Ray gardner, sr




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Cream of Mushroom Soup - ☺♥




A nice bowl of this rich tasting creamy soup goes well with some Keebler Club® crackers and butter on a cold winter day, so I decided to make a really good batch, enjoy it and add it to Food Nirvana. I created this recipe and I'm proud of it, for it is very simple to make and delicious. My stimulus for making the soup was total annoyance with the Campbell Soup Company® for being so cheap in providing mushrooms in their soup. But I use their soup as a base for mine. Why not? Enjoy!

Note: Due to the simplicity of this recipe I did not originally include any directions for freezing this cream soup, the point being that total preparation time is only about ten minutes. My great friend, Den, asked what the cook could do to use fresh mushrooms and also make the soup in quantity for later use, and then vacuum seal and freeze portions of the soup, without destroying the creamy character during later reheating of thawed packs of the soup. Look at the variation to this recipe provided at the end of this recipe's directions to address that method.

Ingredients: (makes about a quart of soup)

1, 10 1/4 oz. can of Campbell's® Cream of Mushroom Soup

2, 4 oz. drained weight cans of sliced mushrooms, drained

4 oz. of heavy cream

1 pint of milk

1 tbsp. of butter

1/4 tsp. of white pepper

1/4 tsp. of sea salt

1 tsp. of corn starch

Directions:

Simply mix all of the ingredients in a large saucepan (I like to use a wooden spoon) and heat the mixture to a simmer on medium heat while stirring.

When the soup thickens and barely starts to boil it is done. Remove the saucepan from the heat.

Serve. You will be very pleased.

Variation: If you want to make the soup in quantity for vacuum sealing and freezing, and in particular use fresh mushrooms instead of canned mushrooms then follow the alternative directions/ingredients shown next.

This is a two part recipe, in which the mushrooms are washed, cleaned and sliced and are then pre-cooked in chicken broth during the first part. The recommended steps for cleaning vary by type of mushroom used. For example, the stems of shitake mushrooms should be cut off and discarded (the stems are rubbery). The gills of portabella mushrooms should be scraped off with a spoon and discarded (they create a muddy taste). In all cases, no matter what type of fresh mushrooms are used, the tough base of the stems should be cut off and discarded.

After cleaning and slicing vertically into 1/4" thick slices, simmer the mushrooms in just enough chicken broth to barely cover them. As they will float you have to press them down to determine the right amount of chicken broth to use, and cover the saucepan while they are cooking so the steam cooks the pieces floating on top of the liquid. After they are cooked, about ten minutes at a 200+ degrees F simmer/low boil, remove the mushrooms to a bowl and put the broth on low heat to evaporate half of the liquid, then remove the remaining concentrated broth from the heat, allowing it to cool to room temperature.

Add the appropriate amount of white pepper, sea salt and corn starch, per the above recipe, to the cooled concentrated broth, based on the expected number of quarts of mushroom soup that will eventually be made. Mix well and add the cooked mushroom slices. Mix again and then vacuum seal and freeze the partially made soup in packets that will each yield one quart of soup when all other ingredients have been added. Thus, I suggest using a quantity of seasoned broth and mushrooms in each vacuum sealed pack that are amenable to the ingredient proportions shown above in the original recipe, or at least some recorded multiple thereof.

When it is time to make a quart of the soup, simply thaw a frozen packet and proceed with the above recipe, but do not discard the chicken broth. Instead, increase the cream to 6 ounces and eliminate as much milk as necessary to compensate for the volume of chicken broth. Make the soup and if it is not sufficiently thick then add a small amount of cornstarch that has been mixed with milk, and heat the soup to a simmer to thicken it, but do not let it boil.

It is clear that this second recipe differs materially from the first one, yet the final result should be quite delicious. In effect, the flavor of the concentrated chicken broth and the extracted flavor of the sliced mushrooms in that broth, will provide a most tasty improvement to, (ugh!), Campbell's® Cream of Mushroom Soup, in flavor, consistency and, when all ingredients are combined, mushroom content.

The given method assures that milk and cream never hit the freezer, which is the optimal way to make and later use a cream soup.

Enjoy!
Fish Chowder - ☺♥

This delicious creamy chowder is a fine food to serve to close friends and loved ones for they will be most pleased. My sweetheart, Peggy, has a Christmas Eve party every year and this one in 2014 was memorable for me in the food department as I made a number of my favorite foods and pleased a lot of people. That was my contribution to holiday happiness and I surely enjoyed the compliments. In any event this was the first time I made fish chowder and it certainly was a crowd pleaser, so without further ado I now provide the recipe to you. Enjoy!!!

The basic recipe is similar to that of New England Clam Chowder. The differences in ingredients are the generous use of fresh haddock instead of clams, powdered thyme as an additional welcome herb, and a larger volume of liquid using heavy cream and milk, and finally the use of corn starch to provide some thickening beyond that provided by the flour/roux in the clam chowder recipe. Thus, this chowder was pretty much guaranteed to be a winner, and making it for a crowd turned out to be easy. I made a gallon of chowder to serve along with baby back ribs, shrimp cocktail and baked ham, potato salad, lemon sugar cookies and many other light foods in the vegetable category that were purchased, as well as some of the varieties of pickles that I make. Peggy supplemented all of that with her chicken salad and tuna salad cocktail sandwiches using snowflake rolls. Yummy!

Ingredients: (Makes one gallon, which serves eight to twelve people)

2 lbs. of fresh haddock filets cut into 1" cubes

28 oz. of canned clam juice (I buy it at Sam's Club®)

1 quart of heavy cream

1 quart of Lactaid®: milk

1 very large sweet onion, diced

3 very large russet potatoes, diced

6 strips of good quality thick sliced bacon

2 tsp. White pepper

2 tsp. of sea salt

4 tbsp. of butter

1/4 cup of flour

2 tbsp. of corn starch

1 tbsp. of powdered thyme

Directions:

Note: You can make powdered thyme using dried thyme and a small high speed blender, like a Magic Bullet®. Also, due to the high cream and milk content of this chowder, do not freeze any leftovers, for freezing will destroy the creamy composition of the chowder, which will be sadly evident upon reheating.

Wash the fresh fish and then cut it into approximately 1" cubes and whatever thinner cuts result where the filets are less than one inch thick.

Fry the bacon on low to medium heat until there is no uncooked fat, but do not make the bacon overly crisp and do not burn it or overheat the bacon fat. Turn off the heat. Remove the bacon to a paper towel. Crumble/break it into small pieces when it has cooled. Set the bacon aside.

Pour the hot bacon grease into a cup, avoiding the transfer of any solid particles, and then clean the skillet to remove any solid particles. Pour the hot bacon grease back into the skillet and put it on the stove burner with no heat.

Dice the onion into ½" or smaller pieces. Put them into the skillet with the hot bacon grease. Add the butter and white pepper. Sauté the onion on low heat until it is translucent. Turn off the heat and add the flour to the skillet and mix well.

Peel and dice the potatoes into cubes 3/8" on a side. Put the clam juice and the potatoes into a 1 1/2 gallon soup pot and heat on medium high heat until just boiling. Reduce the heat to medium or medium low and allow the potatoes to simmer for 8 minutes, adding a very small amount of extra clam juice if necessary to barely cover the potato pieces.

Add the skillet contents to the soup pot while stirring, and increase the heat to medium and stir to mix well. Add a pint of the milk while stirring and also the quart of heavy cream and the salt and the thyme. Add the crumbled bacon pieces. Mix the cornstarch well with a pint of the milk and add it to the pot while stirring. At this point add the haddock pieces and bring the chowder to a simmer and hold at that temperature, stirring every few minutes for 15 minutes. Do not boil the chowder, but the occasional bubble coming to the surface is perfectly okay. If the chowder is thick enough to suit you then cover the soup pot with a lid and turn off the heat. The chowder is done. If instead you want thicker chowder then mix another tablespoon of cornstarch with some clam juice and slowly add it to the chowder while stirring and continuing to heat the chowder to thicken it. Then turn off the heat and cover the chowder with a lid to keep it warm.

Sample the chowder and adjust the seasoning by adding white pepper or sea salt as needed.

Serve the chowder in pre-warmed crocks along with oyster crackers.

Adding a small tossed salad with a non-creamy dressing makes this a complete meal, and it is a nice accompaniment with texture and flavor contrasts. Yes, a light fresh tasting French white burgundy wine is a fine beverage with that meal.

You will get many compliments.

Gazpacho Recipes - ?



Not all soups are served hot. Gazpacho is a great example of a delicious soup served chilled, and I have fine memories of it served to me in a Spanish restaurant in the town of Bad Homburg, Germany. I searched for a variety of recipes and the ones below are the best I found. I will try them, or some composite of them, and report back with results.
Enjoy … Gazpacho is easy to make and wonderful to eat on a hot day.
Recipe #1
Ingredients:

1 hothouse cucumber, halved and seeded, but not peeled

2 red bell peppers, cored and seeded

4 plum tomatoes

1 red onion

3 garlic cloves, minced

3 cups of tomato juice

1/4 cup of white wine vinegar

1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tablespoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
Directions:

Roughly chop the cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes, and red onions into 1-inch cubes.

Put each vegetable separately into a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until it is coarsely chopped. Do not overprocess.

After each vegetable is processed, combine them in a large bowl and add the garlic, tomato juice, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Mix well and chill before serving.

The longer the gazpacho sits, the more the flavors develop.

Serve the gazpacho in chilled bowls.
Recipe #2
Ingredients:

1 1/2 pounds of vine-ripened tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped

Tomato juice

1 cup of cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped

1/2 cup of chopped red bell pepper

1/2 cup of chopped red onion

1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced

1 garlic clove, minced

1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil

1 lime, juiced

2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon of toasted, ground cumin

1 teaspoon of kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons of fresh basil leaves, chiffonade
Directions:

Fill a 6-quart pot halfway with water, and heat it on high heat until it boils.

Make an X with a paring knife on the bottom of each tomato.

Drop the tomatoes into the boiling water for 15 seconds, remove and transfer them to an ice bath and allow them to cool until they can be handled comfortably, approximately 1 minute.

Remove the tomatoes and pat them dry. Peel, core and seed the tomatoes. When seeding the tomatoes, place the seeds and pulp into a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl to catch the juice.

Press as much of the juice through as possible and then add enough bottled tomato juice to bring the total liquid volume to 1 cup.

Place the tomatoes and juice into a large mixing bowl.

Add the cucumber, bell pepper, red onion, jalapeno, garlic clove, olive oil, lime juice, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire, cumin, salt and pepper and stir to combine.

Transfer 1 1/2 cups of the mixture to a blender and puree for 15 to 20 seconds on high speed.

Return the pureed mixture to the bowl and stir to combine.

Cover and chill the gazpacho for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

Serve the gazpacho in chilled bowls with chiffonade of basil.
Recipe #3
Ingredients:

  • 4 cups of tomato juice

  • 1 medium onion, minced

  • 1 green bell pepper, minced

  • 1 cucumber, chopped

  • 2 cups of chopped tomatoes

  • 2 green onions, chopped

  • 1 clove of garlic, minced

  • 3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice

  • 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar

  • 1 teaspoon of dried tarragon

  • 1 teaspoon of dried basil

  • 1/4 cup of chopped fresh parsley

  • 1 teaspoon of white sugar

  • salt and pepper to taste



Directions:

In a blender or food processor, combine the tomato juice, onion, bell pepper, cucumber, tomatoes, green onions, garlic, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, tarragon, basil, parsley, sugar, salt, and pepper.

Blend until the mixture is well-combined but still slightly chunky.

Chill at least 2 hours before serving.

Serve the gazpacho in chilled bowls.
Recipe #4
Ingredients:

6 ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped

1 purple onion, finely chopped

1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, chopped

1 sweet red (or green) bell pepper, seeded and chopped

2 stalks of celery, chopped

1-2 Tbsp. of chopped fresh parsley

2 Tbsp. of chopped fresh chives

1 clove of garlic, minced

1/4 cup of red wine vinegar

1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbsp. of freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tsp. of sugar

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

6 or more drops of Tabasco sauce to taste

1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce

4 cups of tomato juice
Directions:

Combine all ingredients.

Blend slightly, to desired consistency, using a blender or food processor.

Place the soup in a non-metal, non-reactive storage container.

Cover it tightly and refrigerate overnight, allowing the flavors to blend.

Serve the gazpacho chilled bowls.
Ham and Bean Soup - ☺♥
I’ve had many versions of ham and beans, varying from the old “saw mill” beans my father used to eat, which were thick in consistency, all the way to lighter soup versions like Senate Bean Soup® that were delicious. This recipe is similar to the latter; soup that I made recently from a leftover ham bone with ham still attached. I know you will enjoy it.
Due to the overnight softening of the dried beans in this recipe you will want to start preparation of this soup at least one day in advance of when you plan to eat it.

Serves four to six people.
Ingredients:
1 large ham bone with meat attached

1 lb. bag of great northern dried beans

1 medium to medium large sweet onion, chopped

6 large or eight medium cloves of fresh garlic, diced

2 large carrots, diced

1 1/2 tsp. of black pepper

1 tsp. of dried thyme

2 14 oz. cans of chicken broth

2 14 oz. cans of water

½ stick of butter (optional)

Sea salt (May be added after cooking. Amount will vary based on ham saltiness.)
Directions:
Wash and rinse the beans and let them soak in cold water overnight to soften them. Drain them in a colander.
Put the chicken broth and the water into a non-stick heavy soup pot along with the ham bone. Cover the pot and heat on high until boiling. Put the pot on a small burner and very low heat to simmer for one hour. Remove the ham and bone and cut the usable meat from the bone. De-fat the meat with a sharp knife and cut it into small pieces, roughly ½” cubes or smaller, and return them to the pot. Discard the bone and the fat.
Add all the other soup ingredients into the pot except the sea salt. Adjust the liquid level so that the beans are covered by at least one inch of liquid. Bring the soup to a boil on high heat and then reduce the heat to a simmer on a small burner and cover the pot.
Simmer the soup for one hour, stirring every ten minutes. Check the softness of the beans. Continue simmering the soup covered for up to two additional hours until the beans are soft with a few of them disintegrating into the rest of the soup. Stir every fifteen minutes to make sure the beans do not stick to the bottom of the pot, especially near the end of the cooking cycle. If necessary, thin the soup with a small amount of water at the end of the cooking cycle, but only if the soup is too thick. This soup should be thinner than a chowder but not have much excess liquid. It should be a hearty soup.
Taste the finished soup and adjust the seasonings. You may or may not want more pepper. You may or may not want to add sea salt, but if you do limit it to no more than one teaspoon. Each guest can make seasoning adjustments to suit themselves later, and too much salt is simply bad as it can ruin an otherwise perfect soup.
Serve with saltine crackers and butter. Beer is a great beverage choice, though sodas or iced tea are fine also. Your guests will feel pleasantly full after eating this delightful soup.

Hungarian Potato Soup with Kielbasa - ☺♥


This soup is one of my all time favorites. It is easy to make and delicious. My wife Marie made the soup many years ago (early 1980’s) and it was a great hit with family and friends. After eating it you get the feeling that the world is a pretty good place. The anecdote that accompanies this story is both funny and scary.
My parents came to visit Marie and me for a few days. Their normal diet denied ever using garlic or foods like Kielbasa, and that was for reasons of preference only. So, here is Marie making this potato soup that surely has garlic and Kielbasa in it, and I found myself wondering what would happen when she served it, especially with my Dad who was very picky and negative about trying new foods … particularly anything that might contain garlic.
Lo and behold! He loved the soup so much that he couldn’t stop eating it, bowl after bowl. I was amazed. Finally, he could hold no more. Then Marie served his all time favorite dessert, home made coconut cream pie, made as Marie made all her cream pies, with very rich pudding filling and freshly made whipped cream as the topping. Well, he just had to have some of that pie too. Oh, boy! Then he had to have a second piece because it was so good.
At that point he was way too full, so he excused himself and went into the living room to stretch out on the sofa and rest. And he proceeded to fibrillate! Fortunately he recovered without a trip to the hospital, but now you understand just how this soup can really get to you. It sure got to him!
After Thanksgiving this year (2010) Janet and I had lots of leftover mashed potatoes and two, very large leftover baked russet potatoes. We wondered how to use the leftovers and POW, I thought about Marie’s soup. Sooo … the recipe below is the one I just used as I do not have the original recipe Marie used, but this one is right on target.
There is one essential thing you have to know and do in this recipe, and that is to stir the soup while the liquid is reducing while simmering. Failure to stir will allow the potato to stick to the bottom of the soup pot, even if it is a non-stick pot, and that would not be good.
Done right the soup is the consistency of a chowder, thick and rich but not pasty. The directions below tell you when to stop the cooking.
Ingredients:
2 14 oz. cans of chicken broth

1 14 oz. can of water

1 lb. of Smoked Kielbasa cut into rounds about ¼ inch thick

1 qt. Of Leftover mashed potatoes or three very large russet potatoes, peeled and chopped

2 very large russet potatoes peeled and chopped into pieces about ¾”x3/4”x1/2”

6 cloves of fresh garlic, chopped fine

1 pint of sour cream

1 large sweet onion chopped fine

1 tsp. of white pepper

2 tsp. of fresh rosemary, chopped

Salt to taste (the Kielbasa has salt so I wait until the end of the cooking, taste the soup and add salt as appropriate, but never more than 1 tsp.)
Directions:
Put the chicken broth, water, white pepper, chopped rosemary, chopped onion, chopped potatoes and chopped garlic into a four quart soup kettle or pot. Bring to a rapid boil on high heat and then reduce the heat to very low and let the contents simmer for fifteen minutes.
If you are using a quart of leftover mashed potatoes, add them now and stir the soup thoroughly to mix the contents well. If you are not using leftover mashed potatoes you have already added five very large chopped russet potatoes and that is enough. You decide how to balance the number of chopped potatoes with your leftover mashed potatoes if you have less than one quart of mashed potatoes.
Add the cut pieces of Kielbasa and simmer the soup covered for about 30 minutes to make the potatoes totally cooked and soft. If you used mashed potatoes then stir the soup every few minutes. If you didn’t use mashed potatoes then remove about three fourths of the cooked potatoes after 30 minutes of simmering and mash them with a hand masher and put those mashed potatoes back into the soup.
Add one pint of sour cream and stir well to mix completely. Continue simmering the soup while stirring every two minutes to loosen any potato that sticks to the bottom of the soup pot. When the liquid level in the soup pot has lowered by one inch the soup is done.
Taste it and adjust the seasoning (salt and pepper) to please yourself.
Serve it and you will get rave reviews. It goes well with a small salad and perhaps something light and fruity for dessert.
Italian Wedding Soup - ☺♥

(Zuppa di Scarola)
This soup is delicious and it recreates a very funny and great memory for me every time I think about it. I couldn’t find Marie’s recipe for Italian Wedding Soup, and I remembered some but not all of the ingredients and amounts, so I decided to copy one from Giada de Laurentis of the Food Network® and modify it just a bit to recreate the wonderful soup Marie made for many of us back in the 1980’s. I just made it and it is fabulous!
The funny and great memory that I associate with this soup begins after lunch of the day I first tasted it as a first course at dinner with Marie’s family and friends at a great Wilmington, DE restaurant named for the owner, Vincente’s. Marie and I had been dating for about a month and we were in my office after lunch. We kissed and I told her that I loved her. Her reply? "I love you too, Ray, but I won’t just live with you. If we are going to be together then we will be married." My reply? "I understand."
So, here we are at dinner that evening, nothing else having been said about matrimony, and there I am eating my first bowl ever of Italian Wedding Soup. As I raised the spoon to my mouth and began sipping the broth Marie leaned over to me and whispered in my ear … "Is it alright if I tell some of the people here that we are getting married?" I damn near choked on my soup … and my brain went into overdrive, for I had to reply in an acceptable manner or risk real trouble. You see, I had not proposed to Marie … I had simply said, "I understand." She took my statement to mean that I had just agreed to marriage, i.e., that I had just proposed to her.
Well, I had to temporize to pull my thoughts together, so I said, "Let’s wait for a few days before we say anything." She agreed, but with some disappointment, for she was excited. Whew! You might say I was kind of excited too, but for a different reason! In any event, I loved Marie and I would have proposed anytime, anywhere to her, but that event really caught me by surprise. How appropriate for me to be eating Italian Wedding Soup!
In later years I would tease Marie now and then telling her that she proposed to me … and she would smile and rub her eye with the fickle finger of fate as her reply!
What a hoot!
Ingredients:
Meatballs:


  • 1/2 cup of grated onion

  • 1/3 cup of chopped fresh Italian parsley

  • 1 large egg

  • 2 or 3 large cloves of fresh garlic, minced

  • 1 tsp. of Oregano

  • 1 tsp. of Basil

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1 slice of fresh white bread, crust trimmed, bread torn into small pieces

  • 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese

  • 8 ounces of ground beef

  • 8 ounces of ground pork

  • 1 tsp. of freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/2 tsp. of crushed red pepper flakes

  • 2 tbsp. of Olive oil


Soup:


  • 12 cups of chicken broth

  • 8 oz. of pre-cooked chicken breast chopped into 1/3" by 1/3" pieces

  • 1½ lbs. of escarole

  • 2 large eggs

  • ¼ cup of uncooked Acini di Pepe

  • ½ tsp. of Red pepper flakes

  • 3 tablespoons of freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for garnish

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 tbsp. of fresh lemon juice


Directions:
To make the meatballs:
Stir the first 8 ingredients in a large bowl to blend.
Stir in the cheese, beef and pork, the black pepper and the red pepper flakes.
Using 1 1/2 teaspoons for each meatball, shape the meat mixture into meatballs.

Place them on a sheet of plastic wrap.
Sauté the meatballs in the olive oil on low to medium heat in a large non-stick surface skillet, turning to brown them on all sides, then set the meatballs aside.
To make the soup:
Bring the chicken broth to a boil in a large pot over medium-high heat.
Add the Acini de Pepe and stir.

Add the meatballs and the escarole, then stir and simmer until the escarole is tender, about 8 minutes.
Add the pre-cooked chicken breast pieces. Note: You must pre-cook the chicken breast or it will cause a scum to form on the soup.
Add the lemon juice and stir the soup.
Whisk the eggs and the Parmesan cheese in a medium bowl to blend.
Stir the soup slowly in a circular motion and gradually drizzle the egg mixture into the moving broth, stirring gently.
Season the soup to taste with salt and pepper.
Ladle the soup into bowls and serve.
Finish seasoning the soup with Parmesan cheese if desired.
Yummy!

Kapusta -


Kapusta is a type of cabbage stew made with sauerkraut as well as regular cabbage. There are many different recipes for Kapusta and they vary widely in content. Sue Gale gave a quart of her Kapusta to Janet and me and we were quite impressed. Neither of us had eaten it before. In a word, it is Yummy!
I decided to add Kapusta to Food Nirvana as it is so different from the other soups/stews in Food Nirvana in character and taste. The recipe below is a composite of different recipes from the Internet that I put together, tried and adjusted. Janet likes it just the way it is shown below ... So be it. Kapusta is at it's best the day following making it as the various ingredient flavors have had time to develop and combine.
One of the missing pieces of information in the Internet recipes is the need to skim melted fat from the surface of the Kapusta after the two hour simmering process. The kielbasa and the bacon contribute the fat, and about 3/4 of a cup of fat can be removed, leaving just a bit for flavor.
Ingredients:
1 large onion, chopped into pieces about 1/2" by 1/2"

1 large or extra large head of cabbage, chopped into pieces about 1 1/2" by 1 1/2"

1 large can or package of sauerkraut

8 slices of bacon

2 pounds of smoked kielbasa

1 teaspoon of caraway seeds

1 teaspoon of salt

1 1/2 teaspoons of pepper

6 large cloves of garlic, chopped
Directions:
Steam the chopped cabbage in one pint of water in a large six quart pot, covered, until it has softened. Do that by heating on high heat until the steaming starts and then reduce the heat to very low and let the cabbage soften for about ten to fifteen minutes, checking the water after ten minutes to assure the pot isn't going dry. Add water if necessary during the steaming.
While the steaming is happening fry the bacon in a skillet, remove it, crumble it and set it aside.
Sauté the chopped onion in the bacon drippings on medium high heat for about five minutes. When the onion is becoming translucent, add the chopped garlic and continue the sauté for about two minutes on low heat. Turn off the heat and remove the sautéed onions and garlic to a bowl.
Save the remaining bacon drippings in the skillet to use later to lightly fry the smoked kielbasa.
At this point the cabbage steaming should be complete. The softened cabbage is now ready to have the other ingredients added.
Put the onion, sauerkraut, garlic, crumbled bacon, caraway seed, salt and pepper into the large pot with the steamed cabbage. Press down and then add enough water to barely cover the contents. Mix well.
Bring the contents of the pot to a boil on high heat and then to a simmer on very low heat, covered.
While the other ingredients are heating for simmering, cut the smoked kielbasa to remove the casing. Cut it lengthwise in half, remove the casing by pulling it off and discarding it, and then cut each kielbasa half into small pieces about 1/2" wide.
Take approximately 1/3 of the kielbasa chunks and process them through a meat grinder. Set the ground kielbasa aside.
Lightly fry the smoked kielbasa chunks in the bacon drippings on medium heat, moving them around with a spatula during frying until they are lightly browned over some of the exterior. Remove the fried kielbasa chunks to a plate. Now lightly fry the ground kielbasa.
Add all of the fried smoked kielbasa to the Kapusta, mix well, cover and simmer for two hours.
After the two hour period of simmering is done, remove the pot from the heat to begin to cool the Kapusta to room temperature.
Use a ladle to skim the melted fat from the top of the Kapusta. Press the ladle down into the Kapusta just far enough to have it fill slowly with liquid, then empty the ladle into a two cup measuring cup. Repeat the process of pressing the ladle into the Kapusta but always in different locations so as to cover the entire top surface of the Kapusta. When about 1 1/2 cups of melted fat and broth have been collected in the measuring cup then skim the fat from the measuring cup and pour the remaining liquid back into the pot of Kapusta. Stir the Kapusta and let it rest for about five minutes. Then repeat the skimming process. That will eliminate almost all of the melted fat.
Taste the Kapusta while it is cooling after the melted fat has been removed, and if necessary add more salt and/or more pepper and mix it well into the Kapusta. Taste again and adjust if necessary.
After the Kapusta has cooled to room temperature, refrigerate it overnight in the pot, covered.
Reheat the Kapusta the next day and serve it along with a hearty bread, like pumpernickel or seeded rye.
Leftover Kapusta freezes well for later use. I vacuum seal mine before freezing.


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