Updated: Jul 20
It has been my desire to bring my beautiful Ukrainian culture into your homes and what better way to do it than by making Ukrainian simple and delicious dishes from whole foods. It is faster to make homemade soup with fresh and staple ingredients than to order take out or wait on food delivery. In fact, all you really need for a great meal are three pillars: love of others, love of self, and love of food. This can be done by anyone. Yes - anyone.
The king of all dishes in Ukraine is Borsch without any questions. And here you can find a recipe for the best Borsch.
Today I direct your attention to another staple soup that is popular, especially this time of the year, called "Kapustnyak". It's sauerkraut soup!
The idea of inserting some sauerkraut into a soup might sound weird at first, but I assure you that the results are absolutely mesmerizing and once you try it, you will become addicted, and understand why Ukrainian people love it so much!
Sauerkraut soup is also popular in many countries such as Poland, Germany, etc.
This was initially a soup made and served by the country people, who had created a very simple recipe that only required basic ingredients equating to a very filling meal in a bowl. Over time it has become extremely popular that now any traditional Ukraine cookbook contains at least one variation of Sauerkraut soup!
I totally recommend this soup for autumn or winter, when you just need a big bowl of soup to make you feel better and warm you from the inside, which is why we refer to it as healing soup in Ukraine.
As sauerkraut is usually a winter go ingredient in Ukraine, because it is extremely rich in Vitamin C and is considered a preventative for colds and flu. We naturally indulge in this soup during the cold days in hopes of warding off illness.
To learn how to make sauerkraut and what are the health benefits, please read here. In that blog, I mentioned the benefits of sauerkraut and that it is best to eat it raw. However, many cultures around the globe are using their ferments in cooking and you are still able to get some remnants of good bacteria benefits. Remember many areas in the world used to be very limited on fresh produce during their winter months. Fermented veggies were the only source of vitamin C and the advantage of eating sauerkraut, a fermented veggie extraordinaire, is that it contains a significant amount of vitamin C more so than fresh cabbage!
ON A LARDONS FOR UKRAINIAN SAUERKRAUT SOUP
For this Sauerkraut soup, I used pieces of fried lardons only as a garnish, just like my mom. The result is a very filling and finger-licking good soup that can be enjoyed for lunch or dinner. This is a truly authentic recipe and I’m sure you will love it too! Although it can be made with bacon, it simply is a different experience than just chopping up fried bacon bits. A good lardon is crisp on the outside and tender on the inside, which is hard to achieve with any kind of pre-sliced bacon. To make lardons, first you need to purchase slab bacon. Then you are going to slowly cook out the fat over low heat. While the fat melts, the bacon will start to brown to a crisp, delicious cube.
ON MILLET FOR UKRAINIAN SAUERKRAUT SOUP
In Ukraine millet is quite popular and was used frequently in the old days compared to the present. My grandmother used millet for making her stuffed cabbage, porridge, and in soups. She even served it to us with milk and honey for breakfast. For those of you who are gluten tolerant, millet is Naturally Gluten Free.
If you have never heard of millet, you’re not alone. This ancient food is more widely known in the Western world as the main ingredient in bird feed than as a diet staple, but that’s beginning to change. While widely referred to as a grain, millet is actually a seed and while birds do love it, this is a seed that humans choose too. Millet is high in fiber and low on the GI. Additionally, it is an alkaline food, meaning it’s easily digestible and a good option for those with sensitive stomachs.
SOAKED VS UNSOAKED MILLET
The soaking process not only speeds up the cooking time, but it neutralizes the phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors and increases the vitamin content, particularly B vitamins. Phytic acid, which not only grabs onto important minerals, but inhibits the enzymes that we need to digest our food. I highly recommend that you soak your millet! I ALWAYS SOAK MOST OF MY GRAINS, BEANS, SEEDS AND NUTS!
Can this soup be vegan?
Yes, just skip on the bacon garnish and use only oil in cooking the soup.
Can I freeze this soup?
Yes, and in fact this soup is good stored the fridge for a WHOLE week. In my opinion it is even better the next day or the day after, so storing it in the fridge actually allows the ingredients to continue to marry into an even more delicious soup! If you need to store for longer, use freezable containers and store in your freezer for no more than 3 months.
I hope you will try this winter Ukrainian staple soup!
SIMILAR UKRAINIAN SOUPS
Let's make it...
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 40 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes
Author: Inna of innichkachef.com
Serves: 6-8 people
3 cups sauerkraut with a juice (I used homemade in the video)
3 cups shredded cabbage.
1 large carrot or 2 mediums
1 large onion or 2 mediums
1 large russet potato or 2 mediums
1/2 cup millet (soak for 6-8 hours before cooking time)
1-2 tablespoons butter
1-2 tablespoons extra virgin sunflower oil
Pinch of red pepper flakes
2 bay leaves
Parsley, dill for garnish (optional)
1 cup chopped lardons (optional and see note above)
First start with making a base for the soup called Zazarka. Zazarka is a base for many Ukrainian dishes and consists of sautéed onions and carrots. To the pot with a heavy bottom add butter and oil, let the butter melt over medium heat; add half of chopped onion and half of the shredded carrot. Reserve the rest of the onion and carrot.
Season with salt and pepper and cook for a few minutes. Or until onions are slightly brown and stir every once in a while.
Add boiling water to the pot (I used a total 12 cups of water), bay leaves, salt, freshly ground black pepper and red pepper flakes. The rest of the reserved chopped onions and chopped not shredded carrot. Now add the soaked millet. Cover and let simmer on very low heat for 10 minutes.
Add the peeled and chopped potato. Cook for another 5-10 minutes or until the potato is soft. Test it with a fork.
Now add the fresh cabbage and fermented cabbage (sauerkraut). Stir, cover with a lid and let soup simmer for 5-10 minutes. The cabbage should be cooked thoroughly and have a soft texture and not overly cooked, which results in a mushy consistency.
Add parsley and dill, which are optional. Give it a taste. Turn off the heat and let it sit for a few minutes. The longer it sits, the ingredients become more enhanced providing you with an enriched flavorful soup.
Meanwhile, cook your lardons on medium heat in a cast iron pan. Once they are crispy, place them onto a paper towel to drain off the excess fat.
Pour soup into a bowl, garnish with lardons and fresh chopped herbs if you desire. Serve with a nice piece of crusty sourdough rye bread.