Friday, January 16, 2009

Sauerkraut Soup

Do you remember the dust-up over French freedom fries a few years back? I was amazed to learn that a similar thing happened during WWI when the manufacturers of sauerkraut renamed their product liberty cabbage. I first had sauerkraut just after I was married. Our apartment was in an old building whose walls had absorbed aromas from the kitchens of tenants, past and present. On any given night the brisket in apartment 2D fought with the curry in 2F while the unmistakable smell of sauerkraut wafted down the stairs from 3A. It was like a street market. As you walked through the hall you could hear snippets of conversation or the clatter of dishes as the tables were being set and if your olfactory senses were the least bit keen you could tell what everyone was having for supper. I must admit I found my first taste of sauerkraut off-putting. Mama S made it her mission to correct that and while I'll never rise from my death bed to cry "Choucroute" I came to like it well enough. The secret is, of course, to rinse and soak it in several changes of cold water before using. Mama's sauerkraut was more French than German and years later I'd realize what she had taught me to make was actually a choucroute garni. Tender mercies! When I heard about the weather folks on the east coast and plains areas are having, I knew it was time to roll out my sauerkraut soup. The soup has an inverse relationship to the weather - the colder it gets the better the soup tastes. The photograph looks gentile, but the soup is true, hearty peasant fare. Add a salad and some bread and it's a meal in itself.

Sauerkraut Soup

1 (32-oz.) jar sauerkraut
1 large baking potato, peeled and grated
6 slices thick cut bacon, diced
1 pound smoked sausage, diced
1 large (about 12-oz.) onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 large carrot, grated
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 teaspoon Hungarian hot paprika
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 (12-oz.) bottle non-alcoholic amber beer (i.e. O'Doul's)
8 cups beef stock
Salt and pepper

1) Drain and rinse sauerkraut. Place in a large bowl; cover with cold water and soak for 20 minutes. Drain. Set aside. Place grated potato in a small bowl. Cover with cold water. Drain just before using.
2) Meanwhile, place bacon in a large skillet and saute until crisp. Remove from pan and drain on paper toweling. Add sausage and saute until lightly brown. Remove from pan and drain on paper toweling. Add onions to pan and saute until limp and transparent. Add garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Return bacon and sausage to pan. Add grated carrots, fennel and caraway seeds, paprika and tomato paste. Add beer, scraping bottom of pan to release fond.
3) Place sauerkraut in a large soup pot. Add beef stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; add drained potato and contents of skillet. Simmer for 1 hour. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Yield: 8 servings.


Paula said...

I love how you describe where you used to live ... the aromas and the sounds from all the tenants! I love sauerkraut and I love soup, so I'm sure I would enjoy this. Oh, and I also adore your expression "tender mercies!". I say stuff like that all the time; I'll add this to my list of interjections!

Mary Bergfeld said...

Paula, I hope you'll come again and again.

Susan C said...

I've never heard of such a thing as sauerkraut soup. It sounds divine. I wish that it would cool down here in So. Cal. so that I could try some of these hearty soups. (It's been in the 80s all week.)

Mary Bergfeld said...

Hi Susan, it's good to see you again. Don't be a stranger.

Cathy said...

This is what I call soup! I have fond memories of crocks of sauerkraut fermenting in the basement when I was a child.

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Apartment living at it's best.
Soup is the order of the day at 22° outside.

Donna-FFW said...

I have never heard of a sauerkraut soup, but all these ingredients together sound awesome. Very unique and intriguing. I would love to try this.

Maria said...

Interesting soup! Looks good though!

Pam said...

My husband loves sauerkraut, so I am sure he would love this soup. Another creative recipe Mary.

The Blonde Duck said...

Oh wow! This is so cool. I feel like I'm strolling down the hallway smelling this now!

Peter M said...

Near Toronto, is a small city called Kitchener. It's name was changed in WWII from New Berlin...despite the peaceful German-Canadians who populated the city.

The soup reminds me of French Onion and I'm loving the look of this.

Mary Bergfeld said...

Donna and Peter, I hope you both will try the soup. It can be adapted to personal tastes (i.e. more vegetables; the only constants are bacon, sauerkraut and amber colored beer.

Dewi said...

Never had sauerkraut soup before, it sounds delicious Mary.

Anonymous said...

My mom had a family recipe - Polish, that involved cabbage or sauerkraut. And sardines, I might add. It looks like I'd enjoy yours a lot more!

Anonymous said...

Being Polish, this is right up my alley. It sounds delicious Mary and perfect for this time of year.

Allie said...

What an interesting soup! I've never heard of sauerkraut soup before, but it sounds like an amazing food!

Food For Tots said...

Sauekraut soup is new to me but it sounds and looks so delicious!

Sara said...

Would you believe that I've never had sauerkraut? Strange, I know. This looks delicious.

Becky said...

Mary, you write so beautifully. I was walking down the hallway smelling everyone's supper along with you. It is a real talent to be able to do that. Thank you so much for sharing with us.

I've never had sauerkraut soup, though with my grandfather's German heritage we certainly had sauerkraut often.

When we got married Mike didn't like sauerkraut and I was just astonished. Then I started making it (Euell Gibbon's recipe) and he decided that was a whole 'nother ballgame. I haven't made any in several years and we were just talking about doing a couple of batches this summer. We shall see. If so, I will plan to use some of it next winter to make this soup.

Mary Bergfeld said...

Becky, thank you so very much for the compliment

Julie said...

I make my own sauerkraut. I can't wait to try this.

lemontini said...

hey this soup sounds amazing...I have also heard of something called popara...can u share the recipe as well as info about it?

Marilyn said...

I love sauerkraut soup. I make my own sauerkraut each fall with winter cabbage and can it myself. My receipe is simple. I put the sauerkraut in a pot and add equal amount of water. Cut the bacon in small bits and saute until semi crisp. Drain fat. Add chopped onion and saute with bacon. In a seperate pot boil a pot of cubed potatoes until almost done. Then...the best part....Add the pot of potatoes, water and all to the cooking sauerkraut, stir. Add a couple of cups of the water from this soup to the bacon and onion mixture. Thicken with flour and water to make a slurry. Add all this to the pot of soup and you are done. Amazing. The aroma will fill the house and mouth start to water. Serve with some great heavy bread and butter. I make this often and enough to share with others.

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