Thursday, January 5, 2017

Wild New Year Sauerkraut Soup

Why wild? 

1) Smoked-to-order small piece of Scottish wild boar meat will give our soup typical smoky, salty taste, while is cleaner and more nutritious than commercially produced and plastic-packaged pork or beef. After 3-5 hours of slow cooking in crock pot, this meat is deliciously soft and still full of flavour.

2) Wild-fermented sauerkraut, which was thinly sliced head of cabbage left to wild fermentation in salty brine. This kind of fermentation is called ‘wild’, as there are no additional cultures of bacteria or yeasts added, such as those used in fermentation of yoghurt, kefir or skyr. Wild fermentation means the cabbage has its own bacterial cultures present on leaves, which in suitable conditions (without air) produce lacto-fermentation and change sweet taste of leaves to mildly acidic. Salt brine stops unwanted cultures growing and the final effect, after 3-4 months of bacterial action, is powerful savoury flavour bursting with probiotics and vitamins.

3) Mushrooms of Boletus species are the third wild ingredient. They were gathered by my family in clean and reasonably wild forests of central Europe during the Summer of 2016. It was unusually suitable year for sprouting mushrooms everywhere we looked while outdoors. We dried them specifically for this traditional Winter soup.


MEAT – ideally smoked piece attached to the bone (joint, ribs etc), clean non-commercial beef or wild quality (boar, duck) or feel free to use a mixture of more types. Roast it first, if using beef or duck, pour fat aside. Fat gets oxidised during long cooking and can also be hard on digestion.

If no meat is available, meat stock (bone broth) made previously will do.

PAPRIKA SAUSAGE – 3x 10cm piece should do for up to 3 litre pot. Try to find traditional smoked, cured or fermented sausage in natural casing of intestine (in the UK can be found as Hungarian, Polish or Chorizo is also similar and suitable type).

SAUERKRAUT – usually 400-500g for up to 3 litre pot.
DRIED MUSHROOMS – wild varieties, 1-3 handfuls
CARAWAY SEEDS about 1 tsp
TOMATO PUREE (small tin or ½ tube) or PAPRIKA PUREE or KETCHUP or mixture of all...
ONION – medium (or without onion)
FAT to fry onion, can be from roasting meat, or butter, olive oil, lard, even coconut oil (3-4 TBSP)
PAPRIKA SPICE (ideally smoked or Hungarian) – 1 heaped tsp
FLOUR or STARCH – 1 level TBSP (I use gluten free mixture)
GARLIC  4-5 cloves


You may need to estimate some amounts depending on size of meat you wish to cook, how much soup you want to make (limited by your biggest pot :), how thick you like the soup.

1. Place all meat and bones, except sausages, in a large pot or slow-cooker, cover up with water, add good quality natural salt, 1 tsp to begin with. Remember sauerkraut and smoked meat can both be very salty.

2. While the meat is cooking, add dried wild mushrooms and whole grain of your choice. I prefer millet, quinoa but pearl barley or rice will do. You can add couple of whole potatoes instead of grain. None of these ingredients are necessary but will add extra texture and body.

3. AFTER 1/2 HOUR: Add bay leaves, caraway, whole black pepper.

4. Cut up fresh paprika to 1 cm thin slices, get ready tomato/paprika puree or ketchup. Add everything to the pot.

5. If you think the sauerkraut you have is too salty, gently wash it under water using strainer, but do not over-do it, otherwise you lose too much flavour. Sometimes helps to strain well its juices and no rinsing is needed. Add to the pot.

6. Add sausage(s). Do not cut them up too small beforehand, they loose too much flavour.

7. When meat is soft, get ready to make roux (soup/sauce thickener). Steps 7.-11. are not necessary, some believe cabbage and onions do not do well together.. Its up to you.

8. Chop up onion to small pieces. Leave to stand 5-10 minutes to activate enzymes.

9. Heat enough fat in small pan to take all the onion.

10. When onion start to darken, add 1 leveled TSP of starch or flour, mix it well for about a minute. Then switch the fire off and mix in 1 tsp of paprika spice. Immediately add a cup of cold water. Sometimes I do not use any flour, if soup already looks thick enough after adding too much grains.

11. Add thickening onion mixture to the main pot.

12. Slice garlic, leave to stand 5-10 minutes to activate enzymes and then add to soup.

13. As with all soups, it tastes better on the following day. You can leave it until later to adjust the taste if needed. If too sour, it helps to add a bit of sugar or dried plums.