My mother is Ukrainian and I grew up eating cabbage soup, which we called kapusta. This recipe is adapted from one in The Veselka Cookbook, named for and with recipes from the popular Ukranian restaurant in New York's East Village. It uses a base of rich chicken stock in which a small piece of pork shoulder is simmered, and achieves its uniquely satisfying flavor by combining equal amounts of sauerkraut and shredded fresh cabbage.
Try to choose a piece of pork that has as little fat as possible and trim it carefully because it's tricky to skim the fat after the soup is made. Because of the vegetables and pieces of tender pork, the finished soup is satisfying enough to be a meal, especially if it's partnered with black bread and a little salted butter.
Makes about 3 quarts of soup.
1 1/2 pounds boneless pork Boston butt, cut into quarters
1 1/2 quarts chicken stock
3 whole allspice berries
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon dried marjoram
1 1/2 cups sauerkraut, drained
1 large russet potato, peeled and diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
3 celery stalks, minced (about 1 cup)
2 large carrots, minced (about 1 cup)
1 small onion, cut into small dice (about 1 cup)
1 1/2 cups finely shredded fresh cabbage
Optional: 4 tablespoons of juice from the sauerkraut jar
- Place the pieces of pork in a stockpot that's big enough to hold the pork and 4 quarts of liquid. Add the chicken stock and 6 cups of water, the allspice berries, bay leaves, and marjoram. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer and cook partially covered until the meat is fully cooked to being tender, about 2 hours.
- Remove the meat from the pot and set aside to cool. Skim most of the fat from the surface of the stock, leaving a little behind for flavor. Remove the bay leaves and allspice berries. Return the pot stock to the stove.
- Add the sauerkraut and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Add the potato and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Add the celery, carrot, onion and shredded cabbage and simmer for 10 additional minutes until the potato and carrots are tender.
- Cut the meat into bite-sized cubes and add to the soup. Simmer for 10 minutes until the meat is heated through and all the flavors have combined. Taste and adjust seasoning, including adding up to 4 tablespoons of juice from the sauerkraut jar for added tang (add a tablespoon at a time and taste after each until the flavor is right).
- Serve immediately.
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