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Schwenker refers to a special grill created in Saarland, Germany. The grill consists of a grate suspended from a tripod above an open wood fire. Schwenker also refers to the grill master, who keeps the grate gently swinging over the wood fire as your meat is cooking. Finally, schwenker (or schwenkbraten) refers to a pork neck steak, marinated and then cooked on this special grill.
Steaks made from pork neck can be challenging to find in the States, so our recipe calls for pork chops. We’ve marinated the steaks with onions and garlic soaked in a marinade of hearty spices like Hungarian paprika, cayenne and oregano—as well as crushed juniper berries, which add a tart and piney flavor that makes these pork steaks distinctive. You can layer your grilled pork and onions on a bun for a tasty sandwich, or serve them on a plate along with salad or veggies. Let us know how you eat your schwenkbraten.
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the following ingredients:
Peel and crush the garlic.
Use a mortar and pestle to crush the juniper berries.
Peel and thinly slice the onions. Gently mash onion slices with the smooth side of a pounder, bottom of a glass or large kitchen spoon—just enough to release flavorful juices.
Place the onion and garlic into a medium mixing bowl. Pour in the oil and seasoning mixture and then mix ingredients until the onion slices are thoroughly coated.
Place ⅓ of the seasoned onion slices in a layer on the bottom of a baking dish or flat container with a lid. Lay 4 of the pork steaks in a single layer over the onion slices. Create another thin layer of seasoned onions (about ⅓ of the slices) over the steaks. Make a forth layer with the remainder of pork steaks and then pour the last ⅓ onion slices and marinade over top.
Cover and refrigerate for 24 – 36 hours, stirring occasionally to marinate the pork.
When the steaks are done marinating, remove them from refrigerator and preheat your grill to medium while allowing pork to reach room temperature.
Use aluminum foil to create a foil packet, and then scoop the marinated onions into your packet for cooking on the grill. Discard the marinade and place your foil packet on the grill. (Alternatively, you can sauté the onions in a skillet over medium-high until they become soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.)
Place your steaks on the heated grill alongside your onion packet, and sprinkle with salt. Grill the pork steaks until golden brown and cooked through (about 8 – 10 minutes per side).
If cooking onions on grill, they should be ready to eat when the steaks are done cooking.
Serve pork and onions hot, side by side, or layered on a bun and slathered with spicy mustard.
Try serving with potato salad, grilled vegetables and a dollop of spicy beer mustard on the side.
Note: Germans use a schwenker (a grill suspended over a wood fire). To get close to that traditional smoky flavor, try adding hickory woodchips to your BBQ fire.