PL: Kapuśniak z Kiszonej Kapusty
Kapuśniak (pronounced: capoo-shnyack; kapusta means cabbage) is one of the most popular and characteristic soups in Poland.
It’s traditionally prepared from cabbage (either sauerkraut or fresh chopped cabbage) and vegetables. Kapuśniak is based on smoked bacon or pork rib broth, but a vegetarian variant – based on veggie & dried wild mushroom broth – is just as flavourful.
Kapuśniak is such a fall classic. Soft pieces of tangy sauerkraut mingle with carrots, potatoes, and smokey bacon for a bowl of soul-soothing comfort. Making it at home is one of the simplest and most satisfying ways to treat yourself when the weather gets unpleasantly cold.
Kaspuśniak’s deliciousness relies heavily on one key ingredient: sauerkraut. But not just any sauerkraut! Forget cans and jars. It has to be a properly fermented cabbage, not soured unnecessarily with vinegar or any other boosters.
A homemade sauerkraut is a world apart from the stuff that comes from a store. Fermenting foods at home may sound scary (it was for me!), but trust me – if you can chop the cabbage and pour some salted water over it, you’ll be fine. If in doubt, here’s a good step-by-step guide on how to make your own sauerkraut.
Handling the Meats for Broth
According to most recipes out there, the best base for kapuśniak is a pork broth. I have therefore followed the tradition and picked a generous piece of pork rib.
In an attempt to re-create that characteristic smokey flavor I love, I dropped in some smoked bones off a pork loin.
If you struggle to fit all the ribs and bones easily into the cooking pot, try to break them apart into smaller pieces.
I poured just enough cold water to cover them and then turned on the low heat. And that’s when a bit patience comes in (which is my struggle) – it takes a while for the meat to fall off the bone.
As the broth simmered, I gently skimmed the scum off its surface. When the meat softened, I’ve added a few bay leaves and allspice berries to spice things up. Overall, it took just under 2 hours.
After all that cooking, separating all the bones from the meat is easy-peasy. It’s up to you if you serve up all that meat in kapuściak or not. I’ve added just a portion of it (about a half?), the rest went into a casserole.
Best Veggies for Kapuśniak
Franky, just sauerkraut and potatoes would suffice. But to enrich the taste and break the acidity of the soup, it’s good to add some more carrots, onions and parsley. And so I did.
I sliced or chopped everything but sauerkraut, as it was already finely cut before fermenting. But if your cabbage is in thick, long pieces, give it a chop.
I like it when the potatoes float in the soup, but if you prefer – serve them completely separately. In any case, they must be cooked separately from sauerkraut.
So I’ve split the broth into two saucepans: cook cubed potatoes in one, and sauerkraut in another.
What about the rest of the vegetables? They’re lovely the way they are, straight out of broth. But to get the most flavour out of them, fry ‘em up a bit before returning to the soup.
The Finishing Touches
If you enjoy your soup extra-sour, pour in some leftover sauerkraut juice. Cumin complements kapuśniak perfectly. I prefer it ground rather than whole seeds, as they tend to get stuck in the teeth. Freshly ground pepper works wonders of course.
The soup is salty already thanks to the sauerkraut, but have a taste. If it isn’t salty enough for you, season it 🧂 a bit more.
At the very end, I added the meat we cooked at the beginning. After 5 minutes I took the soup off the heat, covered with a lid and left it to rest for 15 minutes. That way the temperature is perfect for serving, and the flavours get a chance to get acquainted 😁.
And voilà! Our Polish-style sauerkraut soup is ready. Sprinkle each plate with some herbs and serve. Your family will be delighted.
Also referred as: Polish cabbage soup, kapusta soup
Kapuśniak: Sauerkraut soup
- 10.5 oz sauerkraut 300 g
- 6.5 cups broth 1.5 litre; can replace with water
- 2 potatoes large
- 1 onions
- 2-3 slices smoked bacon 50g
- 1 bay leaf
- salt to taste
- pepper to taste
- sugar to taste
Cut the bacon into cubes and brown with chopped onion. Add chopped sauerkraut and fry for 3 to 4 minutes.
Pour in a small amount of water, cover the pot and simmer for 20 minutes on medium heat.
Peel the potatoes, cut them into slices. Place in a separate pot, pour boiling water and cook for 10 minutes.
dd the sauerkraut mix (with onions and bacon), add garlic with salt and bay leaves. Cook covered for 20 minutes. Season with a pinch of sugar, salt and pepper.
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