Soljanke: Ukrainian Mushroom Soup

In Recipies on October 25, 2011 at 11:55 am

[NOTE:  A bonus recipe for piparvika follows the soup recipe!]

Phyne Dyning continues a tribute to Slavic soups (homage to the approaching cold-wet season in the American Ukraine of Iowa) with an offering with roots in both the Ukraine and Russia.

Solyanka or, in Ukrainian…soljanke.

Like many soups of the region, its flavors are “brightened” with pickle juice and/or chopped dill pickle.  The idea may seem a bit “blech” at first to those with a purely Americanized palate, but the concept is deeply rooted in good kitchen

A simple, satisfying repast from the Ukraine!


Too many great soups become mediocre or bad soups when the cook adds too much salt in hopes it will give the soup a flavor boost.  Salt, in moderation, does enhance flavors because of the way it works with taste receptors on the tongue.  But, too much salt just makes a soup salty, without giving much flavor enhancement.

Good cooks, therefore, hold off on the salt in favor of adding lemon juice or vinegar to their soups.  Some say white wine or white vinegar works best in light-bodied soups and that red wine, balsamic vinegar, or cider vinegar augments dark, rich soups.  It is a principle that seems to follow the saw “white wine with chicken and fish and red wine with red meat”.

However, most wine experts do not hold fast to the white-red rule and cooks should not be afraid to use white acidifiers interchangeably with red acidifiers.  In fact, in much of Middle Eastern cooking, lemon juice is almost exclusively used to brighten a dish.

Now, seeing that lemons are not native to the Ukraine, it is natural that they would do the Phyne Dyning method and use what is at hand…

…pickles, pickle brine, or pickled cabbage juice.

Today’s offering used whatever brand of petite dill pickle the Phyne Dyner had lurking in his fridge…Polski Wyrobe!

The soup also took advantage of a surplus of mushrooms packed in bags in the bottom of the fridge.  Fellow Phyne Dyners…take note.

Buy your mushrooms in bulk amounts of one to five pounds.  Divide them between several brown lunch bags and store them in the warmer of the bottom drawers of the refrigerator.  If you find you have “Whoa, way too many mushrooms”, break out your dehydrator (you do have one) and dry the oversupply and store them in wide-mouthed plastic jugs.

The Phyne Dyner buys “fancy” mushrooms at the farmer’s market and dries them for later use as well.  Simply rinse them well and then let them stand in 2 C of boiling water per cup of mushrooms for 10-15 minutes.  Ta-da!  (Remember to remove the stems from shiitake mushrooms.)

Also notice that there is no added fat (drippings, oil, or butter) in this soup.  I have made this soup with beef broth or vegetable broth.  The beef broth gives a very rich soup.  If your Invisible Friend has a rule against mixing meat and dairy, you should remember to omit the dollop of sour cream on the soup at serving.

Okay, here we go…

8 C thickly sliced white mushrooms

1-2 C dried shiitake, morel, etc (rehydrated and coarsely chopped)

2 very large sweet onions, coarsely chopped

7 C vegetable stock (beef stock for a richer soup)

1 large (or 4-5 petite) dill pickles, thinly sliced

1 ½ TBS capers

2 large cloves of garlic, finely minced

2 bay leaves

8 peppercorns, cracked with mallet

½ C tomato juice drained from 14oz can of tomatoes

(or 2 TBS tomato paste)

I used the juice from canned, diced tomatoes because I was making another soup that called for drained, canned tomatoes.  Plan ahead so you can avoid wasting precious food.

Heat a dry, large stockpot over medium to medium-high heat.  Add the onions and about ½ to ¾ C of the broth.  Stir continuously to avoid scorching.  When the onions are just turning golden brown at their edges, add in the garlic and stir continuously for one minute.

Do not allow the garlic to scorch or the soup will be bitter.

Add in the mushrooms (dried and fresh) and toss in well with the onion and garlic mixture.  Add the remaining stock, the bay leaves, tomato juice (or paste), and the peppercorns.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer, cover, and cook for 30-40 minutes.  Stir in the capers and pickle slices and continue to simmer the soup for about another 10-15 minutes.


So hearty that you'd SWEAR there's meat!

Before serving the soup, taste.  Add a bit of pickle brine (or caper brine) instead of salt.  Give the soup a few twists of black pepper and serve piping hot in deep bowls with a dollop of sour cream (if no beef broth was used).  Garnish with minced flat parsley leaves.

We have enjoyed this with small glasses of Ukrainian peparvika, whisky that has been infused with hot pepper.  The stuff is easily made and is guaranteed to swat away the chill.

Here is how you make peparvika.

In one quart of cheap whisky, add 2-3 thinly sliced jalapeno peppers, hot banana pepper, or hot Hungarian red peppers.  Pour into a sealable wide-mouthed jar (save the whisky bottle) and place in a cool, dark place for about a month.  Using a tea strainer or cheesecloth, strain the brew back into the original bottle.  Do not forget to re-label the bottle, as peparvika makes an absolutely vile mix with Coca-Cola.  Enjoy small appertif glasses of the stuff and/or use it as a flavoring agent in soups, gravies, and stews.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: