Wednesday, March 08, 2006

A heartwarming sauerkraut soup

It was snowing in Edinburgh last Friday, probably taking by surprise the crocus flowers that had been out for a few weeks already. Snowing as such is not unusual in Edinburgh, but this time was different as patches of snow remained at least in my part of town for a couple of days. As the weather was chillier than usual, a heartwarming soup was in order for dinner. I was cooking for two Estonian girls again (three, including me), and made a wintry classic from home - a sauerkraut soup, no meat. Soups like this are very filling, and would be served as a main course back home. I followed it with the milk curd cream pots with blueberries.

The recipe is from a very old Estonian cookbook classic, Valik toiduretsepte, probably lurking on a shelf somewhere in pretty much every household. No pictures, just lots of recipes. The first edition of the book is from 1965, and the last one probably around 1990. My edition is exactly as young as I am - issued in 1974:)

I've changed the recipe a little. I used potato as a thickener instead of flour, and rinsed the sauerkraut in water to make it less sour. These two ideas were suggested by Katia and Szofi after I made Hungarian sauerkraut and smoked sausage soup Kolbászleves back in November. I think the soup was much better for that, and this shows again that foodblogging can immensely improve your cooking..

One more thing - do not attempt to cook this if you don't have a very good extractor fan above your oven. It smells strongly of sauerkraut, which is an acquired taste/smell. But the resulting soup is worth it:)

Meatless sauerkraut soup
(Lihata hapukapsasupp)
Serves 4-6 as a main course

3 litres of water
1 kg fresh sauerkraut*
100-200 grams vegetable oil, lard or butter
1-2 large onions
3-4 carrots
1 Tbsp concentrated tomato paste
1-2 chopped floury potatoes
2-3 bay leaves
black pepper

sour cream to serve

Drain the extra liquid from the sauerkraut, put aside (you may need this to make the soup more sour later on). Rinse lightly under cold water.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the cabbage and pour over enough boiling water to cover by a few centimetres.
Bring to the boil, add 2 chopped carrots, diced onion, tomato paste, chopped potatoes and bay leaves. Simmer for 1-1.5 ours, until the cabbage is tender. Add the rest of the boiling water in batches during simmering.
Season with salt. Taste the soup - if it is too sharp and sour, add some sugar. If you think it's not sour enough, add some of the preserved draining liquid. Being a sauerkraut soup, it's supposed to be sour, of course. But you're not aiming for gut-scratching sharp and sour that gives you tummy troubles later.
Add 1-2 finely grated carrots for some crunch and colour, and garnish with a dollop of sour cream.
Serve with rye bread.

* Sauerkraut is available either "fresh" or canned. The latter has been partially cooked already, so needs less simmering time. It also tends to be less sour. I got my fresh sauerkraut from the Polish deli**, where it was sold vacuum-packed.

**Bona Deli, 86 South Clerk Street, Edinburgh


Clivia said...

Oh those poor crocuses! Shocked by the snow... Here it is even worse, -12 today and not getting warmer.
I have never had sauerkraut but am very curious about the taste. It sounds so good, and also I have read it is very good for you. I will have to try one of your soups before summer comes!

Anonymous said...

Look at those poor crocuses hidden in snow! Sauerkraut is a traditional food in my area in France, but I have never had it in soup. Looks very interesting!! I can "imagine" the taste. Miam! A bit tangy??

Thredahlia said...

Hästi tehtud hapukapsasupp on kindlasti väga maitsev ja paaril korral on õnnestunud seda saada ka, aga... nagu paljudel meist on erinevate asjadega lapsepõlvest ebameeldivad kogemused, siis mind sunnitit sööma piima-hapukapsasuppi - sellest ajast on eelarvamus igasuguse hapukapsas suhtes ja ise pole suppi tegema kippunud, kuigi proovida ju võiks.

Pille said...

First of all - am happy to report that the crocuses survived very nicely. No snow left, just lots of blue and yellow flowers:)

Clivia - "fresh" sauerkraut is a good source of vitamin C, and it's also good for your digestion, like all brassica are:) It's definitely a winter soup though, the taste just doesn't go with summer at all. I think..

Bea - I hadn't realised how popular sauerkraut is in parts of France (even in Paris, if my newest cookbook, Michael Roberts' "Parisian Home Cooking" is anything to go buy). In Estonia we either have it as a thick stew with meat, or as a soup (usually with meat as well). And yes, it's a bit tangy, and sharp. Very much a comfort food..

Thredalia - ma ei ole eales kuulnud piima-hapukapsasupist!?!? Kas Sa jõuluprae kõrvale ka hapukapsast siis ei võta, või on vastumeelsus vaid suppide osas? Proovida ikka võiks:)

Thredahlia said...

Värskelt või praetult-hautatult ei ole mul hapukapsa vastu midagi, aga supp kõlab kahtlaselt. Aga nagu paljude asjade puhul on juba juhtunud - peab ise härjal sarvist haarama, siis võib ka maitsema hakata.

Anonymous said...

Love both photos! Glad to read that the flowers survived.


Anonymous said...

I really like Saurkraut soup during winter. It's so warming and filling. Lovely! I think I will try your recipe during next week, but I'm wondering if Fredrik even would try it out... :-) And your milk curd cream pots both look and sounds really nice, I made a separate comment for thoose further down.

Pille said...

Thredalia - proovi ikka tavalist (või siinset lihata) hapukapsasuppi. Me võime diili teha - ma proovin piima-hapukapsasuppi siis:)

Paz - the crocuses have tough time at the moment. There were blizzards in Edinburgh last weekend again (!!!), and today all the snow was melted and the flowers did look a bit wilted:(
However - am in my office in Stirling (about 50 minutes by train north of Edinburgh) and it's snowing outside. Very confusing..

Dagmar - nice to see there are other sauerkraut soup lovers out there, as it is a rather acquired taste. I'm sure you can think of a way to persuade Fredrik to try some:)

Thredahlia said...

Nii võib ju juhtuda, et peabki ära proovima :D

Zak said...

I'm sorry but I didn't like this. I have tried, and failed, to love Italian jota as well - the basic version, with sauerkrat, beans and polenta. There is no body to this soup. It requires a decent meat stock to counteract its tart bite.

Sauerkraut is good, though, in Polish lazanki - pasta with sauerkraut, white cabbage, bacon, sausage and onions. No cheese, the pasta (little squares) a good bit past al dente. . .

Pille said...

Sorry to hear that this wasn't to your liking, Zac. I disagree with your meat stock comment, however - the cabbage itself, as well as the carrots, onions and seasonings give the soup plenty of flavour. As far as tartness is concerned, then again, carrots and onions sweeten the soup considerably (if cooked properly, of course), and so does the sugar. I often cook sauerkraut with meat, too, but I also take delight in occasional meatless versions of this basic and humble staple.
I haven't had a chance to try the Polish dish you mention, unfortunately. I'll keep my eyes open for that in the future.

Anonymous said...

Rehydrated, finely-chopped dried mushrooms may be the key, I reckon. Added in judicious amounts, of course. But without the tomatoes then, I would say.

Sorry, I meant the jota had no body. I have mucked about for ages trying to get soups like this to work. Often stockless soups have more flavour when served only tepid - but this is one soup that I would want warmer than that.

The answer, of course, is to make some real vegetable stock, which I think is a lot harder to make than most folk think.

Zak said...

Sorry, that 'anon' post above was me. Get the hang of this yet. . .

Pille said...

Nicholas Clee has some good advice in his Don't Sweat the Aubergine: What Works in the Kitchen and Why on making vegetable stock. He suggests you take some onions, carrots, leeks and celery (optional: fennel bulb, whole garlic cloves, mushrooms), plus herbs, of course. Cut the vegetables up small, soften in butter or oil for 10-15 minutes. Add herbs and enough water to cover. Then cover the pan, simmer for no more than 30 minutes. Strain and use for whatever purposes you need.

annulla said...

Just found your soup recipe and I think it sounds devine. I'm a sauerkraut lover and can't wait to try it!

Blather From Brooklyn

iGurman said...

Very nice. I have also a site for recipes for cooking, but you have to translate the Google translate. I am from Slovakia.

Anonymous said...


Saurkraut soup is very tasty. I have tried this recipe, its's easy to make. Please try some lemon in it



Bala said...

I adapted this recipe yesterday and it turned out great! Thanks for sharing.


Laura said...

I tried your soup and enjoyed it very much, as did my spouse. We put chunks of feta in it and it is a very pleasing combination. Trying it for the second time this morning - it is just simmering now!

Grandma Evelyn said...

I have a dumb question. What do you mean by floury potatoes? Potatoes that have been floured? I'm in the US, but love my mother-in-law's Slovakian stuffed cabbage with sauerkraut so think I might like this.


The combination of sauerkraut and potatoes is always a good one and also made this a very tasty soup. Perfect for a cold winter’s night.
It wasn’t as sour as the name sounds, due to the nice carrots that are also in the recipe. It’s given us some good ideas of more ways to use this tasty combination in the future.

Pille said...

annulla - nice to meet another sauerkraut lover!

Gabriel - Slovakian cuisine uses lots of sauerkraut as well, doesn't it?

Rambo - thanks for the tip.

Bala - off to check out your post now!

Laura -adding feta sounds like a neat idea - I'll keep that in mind!

Grandma Evelyn - a floury potato is one that you use for making mashed potato - that is to say it'll cook very soft and can be used as a thickeing agent for a soup (as opposed to a salad potato).

VEGALICIOUS - great to hear!