i’ve had some awesome feedback on the blog lately about including vegetarian options for my soup recipes. so i’ve decided to start posting a note at the end each recipe to let you know how to make any of these recipes vegetarian-friendly (if possible). that way, even the non-meat eaters can enjoy grandpa’s recipes. keep an eye out for this change going forward!
okay people, i know what you’re thinking…sauerkraut soup? no. just….no. why would you think we’d like that erin? sauerkraut in a soup does not sound good. i’m going to skip this post.
just do me a favor and give this one a chance. have i ever led you astray? i would tell you if it was weird, i promise. i mean, i know that i like sauerkraut by itself, and i know that’s a bit goofy, but i had multiple people who were not sauerkraut lovers try this, and they all loved it. it really is more like a cabbage soup, because the sauerkraut doesn’t have a strong taste. I wouldn’t lie to you, so trust me on this one and keep reading.
sauerkraut soup is actually quite popular in the northern european cooking heritage, and when i looked into it (because i was curious if this was a common type of recipe), i found that there’s a huge array of sauerkraut soup recipes out there…who knew! apparently it’s pretty popular, especially in this part of the country, where so many germans, norwegians, swedes and czech settled.
this soup is a classic recipe, using rinsed sauerkraut, lean beef and only a small amount of dried herbs to flavor it. if you look at the recipe, you’ll notice it includes ingredients that would be readily available during the cold winter months in a northern climate; things that could be kept in a cellar, or canned. and because they had to ration their dried herbs all winter, instead of using a larger amount of them to flavor the soup, they use a small amount tied up in a cheesecloth bag, but let it stew in the soup for a very long time to make them go further.
this was the first time i’d ever cooked a soup that called for a Bouquet Garni. if you haven’t heard of that before, you’re not alone, because i hadn’t either! a Bouquet Garni is basically just a fancy way to say “a bag of herbs mixed together”. by putting them together in a cheesecloth bag, it allows the flavors to steep in the soup when cooked for a long time (like a teabag), and also allows you to remove them all when the cooking is done so you don’t have to fish around for a few peppercorns and a bay leaf. bonus: it looks really cute when you make it, and makes you feel like a fancy chef, so i’m a big fan.
as usual, my favorite part of making this was getting to read a little note from my grandpa about a memory he had of cooking this soup (i included it below). i’m so happy that i decided to record this little project of mine here, because when i write the recipes down and talk about what the day was like, or what the occasion was for cooking a particular soup, it gives me memories of making each one, just like he had. and i think that’s what’s amazing about cooking any special recipe…it sticks in your heart, and just thinking about a meal can bring up wonderful memories of your life when you cooked it.
so promise me if you’re looking for an interesting recipe to try, one that’s easy to just dump in a pot and leave on the stove all afternoon, you’ll give this one a go. maybe it’ll become a favorite for you like it was for my grandpa!
sauerkraut soup (makes a large batch without doubling)
- 2 large onions, coarsely chopped
- 2-3 stalks celery, diced
- 1 1/2 lbs. sauerkraut, rinsed in cold water and drained
- 1/4 C. butter
- 10 C. beef broth
- 3 lbs. lean beef, cubed
- Bouquet Garni of 5 peppercorns, 1 bay leaf, and 1 pinch of thyme, tied in a small cheesecloth bag (see above for photos of how to make a Bouquet Garni)
- salt and pepper to taste
- boiled tiny potatoes or boiled whole potatoes cut into chunks with skin on (enough for whoever will be eating at that particular meal…should be freshly cooked, as you serve the soup over these)
in a large soup pot, cook onions and celery until vegetables are tender. add sauerkraut and cook over low heat until it’s golden. add the beef broth, lean beef and Bouquet Garni, and cook covered over low heat for at least two hours. at serving time, remove Bouquet Garni and add salt and pepper to taste. serve over freshly boiled tiny potatoes or potato chunks (with skin on).
note from grandpa: the aroma of this soup brings back fond memories of a winter getaway we had as a family. staying in a log cabin, we snow mobiled, ice fished and cross-country skied…and almost froze in the process! we cooked this soup to warm us up after a long day outside in the cold.
- use vegetable broth instead of beef broth
- omit the beef (can also add a cup of brown lentils to add protein and bulk if you’d like)