I have eaten this soup so many times at restaurants, camps, and events. I have never actually made it though! Today, I am glad to say, I finally know how.
Martina's (a BMA student) mom is such a good cook, so Hayley and I asked her if we could have some of her mom's recipes. Instead of just recipes though, we decided to have a cooking day. She wanted to learn how to make some American food, and we, of course, wanted to cook Czech food. We made a swap!
Not that this really qualifies as American food, but we taught Martina, and another BMA friend, Terka, how to make guacamole and salsa. They had never eaten either homemade, so that was fun! We snacked on chips and dip all afternoon, while they taught us how to make Zelňačka.
I am going to share Martina's mom's soup recipe. This is really a true gem! Martina hand-wrote it as her mom and her cooked it together. I have never had anything so classically Czech-tasting come out of my kitchen before. It makes me so happy. I'm hoping that when I'm in the States this Fall, I can make it there, and have a sweet reminder of home.
Martina and Terka (and Hayley!) -- thank you for coming over! I loved hanging out with all of you. You are wonderful!
Now on to the recipe... I'm going to put a lot of instructions on there, so that hopefully you can make it just like we did today. It may seem complicated, but it isn't! If you have any questions, feel free to comment and ask me.
Czech Sauerkraut Soup (a.k.a. Zelňačka)
Lard (Yes, lard. I really think this gives it that authentic taste!), about as much as if you were using oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped bacon (the thicker kind, with less "meat", something like this)
1 sausage (kielbasa)
1 package sauerkraut (Kysane zeli)
3 potatoes, peeled, chopped
1/4 tsp + 1/4 tsp Caraway seeds (or less)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/8 cup flour (or gluten-free flour), or about two large spoons
2 tsp sugar
3 whole allspice berries
1 bouillon cube
1 bay leaf
Salt, freshly ground pepper, to taste
Melt lard in a large pot on medium heat. Meanwhile, bring water to a boil in a small pot, add chopped potatoes, 1/4 tsp caraway seeds and a dash of salt (cook until potatoes are soft). Add chopped onion, and bacon to lard. Sautée until onions are translucent, but not brown. Add kielbasa and cook for a couple minutes.
Rinse sauerkraut in a sieve and drain well. Cut through sauerkraut a little, to separate any longer pieces. Add sauerkraut to pot and sautée lightly. Add water, so that it reaches an inch above the sauerkraut mixture. Add sugar, pepper, allspice, bay leaf, 1/4 tsp caraway, and bouillon. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium, and cook for at least 15 minutes. Add cooked potato, including the "potato" water . Reduce heat to low.
In a small bowl mix cream and flour until smooth. If the mixture is thick (doughy), add a splash of water, until it is the consistency of yogurt. Pour into the soup and stir until combined.
Add water, if needed, and salt to taste. Remove bay leaf.
Taste and add anything, if it feels it's missing something! Martina suggests mixing in some Vegeta (a different type of bouillon, that you can find here in Czech).
Ah yes, an Eastern European soup. It was good. And it was worth having that little bit of milk! Someday I'll try it with soy cream, but I needed to have it in the true version first. Now it's time to experiment a little. Hope you enjoy it too!