Make Ahead

Arthur Schwartz's Russian Sweet and Sour Cabbage Soup

December  5, 2012
4 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Serves 6 to 8
Author Notes

Adapted very slightly from —Nicholas Day

What You'll Need
  • 2 pounds flanken or short ribs  
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large Bermuda onion, cut in half and sliced
  • 2 to 3 pounds ripe tomatoes (3 to 5 large), cored and cut into wedges (or one 28- or 35-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes)
  • 2 pounds cabbage, cored and shredded (about 10 cups)
  • 2 quarts water
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice or white wine vinegar or 1 teaspoon fine sour salt
  • 2 1/2 to 3 pounds potatoes (4 to 6 large), boiled and peeled
  • Snipped fresh dill (optional)?
  1. Sprinkle the meat on all sides with salt, then place it in a heavy, 8-quart pot. Place over medium-high heat and sear until browned on both sides, turning several times. Remove and set aside on a plate.
  2. Immediately add the oil and the sliced onion. Saute for 5 minutes, until onions are wilted.
  3. Add the tomato wedges and stir with the onions for 2 or 3 minutes, until the tomato juices start bubbling.
  4. Add half the cabbage. Place the meat on the cabbage, then top with the remaining cabbage. Add water, salt, pepper and sugar. Cover and bring to a boil.
  5. Lower heat and simmer, covered, very gently, for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally, until the meat is so tender it practically falls apart when prodded with a fork.
  6. Stir in the lemon juice and taste for seasoning, adjusting with additional salt, pepper, sugar or lemon juice, as desired.
  7. Refrigerate the soup overnight, then skim off the hardened fat. Strip the meat into large pieces, discarding bones. Return the meat to the soup. Reheat the soup.
  8. Serve piping hot in a deep bowl with a boiled potato on the side, or serve in a flat bowl with quarters or chunks of potato in the bowl with the soup. Sprinkle with dill only if you are one of those cooks who feel compelled to garnish; the mahogany colored soup is beautiful as is.
  9. Advance Preparation: The soup is much better if made a day ahead and reheated. It also freezes very well. In either case, however, it's flavor will require refreshening. Taste carefully for salt, pepper and lemon juice.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • candace
  • LeeLeeBee
  • jenindc
  • rosalind5
  • Robert Peterlin
    Robert Peterlin
I'm the author of a book on the science and history of infancy, Baby Meets World. My website is; I tweet over at @nicksday. And if you need any good playdoh recipes, just ask.

12 Reviews

btglenn October 8, 2016
My Russian mother would only use about 1/2 tablespoon of sugar in her version of the recipe. She would put down any so called Russian recipe with this much sugar by calling it "Poilish" (or from Poland.)
candace February 25, 2016
This recipe was too sweet for me, and I cut the sugar to less than half. BUT, I am not here to trash the recipe :) I really wanted to save the pot of soup, so I the the potatoes in cut in chunks, added some curry, cumin, turmeric, chills, and fresh coriander. It was a lovely Indian-ish stew. I hope this helps anyone else that felt like I did.
candace February 25, 2016
chilis, not chills :)
ENTJ -. September 11, 2014
I'm from Russia and never heard of sweet soup being a popular dish or considered a part of national cuisine. It's only the cabbage part, I guess.
Sharon M. October 3, 2014
It's Jewish cooking, which has a lot of sweet and sour recipes, but it is close to Shchi.
LeeLeeBee March 27, 2014
We loved this recipe, although we preferred it on the sour end and reduced the sugar to three tablespoons.
beejay45 February 18, 2014
Love this, but I think I'd swap in red cabbage because I like it and usually have some on hand. Love the sweet and sour! Thanks.
jenindc February 24, 2013
This is a fantastic winter dinner!
rosalind5 February 18, 2013
We had this tonight and it was delicious (thank you!); as promised, my three year old loved it. My only quibble with the recipe as written is that the dill is a lovely, fresh addition to the soup, not to be missed in my opinion.
Robert P. January 11, 2013
This appears to be a modernized traditional stew/soup ... thank you for the submission; I cannot wait to try this out. Gotta find a heart healty replacement for the ribs, this would probably taste great with a real oily (strong flavored) fish!
PassTheKnife December 8, 2012
Looks great. I'm going to use this recipe to baptize my new slow cooker. A quick question, first: In my experience short ribs always taste best after 5 or 6 hours of cooking - if I want to cook the meat that long, should I put off adding the tomatoes and cabbage until the last couple hours of cooking?
AntoniaJames December 6, 2012
Oh, goodness! How perfect for these cold, rainy winter days. Definitely on the must-make list here. ;o)