Last Updated on 6 months by Tim
Today’s recipe is an all-time favorite in the Swabia region of Germany. Beef tripe braised in a sour red wine sauce. It’s a dish you really got to try to understand why it’s so addictively delicious.
Tripe is the muscle wall of the cow’s stomach and while it doesn’t really have a taste on its own the thing that makes it so special is its texture. It’s slightly chewy and super gelatinous. It’s comparable to the texture of a perfectly cooked squid. Not rubbery at all, but chewy with a little bite to it.
While braising, tripe soaks up all the flavor from the sauce. So, with this dish, you get the gelatinous texture of the tripe paired with the savoriness and richness of the sauce. I’m lacking words to describe how glorious this dish really is.
It doesn’t surprise me at all that tripe is also highly valued in all the Eastern European, French, and Italian cuisines. What was once a poor man’s food is now a delicacy beloved by many.
The origins of sour tripe
You might be surprised to hear that it is nearly impossible to find this dish on any restaurant menu in Germany outside of the Swabia region whereas it’s still broadly available and beloved by the locals.
In the old days, there was a great disparity of wealth between the Southern and Northern German states. While the North with it’s access to the North and East sea was wealthy the landlocked South was extremely poor.
The climate and soil in the Swabia region were so bad that the main things that could be grown were barley, rye, and lentils. Not even wheat was
People were mostly farmers that had to survive on a diet of grains and meat. And believe me, they didn’t roast themselves a fillet of beef after work. That was not only unaffordable but the meat quality tended to be miserable compared to today’s standards. Hard working free-range cows produced tough and stringy meat. The same is true for chickens.
So what the regular country people had left to eat was mostly the organ meat and some tough bony cuts. This is also true for other Mediterranean countries like France and Italy. Tripe was always one of the most highly valued organ meats among the population.
In France and Italy, it somehow made it’s way into fine dining, whereas in Germany tripe remained one of the local specialties of the Swabia region. Up until today, the Anglo-influenced North of Germany remains averse to organ meat whereas in the formerly poor farmer regions of Swabia and Bavaria it is still highly valued.
Nowadays, the South of Germany has overtaken the North by far in terms of wealth and economic development. And even though everyone can afford to eat the finer cuts of meat everyday organ meat has never disappeared from the local menus. People eat it because they love it and not because of poverty.
A guide on buying tripe
The beef tripe I am using for this recipe is from the rumen. If you can’t source rumen tripe, reticulum and omasum tripe can be substituted. As far as I know, honeycomb tripe from the reticulum is the most widely available variety.
Tripe is usually sold pre-cooked as it requires long cooking and soaking time. Also, the smell of raw tripe is horrendous. You really don’t want to penetrate your kitchen with that smell. Let your butcher do all the hard work for you.
The reason I am telling you to buy pre-cooked tripe is not only the hassle that comes with preparing it from scratch yourself but also that raw tripe is also sold as dog food. You do want to buy tripe that is fit for human consumption. In case tripe is an unusual food where you live, tell your butcher that it’s not intended for your dog.
You can either cut the tripe into small slivers yourself or also let your butcher do that for you. It’s up to you but I like mine pre-cut as it saves me a few minutes of work in the kitchen.
How to prepare the sauce for sour tripe
Sour tripe is one of the easiest ever dishes to prepare.
I like to use lard for frying my aromatics. I got to admit that I don’t render it myself as it is widely available in German grocery stores. It’s only about 1/4 the price of butter so it makes a cheap and awesome addition to your collection of cooking fats and oils.
You start the sauce by sweating minced onions and garlic in the lard until they turn slightly translucent and your kitchen starts smelling wonderful. Then all you need to do is add in some flour to form a roux. The roux should be sweated for at least 2-3 minutes to cook out the raw flour taste.
I also add in some tomato paste before adding my liquid. This helps to give the sauce a nice color and adds some more complexity of flavor.
The sauce is a mixture of 1 part of dry red wine to 1.5 parts of beef broth. The traditional choice of wine would be a dry ‘Trollinger’ from the South of Germany. But it’s fine to substitute any dry red wine you have access to. It’s needless to say that, as always, the beef broth should be homemade. I’ve posted my recipe on this blog as part of my basics series in case you need some guidance on that.
As always when making a roux-based sauce, add the liquid bit by bit while stirring constantly with a whisk to prevent your sauce from turning lumpy. Once it is simmering, you can add your tripe slivers and spices. Traditionally, only bay leaf and juniper berries were used to flavor this braise. So I stick with these spices in my recipe.
The tripe doesn’t need to be braised for a long time as it is already pre-cooked. About 15 minutes are enough to cook out the alcohol and raw flour taste from the sauce and to infuse the tripe with flavor.
How to season and serve sour tripe
Once you’re ready for serving, it’s time to season the stew to taste with red wine vinegar, sugar, black pepper, and salt. It’s up to you on how acidic you like your sour tripe to be. But don’t skip the vinegar. It imparts a fruity note to the sauce that is the main characteristic of this dish.
Sour tripe is most commonly served together with pan-fried potatoes. Spätzle would also make a great condiment. Or, you can make things super simple and serve it with just some sourdough bread on the side to soak up every last drop of the glorious gravy.