Grandma Lepp’s Sauerkraut Soup

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FinalWebRecipeFor some unknown reason, Farmer Rob’s Grandmother Lepp served this smoky and tangy soup only on New Year’s Day, along with deep fried New Years fritters, and the tradition carried on in Rob’s own family. No doubt the fact that the Great Depression era Saskatchewan family had run out of most other fresh root vegetables by January and were now looking for creative ways to use their precious preserves had something to do with it. As a young bride joining Rob’s family, I was initially very wary of soup made from sauerkraut, but after a few years the tangy concoction won me over.  These days, fermented foods continues to be one of the hot food trends and this heritage family recipe is suddenly in vogue! Naturally fermented sauerkraut (made using only cabbage, water and salt – make sure to check the ingredient label), as opposed to the more readily available pickled sauerkraut (made using vinegar) would be one of the most familiar, but the list also includes kefir, kombucha and plain yogurt.Check here for an informative article on the health, and especially digestive, benefits of eating naturally fermented foods.  I’m going to commit to cooking this soup on more occasions than just New Years!

Ingredients

2 medium sized Lepp’s ham hocks
12 cups water
4 bay leaves

Toss the ham hocks and bay leaves into a stockpot and cover them with 12 cups of water. Bring the water to a full boil then adjust the heat so it just barely maintains a simmer. Continue cooking the hocks until they are fork tender and the broth is flavourful, about 2-3 hours. Using a pair of tongs pull out the bones and break the larger chunks of meat into smaller pieces. Reserve the meat and the broth.

 

Reserved ham stock
2 large onions, chopped
2 carrots, grated
6 medium Yukon gold potatoes (3.5 lbs.)
2 X 750 ml jars of  Bubbie’s Sauerkraut, drained
1 bunch flat Italian parsley, tied with string
2 dried red chilies, placed in a metal spice ball if you have one
½ ring Lepp’s farmer sausage, cut lengthwise into quarters, and then sliced into ¼ inch slices (optional, but Farmer Rob loves his meat!)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup heavy cream or whole milk. (I love to use Agassiz’s Farm House non-homogenized whole milk in place of heavy cream as it doesn’t separate like a low fat milk would if the soup comes to a boil. However the curdled appearance doesn’t affect the taste)

Method

Add onion, carrot, diced potatoes, drained sauerkraut, diced farmer sausage and reserved ham meat to the soup and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are fork tender, about 30-45 minutes. Taste and adjust salt and pepper. Add cream or milk and reheat just to boiling point.

This soup definitely benefits from being a day ahead and allowing the flavours to develop over night!