Zelnacka, Or Spicy, Sauerkraut And Sausage Soup - The Well Travelled Spatula Blog at Allrecipes.com - 258769

The Well Travelled Spatula

Zelnacka, or Spicy, Sauerkraut and Sausage Soup 
Nov. 28, 2011 8:18 pm 
Updated: Dec. 28, 2011 6:33 pm
We were supposed to go away in the caravan a few weeks ago, but the weather had other ideas.  The day we had planned to leave was very windy, and the next day, we woke up to steady drizzle.  It IS Springtime here in New Zealand, but that generally means the weather is incredibly fickle.  In the last three weeks, we have had a major wind-storm, incessant rains that flooded Little River, and a hailstorm that left about 2 inches of ice and closed roads.  Oh well, that’s what you get when you live in a small island nation in the middle of the roaring forties!
So, a few days before we planned to go, I cleaned out the fridge and pantry in preparation for our intended trip.  Besides finding way too many condiments, I came across some chorizo that was approaching early retirement.  I adore chorizo, but most of the dishes I use it in are cold weather soups and stews.
While having my coffee and being pleased that we had delayed the trip, I contemplated what tasks I should conquer on this chilly, rainy day.  It came to me: Zelnacka!!!  (It is pronounced zel-netch-ka, and has those funny hooks and dashes over some of the letters)  The Czech chefs we employed for so many years made this on a regular basis, and I really can’t get enough of it.  So, today would be the day I would make my first batch of Zelnacka, now being chef-less.
The ingredients?
Chorizo, cut into small bits
Bacon (sort of optional)
An onion, chopped
about a dozen mushrooms (also, optional)
2 or 3 potatoes, diced
1 can (7oz) sauerkraut
a few Tablespoons of flour
2 –3 teaspoons of sweet paprika
2 or 3 Tablespoons of Caraway seeds
salt, to taste

You must remember that this is solid, Eastern European peasant food – hearty, cheap and made from ingredients always on hand in that part of the world.  It is what I call a ‘Nana’ recipe – there are as many versions as there are ‘Nana’s’.
My base recipe called for rendering some fat from the bacon, then add the onion, chorizo and mushrooms, and sauté in the fat until the onions are tender.  Well, I didn’t want to use the bacon, so I started the onions and such in some vegetable oil, instead.  I cooked the mix until the onions were translucent and the chorizo had given up some of its fat.  The Man tells me that our Czech boys would let the onion cook for a very long time, until almost caramelised, and then add the mushrooms and chorizo.  I also believe that they would have added a fair amount of garlic – these boys eat garlic on their cornflakes, along with caraway seeds!!!

Next, I sprinkled a few tablespoons of flour onto the mixture and stirred it in.  This is basically like making a gravy base or a roux, as it thickens the soup.  

Once the flour has cooked through for a few minutes, add the potatoes, sauerkraut, paprika and caraway seeds.  At this stage, I added a bit of smoked paprika to make up for the lack of bacon-y smokiness.

Then, let it simmer until the potatoes are tender.  That’s it!!!!  One pot and simple!  Did I mention how good it smells when cooking?!  Oh, and the flavour – if you like sauerkraut, you will love, love, love this!  It tastes almost like a Reuben Sandwich in soup form!

While the soup was simmering, I made a batch of Caraway Rye Bread http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Caraway-Rye-Bread/Detail.aspx?prop31=1<
Now, there is a funny story about this dish.  We decided to put it on the menu at the cafe one season, as we did try to always have a few Czech dishes on the menu.  It drew in the local Czech population and was interesting to other visitors.  But, since no one has ever heard of Zelnacka, we would have to explain it.  It just so happened that The Man had recently had some dental issues and was missing a front tooth.  It was going to take a few months to get that fixed.  So, for several months, he was challenged with “Zelnacka?  Oh, it ith a thpithy, thaurkraut and thauthage thoop.”

Nov. 28, 2011 8:36 pm
Now I wish I could send this to my recipe box. It sounds so good. Cuddly. Some crusty bread and, leave me alone, I'm eatin'. Well I think I am going to copy and paste your recipe to the cookbook I have made on WORD. I don't care how many new fluffy things are thought up to cook, the old ones are still the best. Thank you and I'm not going to copy and paste this.
Nov. 28, 2011 8:39 pm
Feel free to copy it, Kitten. It is an old, old recipe, no doubt tweaked over many centuries. Just delish -- which is why I wanted to share it!
Nov. 28, 2011 8:43 pm
OOps, That should read "...and I'm NOW going to copy and paste this" Thank you for the good idea.
Nov. 29, 2011 6:31 am
LOLOL! Years ago a friend was telling about a church lady who made the most wonderful dish using sauerkraut. My friend couldn't cook so she could only tell me what was in it according to what her tastebuds told her. This was LONG before I had google or AR so I winged it, then tweaked it over and over until I had something similar to your recipe. It's awfully chilly here and soup does sound good and that recipe really sounds good after all that turkey :)(:
Nov. 29, 2011 8:18 am
Oh, this looks so good. I think I'm going to have to copy & paste. It's finally getting cold in my part of the world and this will be perfect (as Kitten said) with some crusty bread. :) Thanks for sharing!
Nov. 29, 2011 11:49 am
Cat -- it will most definitely make a refreshing change from turkey!
Nov. 29, 2011 11:51 am
Amanda, if you like sauerkraut you'll love this. I've been meaning to share it for awhile and when I made it because I happened to have all the ingredients, and realized the northern hemisphere was getting chilly, I thought the timing was perfect. Enjoy!
Nov. 29, 2011 1:42 pm
Wel, I'm going to have to further tweak it no sausage but I do have boar chops and that was what the original lady's recipe had. I have some nice homemade rolls in the freezer that will go oh so well, not the same as fresh, I know. Deep sigh now that the bread eating teen isn't here no one else shares my enthusiasm for fresh bread.
Nov. 29, 2011 7:16 pm
This does sound good. Hmmm, I wonder how my Spanish chorizo would work with sauerkraut.
Nov. 29, 2011 8:37 pm
BSM, I think any good smoky, spicy sausage would be good. The more I think about it, I'm pretty sure the 'original' version called for a European style sausage, maybe a kielbasa or something.
Dec. 5, 2011 2:50 am
This sounds like one I'll have to try! I just have to get busy and make some sauerkraut first!
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About Me
As a Californian, now living in New Zealand with 20 odd years spent in the Caribbean in between, my cooking style has had a lot of different influences. After several years in other businesses, we finally came to NZ 9 years ago, and with no experience other than eating in a lot of them, we opened a cafe! Our friends thought we were nuts, and in retrospect, we were. We have now sold that business and are trying to figure out what to do next! Watch this space...
My favorite things to cook
I love to play with Asian inspired marinades/ingredients - getting the blance of sweet, salty, sour and spicy just right. I also seem to be drawn to fiddly foods -- home-made pastas, tortillas, filled won tons and grape leaves.
My favorite family cooking traditions
My mother loved Mexican food, and definately passed the taste on to me. I always loved my mom's enchiladas and tacos, and often whip up something like that quick for dinner. When I have more time, I make home-made Tamales. It's time consuming, but worth it. We have a hard time getting decent whole roasting turkeys here in NZ, but there is nothing like spending a day preparing 'the works' for a holiday dinner.
My cooking triumphs
I recently catered for a group of 18 - 22 for 18 days straight. I had prep support from the cafe (they were able to make all the cookies, muffins, cakes, etc) but I single-handedly managed all the main dishes, plus the organization and ordering supplies. The group was so impressed they gave me a gift certificate and I had a real Sally Fields' moment: They like me! They really like me!
My cooking tragedies
Serving things at dinner parties, not realizing that they weren't things that everyone liked or had tasted before. I was shocked when an important client turned up for the lovely roast lamb and said he had never eaten lamb before! Corned Beef was another one.
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