Touchstone Jewish Sweet & Sour Cabbage Soup

September 23, 2013
3 Ratings
  • Serves 8?
Author Notes

This recipe has long been a touchstone for me in the soup-as-meal category, especially in cold weather. As much as I enjoy experimenting, I often circle back to this updated version of the Ashkenazi Jewish classic. I add a good hit of paprika like my Hungarian grandmother, but use fresh lemon juice instead of vinegar. I also replace the usual raisins with dried currants, for a less pushy sweet note. A dollop of cool sour cream melting into the hot soup is optional, but raises the delicious level significantly. —amysarah

What You'll Need
  • 2 1/2 pounds Beef short ribs or shanks (or any flavorful bone-in cut)
  • 4 cups Low sodium beef broth (or homemade beef stock)
  • 5 cups Water
  • 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes (or canned whole tomatoes, broken up into small pieces, with their juices)
  • 1 Head (2 – 2 ½ pounds) cabbage, roughly chopped in bite size pieces/strips
  • 3 Medium onions, quartered and sliced
  • 4 Good sized carrots, sliced
  • 1-2 teaspoons Kosher salt, or to taste, depending on saltiness of broth
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste (about 1/2 tsp)
  • 5 tablespoons Light brown sugar
  • 1 Lemon, juiced
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons good Hungarian sweet paprika (not Spanish smoked)
  • 5 tablespoons Dried currants
  • Sour cream (optional)
  1. In a large soup pot, bring broth, water and beef to a boil. Lower heat and simmer about 10 minutes, skimming any residue that rises to the surface.
  2. Add all the remaining soup ingredients, except the currants. (It will seem like a lot of cabbage at first, but will cook down substantially.)
  3. Bring back to a boil, then lower the heat, cover and simmer for around 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Then add the currants and cook another 30 minutes, or until the meat is falling off the bone tender.
  4. Taste and adjust flavor, if needed, by adding more salt, or pepper, lemon juice and/or brown sugar. It should be sweet and sour, but not cloyingly sweet or mouth-puckeringly sour.
  5. Discard the bay leaf and fish out the bones and any large chunks of meat that have fallen away. When cool enough to handle, discard the bones, shred the meat into bite-size pieces and put it back into the soup.
  6. You can eat the soup right away, but the flavor improves after a night or two in the refrigerator, which also allows you to easily discard the solidified fat from the surface. Reheat gently, stirring occasionally.
  7. Serve hot, topping each bowl with a dollop of sour cream.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Iris9
  • aargersi
  • amysarah
  • Goldie

12 Reviews

Goldie March 16, 2024
This was wonderful. I was looking for a recipe close to the soup my Mother made in the 60’s. This was very close. I browned the meet and used twice as much lemon. I grew up eating several Eastern European Jewish dishes. This soup is delicious.
Jeanne M. February 19, 2023
Question. I’m about to make this recipe as I lost my original recipe. I’m wondering why the beef is not browned first and if the result is the same. Thank you.
Harriet February 19, 2023
I felt the same way about browning the meat but it is not necessary. I have made this soup so many times now and it comes out great.
Jeanne M. February 20, 2023
Tank you for your input. This recipe is so close to the one I lost and not browning the beef makes it easier. My daughter and son have been begging me to make it.
Harriet February 15, 2021
I am real late to the party! My Aunt Sadie was a self taught cook and a vegetarian from way back. I learned the majority of my cooking skills from her and have a lot of her recipes. For some reason her cabbage soup did not get written out and I’ve looked everywhere for something similar. I came across this recipe early fall and have been making it on repeat. I am in love and have sent it to all of my friends and family. This soup is SO delicious!
Thank you for sharing the recipe.
Iris9 January 6, 2017
I am so surprised that this only has one comment. I made this tonight and it is lip-smackingly good. I mean the kind of good that you can't stop eating. The broth was rich and flavourful and the cabbage -- though it looks like you won't be able to stuff it into the pot -- softens and melts and becomes totally delish. I topped it with sour cream and raisins, as you suggested, which was the ideal topper. And I added few teaspoons of white vinegar in addition to the lemon. Can't wait to eat a bowl again tomorrow!
amysarah January 7, 2017
So glad you liked it! A favorite around here for decades and yes, very adaptable in terms of degree of sour/sweet, etc. (I know what you mean about the cabbage - looks like a crazy amount until it cooks down!) Hope you enjoy it again - it should actually improve after a day in the fridge.
Iris9 January 7, 2017
Yes, it was even better today. I'll check out your other recipes too. I've already passed the recipe around. Thanks again!
jojo November 17, 2022
These comment sound like this is a good recipe my nonly question is about your bone in short ribs. I remember having this with flanken which I remember looking like brisket. What are the differences? Taste? Fat Content?
aargersi September 24, 2013
this sounds wonderful! Love the hot-n-sour and YES to the sour cream!
amysarah September 24, 2013
Thanks! When it comes to sour cream, I agree: just say YES!
amysarah September 23, 2013
I somehow added the same photo 3 times. Oops! (Not a very good photo to begin with...)