Monday, 14 November 2011
As promised, the sauerkraut soup with sour cream (UPDATED Sept 2019)
This is my absolute favourite soup. It sometimes involves sausage, but is equally good without it, and in fact lesser carnivores of the family prefer it without, so I only add it when I'm home alone...
This "recipe" was originally posted back in 2011, without any introduction. I've learned a bit more about cooking since, and have also learned a bit more about this soup. It always puzzled me that my family's "zelňačka" was so very different from other Czechs' idea of zelňačka which involves fried onion base and paprika and all sorts of unnecessary and harder-to-digest complications like that. It turns out its lineage in my family goes back to a co-worker of my Wonderful Crafty Grandma (TM)'s, and its trace gets lost there. But strangely enough, its lineage also can be traced on the other side of the family, i.e., to Moravian Wallachia and its kyselica, sauerkraut-and-potatoes-and-cream soup (which I always take care to get somewhere when I visit the region, because when I first visited it was the first time I felt like someone else understood my love of this soup!). These days, kyselica is a richer one, always involving sausage or bacon, sometimes even more vegetables, maybe thickened with roux; but originally, it was very simple peasant food and the word "kyselica" actually referred to the sour liquid from sauerkraut alone! So it's entirely possible that the originator of this recipe on my mom's and grandma's side originally came from Wallachia...
Wallachians have a saying "brambory a zelé - živobytí celé", "potatoes and cabbage - the whole livelihood". It's almost correct here.
(Note that "zelé" is a dialectism; the "correct" Czech form is "zelí".)
(September 28, 2019)
You will definitely need:
- sour cream (or very thick, creamy yoghurt; don't bother with the thinner kinds)
You may also want to use:
- caraway seeds or other spice to your preference (I like my food mild, so I prefer caraway) ETA '19: These days, I also add about two or three bay leaves and about three allspice balls per big pot, to be removed before serving. (I've also found out I actually don't mind spicier food every now and then - but the sourness of this soup works well with milder spices.)
- prunes / dried plums
I cannot give you exact amounts; it all depends on how much of the soup you want to make and how rich do you like your soups (ETA '19: Because I tend to use this soup instead of a main course, I like it fairly full of sauerkraut and potatoes - 0,5 kg of sauerkraut and, let's say, 4 mid-sized potatoes for a c. 5 litre pot). I'd recommend using at least a cup of the sour cream in either case, though.
You start by cubing your potatoes and then cooking them and the sauerkraut (both salted) separately in two pots. (ETA '19: Add your caraway seeds to the potatoes and your bay leaves and allspice to the sauerkraut.) Then you unite them in one pot, add water to the amount you want to have, add the sour cream and cook a bit more (ETA '19: I tend to cook it all together for about 15 minutes, for the tastes to blend). And that's it. It tastes better after a day or two when the tastes "settle", but you can eat it fresh from the stove as well.
- You can mix a tablespoon of flour into the sour cream for more thickness - I'd recommend doing this if you use yoghurt, with thick sour cream it's not necessary.
- Add cubed sausage.
- Add cubed prunes as well (they expand a lot in the soup, so that's why cubed). They lose a lot of their taste themselves, but add a nice overtone to the whole soup.
A variant with a not very spicy sausage and prunes. The prunes make it darker than the plain variant.
A variant with spicy Hungarian sausage and prunes. Paprika!
And, really, that's it. I like it when the sauerkraut is very sour, but that's my own personal preference. The fun thing is, it's so versatile, depending on the type of sausage and/or spice you use; while preparing for this belated post, I ate sauerkraut soup for about three weeks in a row, and did not get bored with it, because I used different kinds of everything.