Czech Heritage · Holidays · My Roots

Slovak Sauerkraut Soup

Czech and Slovak heritage is of great interest to me, given my Father’s family roots.  Late 2020, I participated in ‘Czech & Slovak Christmas’ offered through Global Slovakia Academy.  It was a wonderful class, offering education of the Slovak advent and holidays, celebrations and food.

One of the recipes shared was this Slovak Christmas Sauerkraut Soup.  It is traditionally made for Christmas Eve. I was not willing to wait until next December to make the soup!  The ingredients are things our ancestors would have had on hand:  wild dried mushrooms, sauerkraut, smoked sausage, etc.

I love to tweek recipes and decided to add homemade egg noodles for the last hour of cooking and loved the addition.  The soup was thick enough, so I chose not to add the flour and additional water.  This is a hearty soup and great paired with a hearty roll or rye bread.

SLOVAK CHRISTMAS SAUERKRAUT SOUP

1 package (32 oz) sauerkraut
2 quarts chicken or beef broth
6 whole black peppercorns
4 bay leaves
2 cups of dried wild mushrooms
1 klobásaor chorizo (Note: I used Kielbasa)
½ cup pitted prunes
1 large onion chopped
3 tsp sweet paprika
2 tbsp vegetable oil
Optional:  2 tbsp plain flour and 1 cup water
Salt and pepper
Optional:  I added homemade egg noodles to the soup about an hour before serving
  • If you are not keen on the sour flavor of the sauerkraut, you can wash it before proceeding with the recipe. However, we do recommend keeping it as it is – this is when it contains the most goodness and gives the iconic flavor and smell to the soup. Fry the onion in a large pot over medium heat. Traditionally, Christmas Eve dinner was strictly meat-free. Leave klobása out if you wish to stick with the tradition.
  • Place the sauerkraut, broth, peppercorns, bay leaves, salt and mushrooms into a large pot and bring to a boil. Add the sausage, prunes, and paprika. Lower the heat to gentle simmer and allow to cook for at least 2 hours. Our grandmas used to set the soup on lowest heat and keep it simmering until dinner time. It fills the entire house with quintessentially Slovak Christmas smell. (Note:  I simmered the soup on low for 4 hours).
  • Remove the bay leaves from the soup and discard. Season to taste. Serve.
Czech Heritage · New Favorite

Czech Garlic Soup

I discovered the Czech Cookbook and author, Kristýna Koutná, a few years ago.  I was thrilled when she published her cookbook and I bought it immediately!  It is great fun reading her book and trying new recipes of my Father’s heritage in Bohemia, now, the Czech Republic.

Garlic Soup, or Česneková polévka, sounded interesting to me.  It’s a very simple recipe and full of flavor.  I toasted rye bread for croutons, a delicious addition.   Next time, I will be creative with the recipe,  adding leftover chicken, pork, beef or adding additional vegetables.  It would be a wonderful soup to have when you’re not feeling well. This recipe is definitely a new favorite for the Fork-Lore kitchen.

GARLIC SOUP

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
7 garlic cloves
7 cups water
1 1⁄2 teaspoons salt
3 large potatoes
1 tablespoon chicken or beef base (or bouillon)
1 egg
2 teaspoons marjoram
Swiss cheese
Croutons

Instructions are shown in the attached video from CzechCookbook.

Czech Heritage · Holidays

Old Czech Prayer for the New Year

Old traditions, stories and folk lore are precious to me, especially when it comes to my Czech heritage.  While this Prayer is from another time, it brings to mind the challenges of the time, not that much different than today.

Wishing you and yours a happy, healthy 2019!

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WE EXTEND TO YOU A HAPPY NEW YEAR!

May the next year be more fruitful, more peaceful, more full of good health and better than any you’ve known in the past.

May you have all the earthly good which is possible to come from the hand of God.

And in the life hereafter, we wish you the glory of heaven.

And while on this earth, may we be tolerant of each other.

And on the lighter side,

We wish also that all your cows would be fat,

That the milk they give be heavy with cream,

And that your cheeses be as large as a table,

May your yard be full of chickens and geese,

In the springtime may you carry seed in small bags to your fields,

And in the autumn harvest may you require wagons upon wagons to bring in your harvest.

 

Czech Heritage · Family Favorites · Holidays · Home · My Roots

Cherry Kolaches, our Christmas Day Tradition

The gifts are wrapped, the house is decorated, and the baking is done. This year I thought I’d take a break from making Kolaches for Christmas Day until I mentioned this to my family. WHAT? BREAKING FROM TRADITION? So, I will not break the tradition and made them today.  The truth is I love them as much as my daughters and their families.

This year I used my Mother’s Foundation sweet dough which she used for cinnamon rolls and Kolaches. My KitchenAid mixer makes easy work of making bread instead of taxing my arthritic wrists. The past several batches of bread I’ve made from standard flour have been too dense, so I decided to try King Arthur’s unbleached bread flour. I loved the result with a very light sweet dough that melts in your mouth.

The cherry filling started with a bucket of frozen sour cherries I purchased at the Farmer’s Market last summer. img_8562

There is nothing better than the taste of those cherries. Truly, I could eat a bowl of the cherry filling and forget the bread dough!

I also make a dozen chocolate kolaches which started as a request by one of son-in-laws, now a family favorite as well.  I simply put chocolate chips (or this year a dove milk chocolate square) in the middle of the dough ball and then pinch it closed.  Let it rise to double in size then bake. When you remove from the oven, brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar.

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Another tradition for our Christmas Day celebration is the Nordic Kringla.  Turns out Kringla is a big hit with my 3 year old grandson and 1 year old granddaughter.  My 6 week old grandson has yet to weigh in…but next year…

Wishing all a very Merry Christmas and a peaceful and healthy New Year!

CHERRY KOLACHES, our Christmas Day Tradition

Mom’s Foundation Sweet Dough

2 cakes (Packages) yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup lukewarm water
1 cup milk
6 tablespoons shortening (I used unsalted butter)
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
6-7 cups flour (I used 6 cups King Arthur Bread Flour)
3 eggs, beaten

  • Dissolve yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in lukewarm water. Set aside to soften and rise.
  • Scald milk.  Add shortening, sugar and salt; cool to lukewarm. Add 2 cups flour to make a batter.  Add the yeast mixture and beaten eggs, and beat well.
  • Add remaining flour or enough to make a soft dough. Knead lightly and place in greased bowl. Cover and let set in warm place, free from draft.  Let rise until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.
  • When light, punch dough down and shape in balls about the size of a walnut and place on a greased cookie sheet. Let rise for 10 minutes
  • When risen, push the centers of balls down and fill with cherry filling (or filling of your choice).  Let rise again.
  • Bake at preheated 400 degree oven (375 degrees for convectional oven) for about 7 minutes or until golden brown.

Cherry Filling
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 cup juice from cherries
3 cups pitted tart red cherries (water pack)
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 teaspoon red food coloring

Combine 3/4 cup sugar with cornstarch.  Stir in cherry juice. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, till mixture thickens and bubbles; cook 1 minute longer.  Add remaining sugar, cherries, butter, and food coloring and cook until thickened. (Mixture will be very thick.)  Let stand while preparing bread dough for Kolaches.

Reference:

KOLACHE … Bohemian Heritage and Christmas Tradition

Czech Heritage · Family Favorites · My Roots

Mushroom Barley Soup

My beloved Czech cookbook given to me by my Mother many years ago had this wonderful recipe. I added leftover prime rib pieces to mine and loved it. It’s easy, it’s hearty, and it’s healthy.

MUSHROOM BARLEY SOUP

2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/2 lb. sliced mushrooms
4 cups chicken, beef or vegetable broth
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup barley

Optional:  chopped cooked beef or chicken

  • Melt butter in large saucepan.
  • Add onion, celery, carrots, and mushrooms and sauté for about 10 minutes.
  • Add flour and stir; add broth, barley, and protein (optional).
  • Cook for about 40 minutes or until cooked through.
Czech Heritage · Family · Family Favorites · Holidays

Chocolate Kolaches

Christmas morning without Kolaches is like the 4th of July without fireworks. Cherry Kolaches have always been my favorite and, until a few years ago, the only kind I ever made.  What to do when your new son-in-law doesn’t like cooked fruit? You can never go wrong with Chocolate.

Hershey's Chocolate Kisses
Hershey’s Chocolate Kisses

The first year I was a bit doubtful about the results but I was pleasantly surprised. I took a piece of dough, as I would for the cherry kolaches, but flatten in slightly, pressing 1-2 chocolate kisses in the dough, then pinching the dough closed around the chocolate.

Update January 2021:  I have made these every year but have graduated to a higher grade of chocolate, using Ghirardelli chocolate chips or squares.

Allow the dough to rise, per the recipe, and bake.  Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar when removing from the oven (optional).

See the original recipe on my Cherry Kolaches post.

Czech Heritage · Gluten Free · New Traditions · Vegan · Vegetarian

Roasted Cabbage Slices

Several weeks ago a Facebook friend shared a recipe for roasted cabbage and I meant to copy or print it.  Short story, short…I forgot.  This week I was in the mood for roasted cabbage and…no recipe. After a quick Google search, I found a similar recipe from Martha Stewart for Roasted Cabbage Wedges.

The recipe calls for caraway OR fennel seeds and I AM a caraway seed lover but decided to do a few of both. The fennel seeds won, hands down!  The fennel gives a nice touch to the roasted cabbage where I didn’t feel the caraway enhanced the flavor. My Czech ancestors would probably roll over in their graves if they heard me admit that!

Great recipe to pair with pork, Bratwurst or for a vegan dish.

ROASTED CABBAGE SLICES

1 tablespoon plus 2 more tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium head green cabbage cut into 1 inch slices
Coarse salt and pepper
1 teaspoon caraway or fennel seeds

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Brush a rimmed baking sheet with 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil.
  • Place 1 medium head green cabbage cut into 1 inch slices, in a single layer on the baking sheet.  Brush the cabbage slices with 2 tablespoons oil.
  • Season with coarse salt and pepper, then sprinkle with caraway or fennel seeds.
  • Roast until cabbage is tender and edges are golden, 40-45 minutes.

Recipe slightly adapted from Martha Stewart Living

Czech Heritage · Family · My Roots

Father’s Day Memories

My Dad,  Archie, was one of the funniest men I ever knew.  His sense of humor was direct, often dry, and accepted by all.  He could say things to people that no one else could say and they would laugh heartily and love him dearly.  Love of laughter is one of the great gifts my Father gave to me.  I miss him.

When I was 12 years old my Father died as a result of a farming accident. From that day forward my life changed forever. He would never attend one of my high school sporting or music events…he wouldn’t walk me down the aisle…he wouldn’t get to hold my children in his arms and play with them. But he is always with me…always.

Photographs of my Father and I are near and dear to my heart because there are few. Taking a photograph ‘back in the day’ required film, developing, flash bulbs and they were treasured….not to mention that my Father was camera-shy.

Before my Mother died, she passed on photos my Uncle Mahlon ‘Sparky’ took when I was little.  These are some of the most treasured photos of my childhood.

Archie and Cathy Smaha

The sweater my Father is wearing in this picture, is one I wore through high school and still have in my Mother’s cedar chest (if you’re under 50, you probably don’t know what that is).

Dad, I know you’re listening, and know I love you and miss you! Heavenly hugs to you and to Mom.

Czech Heritage · Family · Family Favorites · My Roots

Strawberry Shortcake…sweet summer delight!

Strawberry season is here.  Bring on the shortcake!  This recipe is from an old Czech cookbook that I’ve cherished for years.  The cake is yummy enough to eat by itself, but topped with fresh strawberries and whipped cream is to die for.

My girls love the cake more than the strawberries…I’m partial to the entire package.  I have been know to drown the cake and berries in milk, something I picked up from some elderly Norwegian friends back in Iowa.

However you like it, try it.  It’s strawberry time!

STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE

2 eggs, beaten
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix all ingredients together and bake in 9×9″ baking pan for 45 minutes or until baked through.
  • Cut into squares and top with fresh sliced strawberries and whipped cream.

Czech Heritage · Family Favorites

Pork Chops with Sauerkraut and Cheater Dumplings

I love sauerkraut and who doesn’t love dumplings? This Pork Chop with Sauerkraut and Dumpling recipe was something I created many years ago, probably when I was in a panic to cook something after a long day at the office.  Before kids, I made this recipe a lot but the kids weren’t fond of sauerkraut as children, but as adults they love it!

It was time to give this recipe a whirl again.  I enjoyed it thoroughly but daughter Sarah and I both thought we would enjoy just the sauerkraut and dumplings alone just as much as with the pork chops.

PORK CHOPS WITH SAUERKRAUT AND CHEATER DUMPLINGS

4 to 6 pork chops
1 can sauerkraut with caraway seeds (or add your own caraway)
1 tube refrigerated biscuits

  • Brown pork chops in large skillet. Salt and pepper.
  • Add undrained sauerkraut and additional water to cover pork chops.
  • Simmer until pork chops are tender and cooked through.
  • Add water to cover pork chops, again and place biscuits on top of sauerkraut.

  • Cover and cook over medium heat until biscuits are cooked.