Dec 202011
 

The American Christmas table is different from the Slovak one: no fish, no potato salad, no bobalky, but, most importantly, no kapustnica. Early on in my life as a transplant, I realized I could live without all the traditional Christmas dishes except for the sauerkraut soup.

The holiday connotes a lot of things—the tree, presents (socks!), snow (if you’re lucky), family, old movies—but what really makes Christmas for me is, indeed, kapustnica. As the first course, it brings the family together at the dinner table. It’s the ultimate comfort food. You can have it any time of the year, but Christmas is when you must.

The soup is a mainstay of Christmas in Slovakia and every year my contribution to the Christmas table here in the new country (this year, I’ll be making it twice, for each of my parent-in-laws’ families). My Slovak cookbook lists seven different recipes from different parts of the country, and every friend or relative I have back in the “old country” makes it slightly differently. I, too, have been altering my parents’ recipe to make the soup my own.

Kapustnica is Christmas. Kapustnica is family. Kapustnica is home.

Merry Christmas!

Kapustnica 2016

How to Make ‘My’ Kapustnica

Updated on December 24, 2016: I’ve made kapustnica every Christmas for a few years now. Each time the soup is a little different, depending on the source of ingredients or on additions. This recipe combines all the variations as I cook my way toward the kapustnica perfection.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 quart sauerkraut. Home-made rather than store-bought (canned or bottled) sauekraut is best, as it’ll be more flavorful. I get mine at Otto’s Sausage Kitchen and Meat Market.
  • 8 oz crimini mushrooms
  • 3 lb Russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 lb or 4 links smoked pork sausage
  • 3/4 large white onion
  • Spices:
    • smoked paprika
    • black and white peppercorn mix (black-only is fine, too), wrapped in a cheese cloth pouch
    • 6 medium-size bay leaves
    • 1 table spoon caraway seeds
    • fine flour
    • salt to taste
    • optional: 1 tea spoon of dried juniper berries

Cooking

  1. Boil sauerkraut in 3.5 quarts of water.
  2. Cook on low for 20 minutes.
  3. Sauteé onions and mushroom.
  4. Add sausage, mushroom, onion, and spices except paprika.
  5. Cook on low for 20 minutes.
  6. Fry flour in oil until light brown, add paprika, fry some more for a total of 20 minutes.
  7. Add rue to the soup and bring to boil again.
  8. Let simmer for 80 minutes.
  9. Bring cubed potatoes almost to a boil and add them to the soup.
  10. Let simmer for 10 minutes and turn off.
  11. Best the next day, so you may want to cook this the day before Christmas.

Dobrú chut!

  7 Responses to “The Soup That Is Christmas”

  1. I can’t wait. Literally, can we make it tonight?

  2. I made this today, and it is delicious. Thanks for sharing, man!

    • @Jean: Would you mind sharing where (what country/city) you made the kapustnica? You know, to keep track how far its gospel reaches. Thanks!

  3. My wife makes this every year along with potato salad, fried fish and thin wafers from home with honey.
    We cannot live with out kapustnicia.

    Near Harford, CT USA

  4. I discovered this soup a few years ago when I went over to my Slovak friend’s house for Christmas.. I made it shortly after, and was craving it again this fall and so I’m going to make it this weekend! the slovak cuisine has spread to Toronto Canada!
    Thanks for the recipe. My friend used dried mushrooms. I’ve never tried the carraway seeds before, but another recipe I found just now had it as well.

    • @Michelle: I’m glad you like kapustnica. Purists would say you should only make it for Christmas, but if you like it, why not make it any time. From what I hear, there are many Slovaks in Toronto. My parents use dried mushrooms but I don’t like their texture (rubber bands) so I would never eat them. They also use a lot more caraway seeds than I do. If you’re fond of smoky flavor, try the juniper berries addition. Let me know how it turns out! Find more Slovak recipes at SlovakCooking.com.

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