A substitute for stuffed cured cabbage leaves (sarma) this unstuffed hearty soup is stuffed (pun intended) with the same great flavors.
My husband’s ancestors are Irish and German yet he doesn’t like cabbage or sauerkraut! If he didn’t look exactly like his siblings I’d think he was adopted. Cabbage was often on the table during the summer months in my childhood home and mom would prepare enough sauerkraut to last us over the winter.
I always liked the process of preparing the cabbage for pickling/fermenting/curing: coring the cabbage heads (and eating few cores which have mild horseradish flavor); filling the core holes with salt; placing heads in a large barrel with some shredded cabbage as well and covering with water after which the barrel is hermetically sealed. Then the wait begins.
There are many uses for sauerkraut in our cuisine but my favorite is stuffed (cured) cabbage leaves and I will share that recipe with you in the future but since finding a whole cured cabbage heads is difficult here in the States, this sauerkraut soup is the best substitute. It uses the same ingredients except there is no stuffing involved. Although, winter is officially over and this, as mentioned, is traditionally a winter dish, it doesn’t rule out enjoying it in still cool evenings. Serve with boiled potatoes or bread like my artisan.
sauerkraut, preferably from a bag
smoked slab bacon
(14 oz.) Polish kielbasa (or another smoked sausage)
oil or pork lard
water, pluse more if needed
salt and pepper to taste
In This Recipe
Rinse sauerkraut and leave in colander to drain. Dice bacon and onion, mince the garlic and slice the sausage.
Cook onion and bacon in oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat until lightly browned. Add the sausage and cook until edges start to brown. Add ground beef and cook, stirring frequently, until no longer pink. Do not allow the beef to brown. Stir in sauerkraut, garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns and paprika. Add one cup water, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and remaining water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat. Add rice, cover and simmer for another 30 minutes. Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste.
Note: taste before adding salt as sauerkraut, bacon and sausage are naturally salty.