All over Slovakia, Christmas Eve dinner consists of fish and potato salad (read more about Slovak Christmas traditions). Families, influenced by the area they have come from, have different preceding soups, however. My husband’s family makes Cream of Lentil Soup with prunes and thus so do we.
Many families make Vianočná kapustnica, a Christmas sauerkraut soup, but what exactly that soup consists of depends from family to family: some make it without meat, some with; often with prunes and mushrooms, but not always; prunes added at the end, prunes left to cook awhile and infuse the broth; with cream or without.
One friend even told me her mother always made two versions of sauerkraut soup, vegetarian for Christmas Eve and meaty for Christmas day. One upon a time, Catholics didn’t eat meat on Christmas Eve and although that is no longer done, the meatless version of kapustnica remained as a tradition for many.
Kapustnica is also served on New Year’s Eve, but everybody said they made the meaty version. Hopefully I can get that up on the blog before then.
Note: this must be made with real fermented sauerkraut, not vinegar based jars of cabbage. It is easy to make, although the fermenting takes some time.
Now, getting these recipes is difficult because everyone cooks ‘podla oko’, according to their eye or, as we would say, by feel. So don’t feel like this recipe has to be followed strictly because there are a million ways of doing it. I didn’t add whipping cream but many do, so go ahead and add it for extra deliciousness.
Slovaks use a mushroom called ‘dubaky’, summer cep (a species of boletus) that grows in oak forests (dub means oak). If you don’t live in Slovakia, I imagine these would be hard to find, so add any mushroom you like. I think fresh oyster mushrooms would work well, and just put them in earlier than I have instructed for dry mushrooms.
- 65g - 125g (1/4-1/2 cup) butter (lots is good)
- 1 large onion
- 700g (3ish cups) squeezed sauerkraut
- bay leaf
- 100g (1 cup) prunes
- handful dried mushrooms (or fresh)
- 250 ml (1 cup) whipping cream (optional)
- 2 Tbsp arrowroot (or flour or cornstarch)
- sour cream
- salt and pepper
- Melt butter in pot. Chop onion and slowly cook.
- Roughly chop sauerkraut. If you are worried about it being too sour you can rinse it, but I don't.
- Add sauerkraut to onions and stir. Add enough water to cover the sauerkraut by an inch or two. Add a sprinkling of caraway seeds and two bay leaves. Let simmer until soft, at least an hour.
- Soak dry mushrooms in cold water.
- Cover prunes in a separate small pot and bring to a simmer until plump, just a few minutes.
- Add mushrooms to pot and cook for 5 minutes. Add prunes. If you want to add cream, do so now.
- Mix arrowroot (or flour or cornstarch) with a little water and pour into the pot, stirring as you pour.
- Serve garnished with sour cream.