Kidneys might not be the prettiest German dish but it is insanely delicious. It’s a traditional dish from the Southern parts of Germany. Sour kindeys are especially widespread in the Swabia region and can also be found in Bavaria.
It’s no random coincidence that organ meat is mainly consumed in the South of Germany. Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria have both been poor agrarian states prior to their rapid economic development after World War II whereas the Northern Prussian Empire has been comparably wealthy.
Water your kidneys
A lot of people are afraid that kidneys taste like urine. But there is no need to be scared of that. If you soak the kidneys in water before cooking, there will be no off-taste. I swear. Instead, they have a very special, lightly nutty flavor, that you won’t find in any other meat.
It’s best to buy kitchen-ready pig kidneys, that are already cleaned and cut into slivers. You can ask your butcher to do that or buy them pre-packaged. If they smell very strong like urine, soak them in milk instead of water like stated in the recipe. Milk is phenomenal to remove unpleasant smell and gamey flavors.
An important thing to consider when frying kidneys, is that they don’t leak delicious meat juices. They will leak a lot of liquid when you fry them which is not delicious. Always discard any kidney juices.
The sauce for sour kidneys is always cooked separately from the kidneys so that the kidney juices don’t leak into it. Don’t trust any recipe that states otherwise.
How to cook the sauce for sour kidneys
I’ve shown you one way to cook the sour sauce in my recipe for sour tripe. In this recipe, I’m using a different method. I actually prefer this sauce over the one for sour tripe, and you can use it interchangeably for both dishes depending on your preference.
There’s no red wine in this sauce. The dark color comes from the roux which should be cooked until browned. To quickly cook a brown roux, you simply add a teaspoon of sugar to it.
Once browned, I stir in my beef broth and red wine vinegar. I add the red wine vinegar early on so that its sharp flavor gets mellowed out. The spices I add to my sauce are juniper berries, allspice berries, and bay leaves. Let the sauce simmer over low heat for at least 10-15 minutes to cook out the raw flour taste.
How to fry the kidneys
I like to fry the kidneys shortly before serving the dish. About 3-4 minutes are enough to cook them through. Aim to slightly undercook them. Overcooked kidneys are hard and rubbery.
Don’t be surprised by all the kidney juices. They will leak out and steam the kidneys. That is fine. Just make sure to use high heat and discard all juices.
For serving, the kidneys should just be warmed through in the sauce and then served directly along the sides of your choice. Spätzle or pan-fried potatoes would be the obvious choice for a Swabian. A Bavarian might prefer potato or bread dumplings.
Sour Kidneys (‘Saure Nierle’)
For the kidneys:
- 1 pound (450 g) pig kidneys, cleaned and cut into slivers
- 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons lard, for frying, divided
- salt, to taste
For the sauce:
- 2 tablespoons lard
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 3 cups beef broth
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 3 juniper berries
- 5 allspice berries
- 2 bay leafs
- black pepper, to taste
- salt, to taste
Soak the kidneys:
- Place the kidney slivers in a large bowl and cover with plenty of water. Leave them to soak for half an hour. Then, replace the water and leave them to soak for another 30 minutes. Drain the water again and soak them for another 30 minutes in plenty of water to which you add 1 teaspoon of vinegar. Drain the kidneys and pat them dry with a paper towel.
Cook the sauce:
- Heat the lard in a saucepot over medium heat. Add the flour and sugar stirring constantly with a whisk. Cook the paste until brown but not burnt, about 4-5 minutes. Slowly whisk in your beef broth stirring constantly. Then, add the red wine vinegar along with the juniper berries, allspice berries, and bay leaves. Turn the heat to the lowest setting and let the sauce cook, uncovered, for about 15 minutes. Season to taste with black pepper and salt. Optionally, pass the sauce through a fine-mesh sieve to remove the spices and smooth out the texture. Keep warm until ready to serve.
Fry the kidneys:
- It’s best to fry the kidneys in two batches in a large nonstick saute pan. Heat 1 tablespoon of lard on the highest setting your burner will go. Add the kidneys and cook them for about 3-4 minutes, or until just cooked through. They will leak a lot of water, so don’t be surprised if they steam more than fry. Discard all the water that came out of the kidneys and set them aside. Continue to fry the second batch in the same way. Season the kidneys with salt to taste.
Serve the sour kidneys:
- Add the kidney slivers to your lightly simmering sauce and stir well to combine. Serve immediately together with the side dish of your choice. Most commonly, they are eaten with bread, spätzle, or pan-fried potatoes.
I find veal kidneys are best. No need to soak, take care not to overcook – they should be pink – and they melt in the mouth.