by June Hersh, Reprinted from Recipes Remembered, a Celebration of Survival
There are dishes that transport all of us back in time. Maybe an aroma that fires up a memory or a taste so singular that you know exactly the time and place you first experienced it. For me, one of those immutable memories is cabbage soup. I remember how my grandmother would chop the cabbage, hand select the meat, crush the tomatoes or make it oh so sour with lemon after lemon.
I prepared this recipe as a homecoming dinner for my dad, the ultimate wandering Jew. I figured it might be fun to take you along on my trip back to Minsk and show you step by step how to prepare this hearty winter soup. I do warn you, the cabbage can be pungent, but the results are delicious. This recipe reminds me of an H.L. Mencken quote:
An idealist is one who, on noticing that roses smell better than cabbage, concludes that it will also make a better soup.
1 large head of green cabbage, cored and shredded
Place the shredded cabbage in a very large soup pot. Add the tomatoes, crushing them over the pot with your hands, allowing the juices to stream in. Add 1/2 cup of the juice from the can. Tuck the ribs into the cabbage and top with the sauerkraut. Pour the broth into the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. If the meat is not falling off the bone, cook an additional 30 minutes. When the meat is cooked, remove it from the pot, so you can trim the meat from the bones to make serving easier. Cut the meat into large chunks and reserve. Add the hotdogs and the juice from one lemon and cook for 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If time allows, refrigerate the soup overnight so the fat rises to the top and solidifies. Remove this layer of fat, reheat and serve. Serve the soup with a piece of short rib in each bowl and extra lemon to squeeze for a more sour taste.