Kapusta for Wigilia: Part One

I’m making cabbage soup for the Polish Christmas Eve celebration of Wigilia (Vih-GEEL-yah, for those of you who don’t know how to pronounce Polish). Poles celebrate the anticipation of Jesus’ birth, capping a meatless family meal with Polish carols and attendance at Midnight Mass. Anyway, the challenge here was for me to recreate my Aunt Alice’s kapusta and, because I’m a little crazy this way, to create a vegetarian version for those who don’t eat meat. I know, I said it was a meatless meal to begin with, but nearly every version of this dish I found in cookbooks or on the Web included a meat broth at the minimum. Not to be outdone, I’m in the process of making a broth with beef bones and country-style pork ribs browned in bacon fat. This recipe, along with the vegetarian version, will be included in the next post. In the meantime, here’s my aunt’s recipe, from our family cookbook:

Kapusta (courtesy of Alice Kret)
1 pound spare ribs, country style
1 kielbasa sausage
1 sweet cabbage, chopped
Small can of sauerkraut, drained, then rinsed once with hot water
2 large onions, chopped
Habitant French Pea Soup
Salt and pepper

Simmer spare ribs in water to cover for about 30 minutes to remove most of the fat. Take out the ribs and trim off more of the fat. Put broth in freezer to remove the rest of the fat (it will congeal on the top).

Put ribs, broth, whole kielbasa, onions, cabbage, and sauerkraut in a large pan. Add water, salt, and pepper, then simmer for about 1 1/2 hours. Take out the meat, chop, and put back into the pot. Add pea soup and simmer for another 15 minutes.

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