Sauerkraut Soup: "Grandma, Are You Making Pickles?"
One day, my hubby came home talking about how he and his parents were listening to KNUJ, from New Ulm, Minnesota, and the announcer was talking about a recipe for sauerkraut soup. Jim had gotten out some paper and a pen and was attempting to scrawl down the recipe. He was unsuccessful—so when he told me about it, I Googled the station, got the recipe, and printed it out.
New Ulm is a mid-sized city with a rich German heritage. A beautiful town that is nestled in a river valley, it is known for its beer and sauerkraut. Sauerkraut is a fermented cabbage that is made by shredding cabbage and salting it, packing it into a jar or crock, and letting it sit for two weeks while the salt and cabbage juice work together to turn the cabbage into pickle strips.
The town is known for its meat shops featuring sausages made with original German recipes. Since we sometimes make excursions to New Ulm to purchase their farmer sausage, I just happened to have a frozen ring of it in my freezer, which I thawed out to use in this soup.
With the recipe from the radio station in hand, I consulted Google to find other recipes, as well. After some consideration, I started cleaning out my refrigerator. I found some baby carrots and a stalk of celery. On my counter, a couple of russet potatoes were starting to sprout. We have a large mound of snow in the garden, so I doubt I'd be able to plant them in a few weeks.
The recipe basically said to mix the wet ingredients together, add the vegetables and sauerkraut, mix in the meat, and let the whole works cook in a slow cooker for 6 hours on high. The ingredients need the opportunity to heat up, juice, and merge together.
- 1 ring New Ulm Farmer Sausage
- 1 onion, minced into 1/4-inch pieces
- 1 quart store brand chicken broth
- 1 can sliced potatoes
- 2 raw potatoes, sliced
- 1 can sliced carrots
- 1/2 cup raw baby carrots, julienned
- 1 (32-ounce jar) sauerkraut
- 1 tablespoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic, minced
- 1 can cream of mushroom with garlic
- 1 can cream of chicken
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 stalk celery, chopped
- 1 teaspoon dill weed
- In a slow cooker, mix water, chicken broth, and both cans of cream soups.
- Meanwhile, peel and slice farmer sausage. Add to a large skillet on medium heat and cook until bottom browns, then flip them over and repeat for other side.
- In another pan, melt butter and place 1 minced onion on medium heat and saute until the onion pieces caramelize or look lightly browned.
- Add all ingredients to crock pot and stir. Cook for 6 hours on high.
Step 1: Slice and Brown the Sausage
Since farmer style sausage is a casing meat, and is smoked in the casing, this outside casing needs to be removed before slicing and frying.
So, after I peeled the casing off, and sliced sausage crossways into small circles, I placed them into a skillet and proceeded to heat the skillet on medium heat. It takes a few minutes, but the grease that is in the sausage will heat and scorch. This scorching is called browning.
Once there is browning on the first side, take a fork and flip them over and do the same with the second side. The browning adds a certain amount of flavor that is delicious.
Step 2: Slice and Brown the Minced Onions
As I did with the sausage, the onion goes into a pan, with butter and on medium heat and are sauteed until the onions get glassy and then, get a slight scorch on the edges. This is the browning or caramelizing that adds flavor, once again.
Step 3: Mixing the Wet Ingredients in the Slow Cooker
The rest of the soup gets mixed directly in the slow cooker. I put the cream soups in and diluted them with a quart of chicken broth and some water. It grated on me that the original recipe called for water, but told me to drain the potatoes and the carrots and discard the vegetable water. This really grated on me, but it was after I added the water, which, really, I should have just added the potatoes and carrots without draining and then skipped adding extra water.
It brought back memories of my mother having little plastic boxes in the refrigerator. She'd drain the vegetables and retain the water they were packaged with. Then, later she'd make pea soup and for her water base, she'd dump all those little containers of vegetable water into her soup so she had flavored broth.
There was one time she grabbed all the containers, not realizing that one of the little plastic containers was the syrup she'd drained from the peaches. Smile. Yes. It does make a difference in the flavor of pea soup to have peach nectar in it. Nowadays, my husband would probably add some fruit to his soup just to be different. Smile. But I remember that my mother was embarrassed and angry.
Step 4: Let It Cook for Six Hours in Slow Cooker
You know how you have helpful people hanging around when you cook? Well, as my soup got to the five-hour mark and it was finally boiling, someone informed me that it was boiling and would they be helpful by reducing the heat?
No. Do not reduce the heat. Keep that heat on high until you get to the end of the six hours. Why? It's because you use raw potatoes and raw carrots, which need to be boiled for 20 minutes to soften.
It's Soup: Not a Hot Dish or Casserole
It is soup and will be like soup. Runny. There will be slight cloudiness since you added the cream soups, but it will be watery.
Now, if you wanted the dish to be like a casserole, you'd have to skip adding fluid somewhere, plus you'd have to precook your carrots and potatoes.
But this was a merging, potato-and-carrot-infused soup and needed to just boil away and merge.
And. After all that, it was simply delicious!