Recipe: Winter’s better with sour cabbage soup!

November 19, 2010

It behooves one to have some food constructs up one’s sleeve that one can pull out at will and riff on: recipes that allow for variations on a theme, often more of a narrative than a list of ingredients and instructions for their combination. Such is the case for what I’ll here call sour cabbage soup.

What I’m going to tell you about here was at one time based on a variant of Schchi, a Russian cabbage soup that, in Cyrillic, only has two letters (yep, there’s a single letter for “shch”). Most Americans likely think that Russian classic soup starts and ends at borscht, but I say, Not so! Not so!

My Russian boyfriend’s mother used to concoct a brutally good schchi, always served with a beautiful, green-tinged broth, black bread, tubs of sour cream. Her version involved chunks of meat, mine doesn’t.

A couple of years ago I tracked down a schchi recipe on the intertubes and started messing with it. The first cabbage soup essential here is to recognize that you’re working with time here. Letting the tick of it going by make your cabbage sing and grow up and grow assertive.

Slow Sour Cabbage Soup
How much Of what
* “Soup liquid” is a concoction of various things (Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and caldron bubble). My last breakdown was approximately : 8c. chicken stock (homemade); 1.5c mushroom soaking liquid; the liquid from the can of diced tomatoes; a bit of beef stock.
8-ish Dried mushrooms
(Porcinis are easiest; use one of those small bags of them)
1 big head Cabbage, chopped roughly
2-3 c. Sauerkraut
(I highly recommend fresh Sauerkraut; in PDX, Sheridan Market on MLK is a great source)
3 TBSP. Tomato paste
12 c. “Soup liquid”* (Primarily stock)
1 Carrot, in rustic chop
1 Onion, chopped
2 ribs Celery, chopped
1 14-OZ. Can, diced tomatoes
1/4 cup Dill pickle juice
(I like Nalley Hot Pepper petites for their juice)
2-3TBSP. Vinegar
3-4 cloves Garlic, minced
Lots of Sour cream
  1. Pour about a cup of boiling water over the dried mushrooms in a bowl. Let soak for 30-45 minutes.
  2. Sauté the cabbage and sauerkraut in a few tablespoons fat (I use butter; you can use whatever you like) for 15 minutes in an enormous, heavy pot. Stockpots are ideal. Add tomato paste and a cup or so of “soup liquid*,” cover, and let simmer lightly for about half an hour.
  3. Meanwhile, sauté the aromatics (carrot, celery, onion) in some more fat. Remove the mushrooms from the water (but don’t toss the water!) and chop them. Add them to the sauté mixture and continue to cook until lightly browned and just softened.
  4. Add the sautéed vegetables to the cabbage pot, along with the rest of the “soup liquid” and the tomatoes. Cook for some goodly time (45-60 minutes) at a nice simmer.
  5. Add some tang with pickle juice (no, really! Yum!) and vinegar. The amount is up to you!
  6. Add some garlic toward the end of the cooking time and a bit more fat if you like a richer flavor (I throw in a knob of butter).
  7. You will likely want a bowl of soup right away! It will be tasty now but much more interesting tomorrow. Add some diced dill pickle and sour cream. I also add Sriracha (“Rooster”) sauce.

One Comment

  1. bethany says:

    Super exciting recipe. I’m eager to try it, but unfortunately, I’ll be the only one in the household to enjoy it.

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