When I graduated from college I received some really lovely gifts from my family. Among other things, my grandmother gave me her mother’s wedding ring which I wear daily, and my great aunt gave me a collection of my great grandmother’s recipes. Being as though she was Polish it includes everything from Polish sausage (which I now have the tools to make thanks to my wonderful husband!) to Polish doughnuts.
For this recipe I look to her Sweet and Sour Cabbage recipe, recorded in December 1996, for inspiration. After all, this is “modern wife” not “new wife makes old recipes.” Although I’m sure you could find a blog about that as well. I took her recipe, added a few things and used it as a guideline for this soul warming soup.

Great grandma’s recipe doesn’t call for carrots or celery, but since I had some on hand I figured why not use up what I had. I made this before we headed out on vacation so I was trying to make use of ingredients I had around. All you really need is to chop up an onion but other vegetables are also acceptable. Have an extra potato or two? Those would work here as well.

I will take a moment to mention a few notes for this recipe and why it departs from the above pictured recipe. First, my unpictured cabbage was enormous. I believe I used just over 1/4 of the cabbage I had and the above recipe called for an entire cabbage. Mine would not have fit in my pot once chopped. Secondly, the above recipe calls for boiling the cabbage and then draining the liquid. I asked my grandma about this step and she said it was probably to remove some acid. We add vinegar at the end so I’m not worried about that and it probably makes some of the vitamins go down the drain. Assuming your cabbage is well cleaned, no pre-boiling is needed.

This is where I rejoin the recipe by adding a few tablespoons of flour and butter to my pan over medium heat and melting the butter. Once the flour starts to brown, it’s time for vegetables.

My flour became a little more brown than I anticipated but it wasn’t burnt. Just mix up the vegetables and scrape the brown stuff off the bottom of the pan. Make sure your heat isn’t too high.

Once you soften the onion mixture the recipe calls for two cups of water and the cabbage. This is what cabbage, the onion mixture and only two cups of cabbage looks like. Potentially this recipe was not originally meant to be soup but I’ve made it into soup. If you have the fancy dancy broth that comes in a can or one of those boxes, feel free to use it. This Better Than Bouillon stuff is a fine second and far better than the powdered bouillon. I used beef because many Polish soups use a beef base often by cooking a piece of meat down. Feel free to try any other type of broth.

A little cheat that I use when making a liquid thing (like soup) is to not even premix my broth but just add everything to the pot. Four cups of water and four teaspoons of this stuff and stir in the pot! Add more liquid as you see fit.

This is what my unboiled soup looks like with that browned flower stirred up in there. Once you’ve got this, just boil it until all the vegetables are soft.

At the very end add a few tablespoons of vinegar (I used red wine) and a few tablespoons of sugar (I used brown sugar). Taste to make sure it’s sweet and sour and adjust as needed.

This soup is versatile because you could boil your broth down from a piece of meat, you can add potatoes or another starch or add any other vegetables you think would work. Do you have any family recipes that have been passed down to you?

Polish Sweet and Sour Cabbage Soup

1 small cabbage (or 1/4 – 1/2 of a large cabbage), chopped

1 small to medium onion, chopped

2 carrots, chopped (optional)

2 stalks of celery (optional)

3 tablespoons of butter

3 tablespoons of flour

4 – 8 cups of water and/or broth

2 tablespoons of sugar (any kind)

3 tablespoons of vinegar (any kind)

salt and pepper to taste

  1. Add the butter and flour to the soup pot over medium heat and let brown slightly.
  2. Add the onion through celery (if using) and cook until softened.
  3. Add the cabbage and enough liquid to cover the chopped cabbage. Scrape bottom of pot to loosen any darkened flour bits.
  4. Boil on high until the vegetables are softened, about 15 – 25 minutes.
  5. Add the sugar and vinegar to taste (I like more vinegar!) and salt and pepper to taste. Be easy on the salt if you are using broth that isn’t low sodium as it often contains lots of sodium.
  6. Enjoy!