It’s a dreary rainy Autumn day here at my lil’ apartment today and I’m in no particular mood to go a’wandering out in that clammy chill, so you lucky visitors here at the ol’ Litterbox get another chance to share some of my recent culinary adventures with me and get a sort of mini-Diary experience all at the same time.
A “Diary/ Recipe” post? Is that even possible? Heck… why not? This wee Catgirl’s mind just works that way…. better just roll with it. 😉
Anyway…. the topic this time out is my recent attempt at re-creating an old Eastern European recipe for “Pickle Soup”. Pickle Soup?….. I can see you all sort of giving me “that look”, but I’m serious. Although usually not eaten that way here in the US, in other parts of the world pickled cucumbers are used in some surprisingly interesting (and yummy) ways in recipes that leave most Americans shaking their heads in disbelief and horror. This particular idea has been known to me for some while…. and although I’ve been intrigued to give it a whirl and see how it would actually taste, Ive never had the occasion (or perhaps the nerve) to give it a try.
Wanna know why it’s finally time? And…. more importantly how it tastes… and just maybe how to make some for your very own? Then let’s get on with things…. so tie on an apron, tip-toe with me to the kitchen, and we’ll see what we can do!! 😉
So… what’s inspired me to give this one a whirl? Well I gave this a try as a little surprise for my friend Samantha from work. Outside of my sweet Carolyn, Sam’s just about my closest friend. Despite the 10 year difference in our ages, she’s always been a fun companion in mutual mischief and is about the only person I know who is completely unphased and accepting of my relationship with Carolyn. In short, she’s just a rare jewel of a person.
She’s funny, pretty, and so darn nice. You’d think she’d have no problems finding plenty of men who’d find her sexy and intriguing and want to be in a relationship with such a great girl. Somehow though…. that’s never been the case.
Not that she hasn’t been in there giving it her all dating wise…. it’s just that somehow her relationships over the years I’ve known her have just all failed quietly. No crazy blow-ups… no dramas… just there one moment and then fading away to… well… to just not being a relationship. Earlier this month it happened again….. her most recent steady guy kind of just silently slipping away…. without her even being aware of it until it just became obvious she was alone again. This time it was just too much for her to shrug off easily.
I sort of noticed her in a blue mood at work one afternoon a week or so back, and no amount of playful teasing could get her to cheer up that day at all. Nosy lil’ me couldn’t live without knowing what was up, so a late evening cup of coffee and some girl talk on our way home was definitely in order. Took a bit to get her to open up and tell me all about it, but in the end it turned out she’d just come to the silly notion that somehow she was going to have to get used to the idea of never finding anybody who’d love her the way she’d just always dreamed of and wanted for herself. I pointed out to her that goofy lil’ me had taken nearly half my life to manage it, and that odds were she’d manage just fine as long as she just kept her heart open to the possibilities out there. Until then, I reminded her that she’d always have good friends to share her feelings with until that “Special Magic” happened for her too. She felt better after that, and told me she was especially glad to know I’d always be there to keep her spirits up when she felt sad. It’s hard to be lonely when you are never really alone…. 😉
So…. by now you are probably wondering, “What’s all this got to do with Pickle Soup, Miyuki?” Don’t worry… I’m coming to that… silly.
It wasn’t too many days later that I remembered Sam telling me all about her Grandma’s Pickle Soup, aka Zupa Ogórkowa. Sam’s the only person I’ve ever met who’s actually ever eaten it…. a legacy of her Polish grandmother and years spent as a little girl at her Grandma’s house hearing all the stories of her Great-grandma emigrating from Poland just before WW2. (Thank goodness….. Sam’s family aren’t Jewish, but Poland wasn’t ever exactly a fun place for just about anybody under either the Nazis or the Soviets….) She hadn’t eaten it since those days years ago, and I thought it might be a nice surprise if I could whip some up for us to share. Pouring through some recipe books and peeking around the internet gave me some inspiration, but in the end I realized that basically all those sources were fairly close to a soup I already know how to make, a hot-and-sour Hungarian Soup using smoked sausage and sauerkraut. With a few tweaks (and a few of my own special touches), I felt I’d be pretty close to the soup Sam remembered from childhood. 😉
So… here’s my recipe: “Spicy Polish Pickle & Kielbasa Soup ala Miyuki”
1.) Start with a good sized stockpot and melt a bit of lard to soften 2 medium onions, sliced into thin julienne pieces along with two stalks of celery, diced, and two good sized carrots sliced into thin rounds. Season with 3 good cloves of chopped garlic and black pepper (about a ¼ teaspoon or so) and cook until onions are translucent and the celery and carrots are softened a bit.
2.) Take a good 1 lb. smoked kielbasa and slice it into thin rounds. Finding raw kielbasa is even better, but unless you live in a larger city, authentic Polish kielbasa is something you’ll probably never see, more’s the pity, but a decent brand of Americanized “Polish Sausage” should stand in nicely. Toss it into the pot and let it fry a bit, rendering out some of it’s fat and flavor to the veggies for a few moments over medium heat while stirring occasionally.
3.) When the kielbasa has browned a bit around the edges, de-glaze the pot with two quarts of good chicken stock. Bring to a boil and add 4 large potatoes, peeled and cut into ½ inch cubes. Reduce the heat to a good simmer and let cook for around 20-30 minutes until the potatoes are tender and done. Towards the end, take a 24 oz. jar of pickle spears and chunk them up into lil’ bite sized ½ in. tidbits….. add them along with the jar of pickle brine… to the pot. Mmmmmm… 😉
(Traditionally…. you should probably use a good brand of garlicky Polish dill pickles…. but being the crazy Catgirl that I am, I ran across some hot and spicy Claussen brand dill spears at the store and couldn’t resist throwing them in for that extra added zing this wee lady craves. Personally, I think it worked really well…. but then I like spicy foods. 😉 )
4.) Let the whole soup simmer for another few minute to let the flavors combine and bloom, and then remove some of the broth to temper it before whisking in a cup of sour cream and two tablespoons of flour. Return it to the pot to thicken the soup before serving. Adjust the spicing at this point with perhaps a little ground cumin… I ended up needing about a ¼ tsp. or so…. and maybe a teaspoon of brown sugar if you find the soup just a bit too sour for your taste. Voila!!
This turned out to be a really tasty and flavorful soup…. warming and yummy, and not at all what I expected it to taste like. The pickles, while tart and tangy, in no way overpower the soup at all and it made a wonderful first course for a luncheon treat of grilled Reuben sandwiches on homemade rye bread for Sam, Carolyn, and I one chilly Thursday afternoon. Sam said I came remarkably close to her “Babka’s” soup, but that I’d managed to actually give it a very nice different taste all it’s own. It really perked her up and we had a great lil’ meal together while she told us all the stories she remembered of her times with her Grandma all those years ago…. Ahhhh, memories, aren’t they just the most precious?
Well…. that’s our Recipe for this time out. Hope you all enjoyed it, along with my ramblings, and until next time, Gentle Visitors, “Stay Hungry, and Meow, meow for now!!”
Ooooohhh!! Naturally… while busying myself about in the kitchen, I couldn’t resist firing up the ol’ computer to play some music over our stereo in the background while I worked. Of course… I just had to play some Polish pop music to get in the proper mood, and so here’s a nice bit of music for you all to wrap things up from one of my favorite Polish albums…. “Nawet Jesli” by Anita Lipnicka. 😉