This heirloom recipe of a delicious, sweet-savory gingerbread sauce is what we have been eating on every Christmas Eve that I can remember.
I love traditions!
One of those traditions is our Christmas Eve dinner. Ever since I can remember, we have been eating this sweet-savory gingerbread sauce that has been handed down in my family.
I am so excited to share this sauce and the dish with you!
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A little background of this gingerbread sauce
I have done quite a bit of research. Unfortunately, all the family members that could have helped me with this have passed away.
From what I can tell, this dish comes from Silesia. Silesia is in Poland but used to be part of Germany (Germans call it “Schlesien”). My father was born there and my family has deeper roots in that area.
In Silesia, there is a traditional Christmas Eve dinner – that is only eaten on Christmas Eve. There are as many different variations of this dish out there as there are families.
However, I have been able to find this Polish gingerbread sauce in antique cookbooks. What they all have in common is that the sauce is sweet and savory and it is an “everything but the kitchen sink” type of recipe.
Hence, you will find it called gingerbread sauce, beer sauce, fish sauce, brown sauce, and Polish sauce.
My grandmother wrote it down for my father and we have been using this recipe.
I have adapted ingredients for this gingerbread sauce for American cooks.
The main ingredient is a sweet, non-alcoholic beer, called malt beer or Malzbier in German. Some of the brandnames are “Kraftmalz” or “Vitamalz”. I have been able to get it from certain distributors. If you cannot find it here, you can use a dark stout beer such as Guinness.
Another essential ingredient is gingerbread. Not the flatter cakes but something that looks more like a loaf. I have also been able to buy this locally (you might be able to find it here or here). Once I’ll have a recipe for it, I will update this post!
My grandmother’s recipe calls for parsley root which I have not been able to find here in the US. Therefore, I have been using parsnip and wouldn’t be able to taste a difference.
And from there, you’ll need everyday ingredients such as lemon, onion, a piece of dried dark bread, sugar, salt, vinegar, cloves, a bay leaf, and butter.
How to make the gingerbread sauce:
Cut one onion into thick rings and put them in the bottom of a big pot.
Next, cut the gingerbread into medium-sized pieces and put them in the pot with the onion.
Cut the lemon (use organic if you can) into slices and put them in the pot with the onion and the gingerbread.
To this pot add the ground cloves, sugar, salt, and the bay leaf. Add a good dash of vinegar.
Cut the parsnip into pieces and add as well.
Now, pour 3 11-oz bottles of malt beer into the pot. Alternatively, use 1 ½ 22-oz bottles of dark stout beer into the pot.
Bring to a boil. NOTE: This will boil over worse than milk so make sure to stay close to your pot. Then simmer until all the ingredients are soft.
Pass the sauce through a strainer or colander and push softer ingredients through it with a spoon.
Return the sauce to the pot.
Now, season it to taste. If you’re using stout beer, you might have to add more sugar. Feel free to add salt, lemon, and/or vinegar to taste.
Lastly, add about 2-3 tablespoons of butter.
How to eat the gingerbread sauce
This is the fun part: how to serve this sauce.
We peel and boil potatoes in salted water until soft. In another pot, we heat up sauerkraut (best if you make your own). In the meantime, we put white sausages (for example Swiss-brand bock wursts) in the sauce and gently heat them up. Don’t boil as the sausages will pop open.
To serve, put some potatoes and sauerkraut on a plate. Add a sausage or two per person and generously pour the gingerbread sauce over everything. The potatoes, sauerkraut, and sausages should be “swimming” in the sauce – which is the way Germans like it.
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- 1 medium onion
- ½ pound gingerbread loaf
- 1 piece dried dark whole grain bread
- 1 TBSP sugar (use more if not using the sweet malt beer)
- 1 whole lemon
- 1 TBSP vinegar
- 1 tsp ground cloves
- 1 large bay leaf
- ½ tsp salt
- 3 11 oz bottle sweet malt beer OR
- 1 ½ 22 oz bottle dark stout beer
- 1 medium parsnip (or parsley root)
- 2 TBSP butter
- Cut the onion in thick rings and place on the bottom of a big pot.
- Cut the gingerbread in pieces and add to the pot.
- Cut the lemon in slices and add to the pot.
- Cut the parsnip or parsley root in pieces and add to the pot.
- Add the vinegar, cloves, salt, sugar, bay leaf, vinegar and all the beer to the pot.
- Over medium heat bring to a boil. NOTE: this will boil over worse than milk so stay close to the pot. Turn heat to low and simmer until everything is soft.
- Pass the sauce through a strainer and push softer pieces through. The sauce should be thick and smooth.
- Return the sauce to the pot and season to taste with salt, sugar, lemon and/or vinegar.
- Add the butter.
- Gently heat the white sausages in the sauce (do not boil!). Serve over boiled potatoes and sauerkraut with a generous amount of sauce.
- feel free to taste the sauce and adjust with additional salt, vinegar, and/or sugar