Cabbage is considered Ukraine’s national food. Ukrainians eat about seven times as much cabbage as the average North American!
There is historical and botanical evidence that cabbage has been cultivated for more than 4,000 years, and domesticated for over 2,500 years.
Before cole crops (brassica) were domesticated, they were collected from the wild and used primarily as medicinal herbs.
Early cabbage was not the full-bodied head we take for granted today, but rather a loose-leaf variety. Brussels sprouts are the most recent crop, having come into existence less than 500 years ago.
Cabbage was introduced into the Black Sea region by Greek and Roman colonists in the 9th century, so no wonder it has long been a staple in Ukrainian cookery! Whether fresh (sweet) or fermented (sour), this vegetable is ubiquitous.
Here is a traditional Ukrainian for sauerkraut soup (kapusniak), courtesy Judy Hrynenko of Prairie Cottage Perogies . She first shared this recipe on Nash Holos last January.
2-3 lbs of pork spareribs or pork neck bones
1 pork hock, smoked
8 cups water
1 large onion
3 bay leaves
2 tsp black pepper corns
2 tsp salt
1 jar or large can of sauerkraut
(Tip: purchase smoked pork hocks at any butcher shop. Or use ham, the kind with the bone. )
Wash the meat, place in a soup pot and cover with water.
Bring to a boil, skim off the scum that comes to the top. Turn down and add bay leaves, peppercorns and salt. Simmer until meat is tender — about 1½ hours.
Add sauerkraut and onion, and continue cooking until tender. Add salt to taste.
Remove ribs and pork hock from the pot and separate meat from bones. Discard bones. Cut the meat into bite size pieces, and return to pot to reheat.
Serve with a hearty rye bread, and enjoy!