Happy New Year!
Hope you all had a very lovely Christmas and were able to indulge in as many Christmas dishes as you could … but now many of us tend to gravitate towards lighter yet nourishing foods. In general, to tune in with the seasons, winter is more about dormancy and resting, giving our body a break especially after all the feasting and partying of Christmas.
Sauerkraut Mushroom soup is a hugely popular winter dish in Russia that will nourish your body and soul. It is special for the Russian Orthodox Christans because this is what they serve during the long fast from the end of November until January 7th. In accordance with the strict rules no meat, bacon, animal fat, butter, eggs or milk may be eaten during this time period. This tradition was particularly hard for the farmers who had to work outside and needed heavier foods to survive. The cooks had to be creative and came up with this delicious, hearty soup … that today would fit the vegan definition.
This is a lovely soup that has three simple main ingredients: sauerkraut, mushrooms and the barley. Mushrooms are a nice substitution for meat so use as much as you desire. In Eastern Europe, it is customary in the fall to go out in the woods and pick mushrooms. People then dry them to use during the cold months. If you don’t have access to wild mushrooms, buy stronger flavored mushrooms like morrel, oyster, shitaki or even crimini mushrooms could work. The sauerkraut of course gives it the nice sour flavor and has immense health benefits. The crunchy barley adds the robust part to the soup.
PLEASE READ !!! I use cep mushrooms but if you don’t know how to find edible mushrooms in the wild, definitely go to the stores and purchase them there. Mushrooms are very valuable but there can be some poisonous ones. Stores sell some fine mushrooms that are dried and are worth using. Just soak them in water and then they are ready to be used. Last time I used shitaki mushrooms and I thoght was a nice substitution.
The soup will need a good home-made stock. Both a meat based or a vegetable based stock would work great. You can use beef bones but the vegatarian version is great too. For the vegetarian stock I added onions, garlic, 2 bay leaf, 1 heaping Tbsp black peppercorn, handfull of mushrooms, 1 celery root, couple of carrots and parsley root. Honestly, we could not taste much difference. Don’t forget to put celery root in the stock it surely adds something special to the flavor.
- 1 lb sourkraut
- 80 gr (3oz) dried mushrooms or about 6 oz fresh mushrooms (Please see above for more info on safety).
- 1 cup dry pearled barley
- 1-2 qt (1-2L) of vegetable or beef stock (please see above)
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 tsp caraway seeds
- few thyme springs
- vegetable oil
- shallots or small onion
- 2 cloves of garlic
- black peppercorn
- If using dried mushrooms, soak in water for a couple hours or maybe even overnight if needed.
- Make the stock. Please see above for more info.
- Make the barley. Boil 3 cups of water and put barley in the boiling water. Turn down and let cook for 1 hour without cover.
- In a medium saucepan, sautee the shallots in a little oil for a few minutes.
- Add the garlic on low heat. Mix.
- Add drained sauerkraut, thyme spring, caraway seeds, bay leaves. Cover with stock. Cook for 1 hour.
- For the last 10 minutes, add the mushrooms slices.
- Take out the larger thyme pieces and bay leaf.
- Salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve with hardier bread.
Text and photo by twincitiesherbs.com.