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.
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.
- 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)
- 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.
- 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.
- Once cooked, remove ribs from the pot (saving the water but skimming any foam from the top of the water) and let cool.
- 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.
- 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.
- Serve with boiled potatoes and rye bread and butter for a traditional Polish meal.
You may also like: