It sounds a little out there, but trust me: this is peak cold weather comfort food.
I know. Before you even say it, I know.
Sour bean stew?
But trust me when I say that not only is this stuff thick and hearty, it is also insanely delicious. I was simply trying out some more Slovenian recipes from a cookbook I found (Cook, Eat, Slovenia by Špela Vodovc) when I discovered this, and I wasn't expecting all too much from it from the sparse seasonings and the entire jar of sauerkraut that goes into it, but I was wrong.
I let my mom try it, and she told me it reminded her of home, that she remembered the flavor. That's quite the compliment, in my opinion. Moreover, even my boyfriend, who does not like soup much at all, loves this dish, and that's saying something.
And yes, it is one of those dishes that is good the first day and absolutely divine the next. If you're a leftovers fan, and you like stew (any time of year), then this is perfect.
It's important to remember that kitchen magic goes far beyond herbs and spices. Everything from vegetables to grain to the very water itself can be a part of the magic. For this recipe, since it's fairly sparse on seasonings, we're focusing on the actual ingredients that make up the soup: beans, cabbage, garlic, bay leaf, potato, and onion.
Magic in Jota
Comfort food means exactly what it says on the tin: food that makes you feel warm, safe, and soothed. And with the ingredients incorporated in here, it makes sense that they help us in blessing this soup with protection, luck, healing, and strength.
These ingredients create a patchwork of all four elemental energies (fire, water, air, and earth), and they're ruled by the Earth, Mars, Mercury, the Sun, and the Moon. These are cosmic bodies concerned with vigor and power, radiance and stability, and the subconscious world of feelings, and their energies make the perfect building blocks for restoring oneself after a long week and giving us the strength to see future opportunities as they come.
Yeah, there are a lot of parts this time, and a lot of energies getting mixed in. But when they all work together, it creates a cozy, empowering force—spiritual armor in the form of a soft quilt.
Smoked Pork Neck or Bacon (whole piece)
Dry Pinto Beans, soaked overnight
Onions (1 for beans, 1 for roux)
Garlic (4 for beans, 3 for soup, 3 for roux)
Bay Leaves (2 for beans, 2 for soup)
Potatoes, peeled & diced
Bacon fat or butter
Salt & Pepper
Put soaked beans in a pot with salt and enough water to cover them.
Add one quartered onion, four cloves of garlic, and two bay leaves to the pot.
Boil the beans for forty minutes.
Add sauerkraut to a pot with two bay leaves and three cloves of garlic, then fill pot with enough water to cover everything.
Boil for twenty minutes before adding diced bacon pieces.*
Once you add the bacon, boil your diced potatoes in salted water for 15 minutes.**
When beans are done, squish them a little and add the whole pot (water, onion, beans, and all) into the pot of sauerkraut and bacon.
When the potatoes are done, drain them and crush a few before adding to the pot.
Fry your onions in bacon fat or butter until golden brown, then add minced garlic and flour to make roux.
When flour is incorporated, add everything into the soup and stir.
Let simmer another ten minutes and serve with fresh bread or toast.
*NOTE: Depending on how fatty your bacon is, you may want to fry some of the fat out beforehand. If you do, save the fat for the roux!
**Basically, the order of cooking is as follows: Start the beans and sauerkraut at the same time, then add bacon to the sauerkraut after 20minutes and start the potatoes, then add everything together at the same time and make your roux. The timing seems harder than it is.
This stuff has become a staple dish for cold weather, as it's a solid Slovenian winter dish. Make sure you get your bacon in a solid chunk that you can dice yourself—it makes all the difference!