Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Cooking Hungarian: Kolbászleves

Last night my kitchen smelled very Christmassy, as I made Hungarian sauerkraut soup. Not that Hungarian sauerkraut soup is something that you’d find at Estonian Christmas table, but sautéed sauerkraut is definitely there. I don’t exaggerate when I say that I had sauerkraut every day for two weeks during my last Christmas holiday at home. I had got to Estonia on December 17th, and my mum had lovingly made me a welcome meal of black pudding, roast pork and sautéed sauerkraut. Her rationale was that I probably had missed that food, which was true. I had missed it and it was delicious. But then I continued to have pretty much the same meal with minor variations (as in: sometimes with lingonberry jam on the side, sometimes with pickled pumpkin on the side) until I flew back to Edinburgh on January 1st. You know, Christmas meals at home, at paternal grandmother’s, at maternal grandmother’s, at friends’ places – you cannot avoid eating sauerkraut. And as you usually make a huge potful of the stuff, you eat leftovers for ever. Very tasty, but it can get a bit repetitive at the end :)

So when I opened a jar of sauerkraut or sour cabbage last night, the initial waft of sauerkraut instantly reminded me of Christmas. And as I added other ingredients, including smoked Polish sausages, the smell got more and more wintry and Christmassy…

Back to the soup-making now. According to my source, this is Hungarian sausage soup – Kolbászleves. I am not sure if Szofi of Chili&Vanilia agrees, but the author of the Estonian language book ‘Ungari köök’ (that’s ‘Hungarian kitchen’ for those of you who don’t speak the language:), Peeter Kard, is considered to be an expert on that particular cuisine back home. Although I have been to Hungary, I haven’t had kolbászleves there, so I have to believe Mr Kard’s claim for authenticity.

The soup is easy to make, and tasty addition to any winter menu. Serves 4.

Hungarian sauerkraut and smoked sausage soup Kolbászleves
(Ungari hapukapsa-vorstisupp)

450-500 grams sauerkraut (canned is fine, I used Polish Krakus brand)
100-200 grams smoked sausage (I used Polish Krakow sausage)
1 tsp of caraway seeds
0.5-1 chopped onion (I used 1 red onion)
40 grams of lard (I bet Hungarian chefs would use the special smoked and paprika-cured Hungarian fat, whereas I used plain butter)
3-4 Tbsp plain flour
1-2 tsp Hungarian paprika powder
sugar, if necessary

To garnish:
Sour cream or crème fraiche

Drain the sauerkraut and add enough water to the drained liquid, so you’d end up with 1 litre of liquid. Bring to the boil, add sauerkraut, sliced sausage, and caraway seeds

Simmer on a medium heat, until cabbage is almost tender. Taste – if the cabbage is too sour, add a generous pinch or two of sugar. (Sauerkraut is inevitably sour. But then there is sour sauerkraut and very sour sauerkraut. Too sour sauerkraut is not so good :)

Heat the lard/butter, add chopped onion and sauté until soft. Add flour, paprika powder, mix thoroughly. Then add another cup of water, and heat through. You end up with a reddish-brown roux.

Simmer, until cabbage is soft and tender.

Garnish with a dollop of sour cream, and enjoy with sliced sour rye bread.

UPDATE 14.1.2007: Elise of Simple Recipes mentioned this recipe, too.


katia said...

Hi Pille,

Your sour cabbage soup sounds great!

I make is it slightly differently, the way I learnt it form my mother in Hungary.

1. At the beginning, before I drain the sour cabbage, I lightly wash it through with water and then I drain it. But save a bit of sour liquid for later for taste, depending on how tart you like it. This way one need not add sugar to it at the end.

2. I start with the chopped onions. I sauté them first on a bit of oil, (you used fat), then take it off the stove to let it cool off (very important step!), and then I add the red paprika to it after it sufficiently cooled off. [See, this step is never mentioned in books (you learn this at home from grandma), but it is the most important step nevertheless. Your paprika will not burn and come out brown, but it is going to be red, the way it should be, plus, it will taste better too. ]

3. Then I add all the other stuff to it. (Cabbage, caraway seeds etc.)

By the way, you gave me the idea to cook it this weekend.

Thank you,

katia said...

Oh! I almost forgot.

I add a sliced potato to it at the beginning and not much flower at the end.
Wow! It wounds so good, I might even prepare it tonight!


santos. said...

hi pille! i had a mild hallucination whilst reading your post; i am cooking a hawaiian dish with smoked pork and cabbage, and i *swear* i could smell your soup from here :)

chili&vanilia said...

Oh Pille,
you made my day!!And right at this very moment I would give anything to have just a little little piece of a good Hungarian kolbász (sausage). The recipe sounds quite authentic, although we didn't have this much in my family. And the instructions of Katia are indeed to be followed, especially that one about when to add that paprika.
By the way, this soup is also served at midnight for the New Year. And there is a version of this soup made with savoy cabbage instead of sauerkraut and -very funny- that's called "Frankfurter soup"
Anyway, great post, I hope you enjoyed cooking Hungarian! Now I also should pick a good Estonian dish..
Have a very nice evening, Zsofi

Anonymous said...

Mmm, I love sauerkraut and smoked Polish sausages. I could easily start eating meat again if someone put a delicious sausage in front of my nose :-) There's a Polish variant of this soup, I don't remember it though but probably almost the same :-)

Anonymous said...

Hi there, I know this soup also from Burgenland as a traditional dish. That region was Western Hungary until 1921 (see my today`s post). I am very happy that many of our Central European culinary traditions come alive thru blogging. Thanks to you all ! angelika

Anonymous said...

You know, I associate sauerkraut with homecoming too.
My family is of German descent, so naturally I grew up with the aroma of sauerkraut and sausage simmering away in the kitchen. Then in college, the mother of my best friend was Hungarian, and she would come and cook for us, sauerkraut and spaetzle. HM. I think I'll get some tomorrow...:)

Pille said...

Katia - whoah! Thank you so much for your impressive and so useful comments!!! I was wondering whether Hungarian mamas would really make a separate soup thickening out of flour and oil - your suggestion of using a potato sounds so much more reasonable!
Also, the paprika hint is invaluable, thanks! I'll make this soup again soon, incorporating your hints and suggestions, and will report back to you. But thanks again for your immensely helpful comments!

Santos - mmm. But sometimes it is possible to _smell_ something from the computer screen - it happens to me all the time! :)

Zsofi - I am so glad to have cheered up your day! It's interesting to know that this soup is served at the new year's eve..

Dagmar - I guess there are lots of very similar dishes in the Central European kitchens, and some of them have even made their way further north (like Estonia), but without the paprika bit. It would be interesting to try the Polish version as well!

Angelika - I agree, it's fascinating to read (and write:) about slightly less known dishes. When I started blogging, I didn't plan to cook so many Estonian dishes (they're quite simple and even boring sometimes, but it doesn't mean they're any less tasty and flavoursome), but have felt a friendly 'pressure' to do so more and more. And I must admit, I enjoy cooking Estonian or other regional specialities enormously!

Courtney - welcome to my blog! Sauerkraut aroma is quite distinct and strong, so I guess it's difficult to forget that, especially when you grew up with it:)

Kinna Jonsson said...

I will definitely try this one out.

Anonymous said...

Your soup sounds wonderful and I'd like to try it. My problem is that I don't understand the metric system of measurements. Does anyone have this recipe measurements translated into ounces and cups instead of grams and liters? I'd really appreciate it.


betsy said...

I just found this on your lovely blog. I will make it this week as soon as I can get some canned sauerkraut. What a treat to find 7 years of recipes on your site. I look forward to discovering some more.-Miss Elizabeth Sprague, Nashville Tennessee.