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Kapusta (Polish Cabbage Soup)

kapusta polish cabbage soupd

Every Sunday, as a child growing up, we spent the afternoon visiting my Babci.  Babci means grandmother in Polish and was my mother’s mother.  Like most women of her generation, she often made dishes that originated from the ‘old country’ and the distinctive tastes and flavors of those dishes are hardwired in my memory.

Even today, I can immediately go back in time whenever I smell certain foods or certain dishes cooking.  One of those dishes is Kapusta*, a traditional Polish cabbage soup.  We were always really psyched when Babci made her delicious Kapusta for us for dinner.

Years later, I discovered that my husband Jack had never eaten Kapusta…my husband who pretty much loves all-things-cabbage had missed out on this classic Polish dish.

kapusta polish cabbage soup

Since I didn’t have my Babci’s actual recipe (it was one of those recipes that was cooked from memory and never written down), I’ve done my best to recreate it from my own memory, and I think I’ve gotten it pretty close with this version.

Although not traditionally a Polish ingredient, my Babci added canned stewed tomatoes to her Kapusta which gives it an additional layer of flavor and really enhances the other ingredients in this dish.  Served with rye bread and butter, Kapusta is one of those dishes that just sends me back in time.  And Jack, who can’t get enough of this, wonders how on earth he missed out on this terrific Polish classic until he met me!

*Since originally publishing this recipe, a reader has let us know that this soup is also known as Kapusniak, or according to Wikipedia, Kapusta kiszona duszona.  Kapusta is the name that many Polish-American families like mine have given this soup.

Kapusta (Polish Cabbage Soup)

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours, 5 minutes

Yield: 8-10 servings

Kapusta (Polish Cabbage Soup)

A traditional Polish cabbage soup made with pork, cabbage, sauerkraut, onion, carraway seed and my Babci's secret ingredient...stewed tomatoes to really enhance the flavors in this soup.

Ingredients

  • 3-4 pounds of meaty pork spareribs
  • Two quarts of water
  • 4 ounces diced salt pork (measured after rinsing and removing the salt pork from the skin)
  • 1 medium onion, diced (about 1½ cups)
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1 pound fresh sauerkraut with juice
  • 1 medium head of cabbage, shredded (about 8 cups)
  • 2 14½ ounce cans of stewed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Boiled potatoes (served on the side)
  • Rye bread and butter (served on the side)

Instructions

  1. Place spareribs in a large 7-1/2 quart heavy pot and cover the ribs with water. Boil uncovered for approximately 30-40 minutes or until ribs are cooked.
  2. While the pork is boiling, in a small frying pan, cook the diced salt pork on a low flame. Add onion to the pan and sauté for 1 minute. Sprinkle the flour over the onions and sauté until lightly golden in color. Turn off heat and set aside.
  3. Once cooked, remove ribs from the pot (saving the water but skimming any foam from the top of the water) and let cool.
  4. To the pot of water, add the sauerkraut and juice, shredded cabbage, stewed tomatoes, caraway seeds and salt. Add the salt pork and onion mixture to the large pot with cabbage mixture.
  5. Cook over medium high heat until cabbage is cooked, approximately 40-45 minutes. While the cabbage mixture is cooking, remove the meat from the bones, shredding the meat into bite-sized pieces. Return the cooked pork to the pot to heat through.
  6. Serve with boiled potatoes and rye bread and butter for a traditional Polish meal.
http://www.afamilyfeast.com/kapusta-polish-cabbage-soup/

Comments

  1. Sandi and David :

    That’s a very sweet story. Food has a way of bringing you back in time.

  2. :)) Look really tasty. When I was a child I really hated that soup, but when I get older and grandma’s meals stop being usuall for me I missed it so much.
    BTW. It’s not Kapusta. Kapusta means cabbage and it’s one of ingredients. The name of the soup is “Kapusniak”

    • Thanks Suzie! My family and others we knew all called it Kapusta but I’ll update the post to reflect the correct name for the recipe! Thanks for visiting our site! Martha

  3. Today I am making our version of Kapusta. No tomatoes in our version or onions. It contains cabbage, sauerkraut, barley, sprinkle of black pepper and pork. I make it more like a stew, more thick than soup. My husband’s mother used to make it whenever she came to visit us. It is one of the few recipes I make to remember our family’s Polish heritage. I am sure that my version has become Amerianized. My son (now 50 years old) requests a “Polish feast” for his birthday presents– I make and freeze packages of kapusta,stuffed cabbage rolls and pierogis, he is thrilled!

    • Sounds wonderful Bette! And your “Polish feast” sounds very much like the ones my family ate! Thank you for visiting our site! Martha

  4. Elizabeth Insley :

    Being Polish myself, I came to the US when I was 5 years old. As you described, we called it kapusta. Kapusniak was more of a broth soup with very little cabbage in it. It had more of a sauerkraut taste as was made often for Wigilia (Christmas Eve dinner with no meat)
    My correction will be with “Babci”. Here is a great internet explanation I found. “Babcia in polish language means Grandmother. Babci is used with other words such as: “od babci” (from grandmother), “do babci” (to grandmother), “u babci” (at grandmother’s place) and few others. In english you must add words such as “from”, “to”, “with” while noun’s or verb’s form stays the same. In polish despite using the same words as in english you must change form (precisely the ending) of noun, verb or any other part of speech. Both forms exisist in polish but they’re being used in different situations.”

    • Thanks so much Elizabeth! I’m enjoying hearing from so many readers in response to this post! I remember my mother and grandmother talking about my great grandmother and calling her Babcia. Perhaps it was shortened to Babci for my grandmother in an attempt to Americanize it a bit – but I’m not entirely sure, and unfortunately my mother is no longer alive to ask. Clearly I don’t know or pretend to be an expert on Polish language or foods – only what my family taught us and the names we used on a day to day basis. Thanks again for writing! Martha

  5. I happened to come across your website from a pinterest email, and I have got to say I will be trying your recipes!! They all look so good, and my husband loves soups so I am always looking for something new too. Im Ukrainian and this soup has its twists because we make a similar one! (im currently using natashaskitchen.com and olgasflavorfactory.com to make recipes that remind me of my childhood as well) Im pretty sure you will find some foods there that are similar to what your grandmother had made as well.
    I look forward to trying out your recipes. Thank you :)

  6. charlotte Pekrul :

    I agree with many of the writers, kapusta is cabbage, cooked usually with onions and some pork, pork fat and even better sausage. used as a side dish or stuffing in pierogies.

    My grandmothers soup, cabbage, light sourkraut and pork was reserved for just after wigilia, prior to that it was fish and fruit pierogies.

    I think that her receipe is most close to the truth, it was a clear light broth of vegetables light on the raw cabbage,onion carrots celery parsley simmered with pork riblets or pork buttons for a longer period of time,pork meat set aside, drained of the stock vegetables. added with a touch of sourkraut and small amount of barley cooked slowly but not til cloudy
    home made jarred wild mushrooms slices were set on top of the soup with a cube of boiled potato, and a small amount of the pork (cleaned just to the meat)
    the only spices used were a touch of marjoram, salt and pepper during cooking

    MAGIC !

  7. i absolutely love this soup ive been eating it for many years now…my family owned a polish/american restaurant in utica ny for years…my variation of it is using a pork butt in a slow cooker instead of rib meat…it cuts out the salt pork n is much healthier…the tomatoes r genius it adds an acidity to the dish…i also use polish dried mushrooms that i get at the polish specialty store in my area…called polaski’s….theyre kielbasa is amazing and the polish ham krukuska is as well….i also add shinkova..(i know i didnt spell that right but its a ringed meat served cold) to my soup……love this recipe!!

  8. I just made a big pot of Kapusta. I was hoping for the best as I had not made it in some time. My husband’s Mother showed me how to make it. She used pork steak as her choice of meat and always added cooked Keilbasa at the end. I do not care for Caraway. I use fresh cabbage sliced thin with enough water to cover it and add sour kraut with juice. I brown the pork steak and chop up a couple of onions and let them cook together till the meat is tender. I usually add a touch of gravy master and water to the pork while cooking. I like to taste test to make sure flavor is to my liking. The longer it sets, the better it tastes.

    • Thanks for sharing your recipe Margaret! It sounds delicious – and I totally agree! Kapusta DOES seem to taste better the longer it sits. Thanks so much for taking the time to write to us today!

  9. Thanks for reminding me of a meal I haven’t had in a long time ! We did not use tomatoes but used mushrooms, and we had potatoes that we made with salt pork and onions, we would render the fat from the salt pork and carmilize the onions in the fat then we would mash the potatoes with the fat the onions and the fried bits of salt pork !! Heaven in a pot, and serve it with the Kupusta

    • Oooh – your potatoes do sound heavenly Lauren! I think we’ll have to try that ourselves! Thanks for taking the time to write to us!

  10. I made this last night for dinner[even though it was 85 dgs.], and it was delicious! I didn’t use the carraway, but I did add 2 bay leaves to the simmering pork and discarded when the pork was tender. Although I didn’t use all of the zaprashka[sp? the onion roux] it was very thick and almost stew like. I added some water to thin it out a bit. We had leftovers tonight, and I felt like it needed a little something, so I added a few shakes of red wine vinegar which I always add when I make my version of cabbage soup, and it was over the top with a tangy taste.. That is what my mother and grandmother always did. The soup was very thick tonight. My 11 year old grand daughter loved it. I am of Slovakian decent, so I know cabbage soup! Thank you for sharing your recipe.

    Vicky

    • Thank you Vicky! I love the way you’ve adapted the flavors – I will definitely have to try that the next time we make this dish!

      • Making again tonight since it’s 60 dgs., raining, and windy! So fall. I love it! I’m also making a Slovakian potato dish with hard boiled eggs, sour cream , boiled potatoes, Polish sausage, and butter. Pumpernickel bread on the side. YUMM!!

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