My husband is a huge fan of sweet and sour cabbage soup, and this is one of the most popular varieties at the New England Soup Factory. I was all set to make the recipe from their cookbook when I noticed that the recipe calls for 2 cups of brown sugar plus 1/2 cup of maple syrup. Even with the batch cut in half, that is a whole lotta sweetness going on.
I just couldn’t put that much sugar in my soup.
So, I changed around the recipe, substituting extra tomato juice for some of the broth and doubling the amount of stewed tomatoes. Original recipe (cut in half): 7 cups of broth, 1 cup of stewed tomatoes and 1 cup of tomato juice. My version: 2 cups water, 2 cups stewed tomatoes, 4 cups tomato juice. my thinking that the extra tomatoes would supply natural sweetness. Tomatoes are acidic, so I cut back the lemon juice a little. With these changes, I only needed about 2-4 Tbl. of maple syrup and about 1-2 Tbl. of brown sugar syrup (you could use a mix of maple syrup and brown sugar or all maple syrup, adjusting sweetness to taste, starting with the smallest amount).
The flavor of the soup is reminiscent of stuffed cabbage. I bet this would be good with some meatballs floating in it. Or with some flanken. But, it is delicious as a vegan soup.
An observation about the caraway seeds and the dill: both are optional, but the caraway really gives a special flavor (skip it if you dislike caraway, of course).
Sweet and Sour Cabbage Soup
Inspired by/generously adapted from this recipe from the New England Soup Factory Cookbook. I changed around amounts and proportions quite a bit, tilting the balance of the liquid from 75% broth/25% tomato, with lots of sugar and lemon added, to 75% tomato/25% water, with a little bit of sweetener and lemon added.
2 Tbl. olive oil (or any oil–I just like olive oil)
1 cup diced onions (I used three small, but 2 medium or 1 large should also work)
1 cup sliced carrots (I used three carrots, but you can probably even skip because the cole slaw mix has shredded carrots)
1/4 cup minced celery (1 stalk)
14 ounce bag cole slaw mix (shredded cabbage and carrots, as a substitute for the half head shredded cabbage originally called for)
1/2 cup golden raisins (dark raisins okay, too)
2 cups water (you could use beef, chicken or vegetable broth)
14.5 ounce can stewed tomatoes
4 cups tomato juice
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 Tbl. brown sugar or syrup made with brown sugar or more maple syrup (I used Log Cabin All Natural Syrup, which is made from brown sugar, maple syrup, and brown rice syrup)
2-4 Tbl. lemon juice, or to taste (I used half a large lemon)
1 tsp. caraway seeds (the soup will still be tasty with this left out, but it gives an interesting flavor twist)
2 Tbl. chopped fresh dill or 2 tsp. dried dill (optional)
kosher salt to taste
Saute the onions, carrots and celery in the oil in a dutch oven or soup pot for about 5 minutes, or until tender. Add the cabbage and saute for another 5 minutes, or until softened. Take the time to cook the onions well before adding the cabbage, and cook down the cabbage a bit before adding the liquids.
Add the tomato juice, stewed tomatoes, raisins, water, maple syrup, sugar, lemon juice and caraway seeds. Simmer the soup for about an hour and a half (this keeps well on a low flame for a long time–a crock pot would be ideal if you wanted to make this ahead for serving at supper).
Before serving, add the dill and salt to taste.
Another soup made from this cookbook: Tomato Butternut
Eggplant Parmesan Soup (I find the idea of this especially irresistible)