Friday, May 22, 2015

Karen Didier's Didi’s Kapusta (Ukrainian Sauerkraut) Soup...

It's been a while since I had a guest blogger, and I am simply delighted to feature my friend and former colleague Karen Didier, an accomplished, freelance professional Home Economist as she shares her wonderful food traditions with us. She has 35 years experience working with the vast field of food in major food companies- developing creative recipes and new products, food magazine start-ups, charity cooking events and food-related team building events. Karen also owned & operated a catering company with her mom that specialized in the preparation of childhood “comfort foods” for clients that loved providing small intimate gatherings. She is currently involved with Weight Watchers, inspiring members to “adopt a healthier, passionate relationship with food for life", and the Recording Secretary for Ontario Home Economists In Business (OHEIB)

Karen's comments to a recipe I recently posted on Ukrainian Borscht was when I learned about her Ukrainian roots. I was utterly smitten with the details about her culinary upbringing and childhood memories with her grandparents (these are the heart's best), I knew I had to invite this sweet and sassy, passionate woman to share her descriptive joys with all of you! Here's Karen...

Karen Didier, Home Economist

I love creating, eating and enjoying amazing food! My passion for food, quite frankly, comes, from my maternal grandparents and my Mom. My Baba was Polish and my Didi was Ukrainian. 

As a child growing up in the west end of Toronto I spent many days during summer holidays biking two streets over to see my Baba & Didi. They lived in a wonderful 1950’s bungalow with a huge backyard that was mostly a vegetable garden and fruit tree heaven! They grew every kind of vegetable known back then and more, and my Didi planted one of every fruit tree he could get his hands on: apple, apricot, cherry, peach and pear. My Baba would preserve those precious, sweet fruits and beautifully vibrant, colourful veggies in crystal-clear preserving glass jars with love knowing that in the cold, dark days of our Canadian winters we would welcome the throwback to hot, bright summer days!

Summer days were lazy, autumn days meant work for my family! I grew up with my Mom, Baba and Didi sitting on wooden stools in our backyard grating cabbage by hand on large graters that Didi made strictly for “cabbage”. Didi would make the grated cabbage into sauerkraut and he would grate horseradish root and beets for pickled horseradish and borscht. The mountains of green cabbage packed with pickling salt was placed into large beige coloured ceramic crocks that he would cover each with a plate and then weigh it all down with a few cement bricks until it fermented for months; then it was ready to enjoy.

Our family gatherings and holidays were feasts! Glazed poppyseed rolls, sweet prune buns and hot glazed donut holes were the sweet desserts, but not before we all had our fill of Mom & Baba’s perogies, holubtsi (cabbage rolls), fried sauerkraut with kobasa (sausage), and my Didi’s kapusta (sauerkraut) soup. 

Love this photo of young Karen with her beloved Baba and Didi at the family table.

I was lucky to have my Didi and my daughters; Casey and Jesse were lucky to have their “Little” Didi (great grandfather) up until six years ago when he passed away at the ripe old age of 104! Didi was making soup right until the end. He was also a master at making chicken soup-- chicken legs with backs attached was his secret ingredient! We were all brought up on that chicken soup and his favourite, kapusta soup. Here is his famous zesty flavourful soup prepared with passion for his homemade sauerkraut! The soup is best eaten the next day!

Didi’s Kapusta (Ukrainian Sauerkraut) Soup
Makes 6-8 servings

½ lb. pork shank, butt or fresh spareribs
6 cups water
3 cups sauerkraut, rinsed and drained
½ large green cabbage, shredded
6 carrots, sliced
6 potatoes, cubed
2 tsp. sugar
2 cans (284 mL/10 oz.) tomato soup
fresh dill, chopped or sprigs for garnish

Cook the first four ingredients in a large stockpot for two to three hours or until the pork is cooked. Add remaining ingredients and simmer until vegetables are tender.

Remove the meat from the soup; use a fork to take the tender meat off the bones (discard bones), and remove the skin if using shank; return the meat to soup. Ladle soup into individual bowls and garnish with dill. Serve with slices of fresh caraway rye bread and unsalted butter. 

Susan says, "wow, hearty and comfort! Humble yet full of love in this splendid family soup."

Karen continues to tell me how proud she is to raise her children by giving them a wonderful foundation with the love of food, whether its at home or abroad, travelling the world with an appreciation of new foods and cuisines. And one day down the road, so will their children. Her love for cooking childhood favourites and sharing them with people she loves is utmost satisfying, knowing that her family’s legacy will be handed down from one generation to the next. Childhood is truly the best time to set the foundation for enjoying food from yesteryears to be treasured in your family forever! Congratulations Karen, you did good!

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