Grünkohlsuppe Recipe from an American Kitchen- German Kale Soup
In Northern Germany Grünkohl or Kale comes to the table quite often in winter. (I was eating Kale WAY before Kale was cool). People will even make a Grünkohlfahrt (giggle), which is a strenuous hike followed by a traditional meal of Kale. My mother’s kitchen was German, that meant WE ate a lot of Kale too. But I grew up in Southern California at a time when shopping for a lot of German products required a road trip. My mother was undaunted! She just made substitutions using the “next best thing”, and kept on cooking German food. Her Grünkohlsuppe (German Kale Soup) is a classic example. Instead of Mettwurst, she would use smoked Polish Kielbasa sausage. And it works. The soup is hearty with potatoes and sausage, but “healthy” because it’s loaded with Kale. And the broth…. mmmmmm.
Of course, when I took the soup to school in my thermos, I freaked out the other children in the cafeteria!
Note- There is another classic Kale dish in Ostfriesen and NordDeutschland… Grünkohl mit Pinkel. While similar, the dish isn’t a soup. Pinkel Wurst (sausage) is made from pork, oats, bacon, and spices like cloves and marjoram (and originally, BRAINS). It’s definitely not a sausage you find everywhere… (and the word Pinkel makes me giggle… ). The Kale is cooked and served with boiled potatoes and the Pinkel sausage on a plate.
Back to the Kale soup.
The upside of learning to cook from your mother and Oma, is that you can become a fairly decent cook. The downside, not a lot is written down. So when it came time to write up the recipe, I had to slow down and think it out. I even referred to a few German cookbooks to see if I was missing something. (Remember, German kitchen in an American household… different ingredients). The closest in flavor to what I grew up with and still enjoy came from a cookbook I got from my Tante Anne… “Heimat Häppchen: So kocht NRW” by Anja Tanas. But I still adjusted things a bit. I’ve always used beef broth instead of vegetable, and I added a bit more of the broth for a more soup-like consistency. (Wondering now if my mother made it more soupy to STRETCH the meal to a few days?)
I guess what I’m trying to express is this. Soup is soup. How you make it, the adjustments you make, depend on what ingredients you have on hand. Don’t overthink it. Taste it while it’s cooking, and make it the way YOU like it.
Germans Eat a LOT of Soups… find your Favorites here…. German Soups Stews and Eintopfe
Here’s the basic recipe for my Grünkohlsuppe…
Grünkohlsuppe from an American Kitchen- Denglish Kale Soup
- 1 Yellow Onion medium to large
- 3-4 slices 100gr Bacon
- 2 Tbl cooking Oil Olive or Vegetable is fine
- 2 bunches 500 gr, 8 cups chopped Kale (add more if you like)
- 1 ring approx 400 gr of smoked Kielbasa (more or less)
- 6 cups around 1.5 L Beef Broth (add less or more depending on how far you want to stretch it)
- 2 lg 600 gr Russet Potatoes (about 4 cup peeled and cut up)
- 1/2 tsp Ground Nutmeg
- have salt and pepper on hand... just in case
- Use a large soup pot with a lid.
- Peel and dice the onion.
- Chop the bacon into a rough dice
- Put 2 Tbl oil into the soup pot, heat over medium heat. Add the onion and bacon.
- Cook, stirring occasionally, for 4-5 minutes.
- You want the onion soft, and the bacon to render a bit... but you don't need it to brown.
- Prepare the Kale by discarding the tough stems, and rough chopping the rest.
- Add the broth and Kale to the pot, stir a bit.
- Bring broth to a boil
- Place the sausage on top to the Kale
- Reduce heat to low, place the sausage on top of the Kale, cover and let it cook for 30 minutes.
- While it's cooking, peel and cut up the potatoes. You want pieces around 1 inch... but it doesn't have to look perfect.
- After the Kale has cooked 30 minutes, remove the sausage to a plate
- Add the potatoes to the Kale, stir, and cook for another 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, add the nutmeg and stir
- Slice the sausage
- Add the sliced sausage to the soup.
- Now TASTE it. The sausage, bacon, and broth should have made it salty enough. Add salt and pepper if NEEDED.
- Serve with bread for a complete meal.
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