Sauerkraut soup
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by Ada Mark Strausberg

Even if you’re about to automatically pass this recipe by, read the amusing and informative article with the lagniappe recipe below.

Two facts about me: I eat most things as long as they are not spicy and will taste almost anything once. However, I am a gagger and if I don’t like something my stomach will flip flop. I eat naked hot dogs — no bun, condiments, relish, or for sure, no sauerkraut.


I met my husband a few months before we each turned 18. He and his parents came to the U.S. in August 1960, barely five years before we met. Both his parents were Holocaust survivors. After the war, they returned to their hometown of Lodz, Poland, met, married and gave birth to my husband who was born in 1947. Their life was pretty good but they saw that the Iron Curtain was about to descend. They left on a Greek ship to Israel.

As a survivor, my mother-in-law, whom I called Ema (mother in Hebrew), believed that you ate whatever was put before you. Thus, on this Greek ship she encountered what she thought was a plum. It was a huge black olive. The shock made her unable to ever eat black olives.

When I was invited to meet and come for dinner with the Strausbergs, the first thing served was Kapuśniak, one of the most characteristic Polish soups. Soups are still the most popular appetizer/starter at Polish homes. As my husband used to say, “We had soup, every day, including Yom Kippur.”

OMG! What was I going to do? I didn’t want to be impolite and offend these important people. I tasted it and was able to finish it. Though not my favorite soup, I have come to like it. 


When I moved to Maryland in the fall of 1972, I was with a group of women, and we were talking about menus for Thanksgiving. I am from New York, and when I heard them talking about the obligatory foods (like turkey, cranberries and sweet potatoes) for the holiday and they mentioned sauerkraut, I said “What?” They all looked at me like I was the weird one. Below are two interesting articles* about the marriage of Baltimore and sauerkraut. So, as a good new “immigrant,” I would make Kapuśniak for Thanksgiving. BTW: For all those snickering at Maryland, the Deep South serves pineapple casseroles as de rigueur.

However, when I had kids, they hated it. To keep my Maryland citizenship in good standing, I did an update of one of my family recipes: Cabbage & Noodles. Unfortunately, it is a shitarein recipe. That is Yiddish for “a little of this/little of that.” There is actually a line of spices on Amazon called Chef Marla’s Super Shit-Arein™ spices.

Basically, you sauté cabbage (one head) and onions (maybe two) in oil or butter (depending if one keeps kosher) over low to medium heat. It takes awhile until they are browned. They are then mixed with noodles. We always had the wide, flat egg noodles but there is no pasta police. I replaced the cabbage with sauerkraut and have even lived dangerously adding mushrooms.

No matter what, there is always the internet if you want exact ingredients or the non-Jewish versions of these recipes.

Another no matter what: Sail on the “S.S. My Kein (Eat, eat my child).” Enjoy and be healthy!

Kapuśniak (Sauerkraut Soup)

  • 1.5 pounds Sauerkraut
  • 2 Carrots
  • 1 stalk of Celery
  • 1 Petercillia (parsley root)
  • 1/2 cup Dried Mushrooms
  • 2 Small Beef Cubes 
  • 1.5 quarts Water or to cover
Buy Harmony House Foods Dried Mushrooms

Make a brown roux (equal parts melted butter and flour, approximately 1 tablespoon each).

Cook at least 3 minutes over low heat so that you don’t burn it. You can even brown flour in the oven before adding it to butter.

Boil 1 pound potatoes. Cool and cut into cubes. When ready, mix them into the soup.

*In Baltimore, Sauerkraut Is a Surprising Thanksgiving Tradition

How Did Sauerkraut Become a Staple on Baltimoreans’ Thanksgiving Plates?

This one is just funny: “Shiterein* is not a Curse Word.”

Please leave your comments below. 

Read more by Ada Mark Strausberg.

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