In a former life, my in-laws were Jewish. They still are Jewish, but no longer my in-laws. My grandmother-in-law Fanny was a buxom, very short sweet white haired woman who shared recipes with me. Once, back in the late ’70s, she was shocked that I’d been using toothpicks to test my cakes. She made her son Terry drive her all over Sarasota, Florida to find a wire cake tester for me. I still have (and use) it today.I still marvel at the fact that she was named Fanny at birth. It was not a nick name as far as I know. I mean, do you see your newborn emerge from the depths and suddenly think, “this one’s a Fanny?” I do realize that Fanny Bryce, a Jewish Ziegfield Girl, was pretty famous at the time. Or maybe Fanny was born breech, like me? Anyway, I digress…
One of my favorite recipes of hers is for Sauerkraut Soup. Most people would never think of making soup from this unusual delicacy. But you would be amazed how delicious it is! Her recipe combines the tang and texture of sauerkraut with meat to balance it out, plus a little lemon juice and honey. I like to add dried mushrooms. Complex flavors and textures that work so well together! Every once in a while I have a craving for it. Also this summer, in my attempt to find various ways to preserve my summer’s harvest, I came across recipes for making cultured vegetables. The most common one is to make sauerkraut using only a few simple ingredients: shredded cabbage, lemon juice, water. The good bacteria on the cabbage cause fermentation that turns ordinary cabbage into crunchy, tangy and super-probiotic sauerkraut.
So, what’s Sauerkraut Soup without good ol’ Jewish Rye bread? I used to make it regularly when I lived in Sarasota, but when I moved to high altitude Denver I gave up in exasperation. But last weekend I got brave. I found a great Hungry Mouse rye bread recipe and high altitude baking adjustments here. Sunday I pulled all of the ingredients together, spent a couple of hours mixing, kneading by hand, etc. and was ready to put my two little masterpieces into the oven. But… my gas oven would not—gasp—turn on! The stove top worked, the broiler worked, even the self-cleaning setting worked. But it would not BAKE. Wow. With great disappointment I put my two loaves into big baggies, placed them carefully in the freezer and wished them luck.
On Monday we had a repair person take a look at the oven. It was a striker mechanism that had burned out after 15 years of use. $200 dollars later I was back in business. I took one of the frozen loaves out of the freezer and set it on parchment on a cookie sheet. I raised the sheet off the counter to allow the bread to defrost on the bottom as well as all sides. Two or three hours later it was defrosted and had risen a little more. I put some boiling water in a glass baking tray on the bottom shelf of the oven (to make up for our extremely dry air), hand-wiped the bread with raw egg mixed with water and proceeded with the baking directions. About 45 fragrant minutes later I pulled a perfectly browned loaf of bread out of the oven. It lasted about one day in my house. I just pulled the second loaf out of the oven the next morning, repeated the above and had another gorgeous loaf. They were the perfect accompaniment to the soup and also made for fantastic toast in the morning. My thanks to Fanny and the foodies on the Internet that keep me cooking and eating great food! Update: On my second batch I reduced the oil to one TB and added the raw egg/water coating to make a crisper crust and it worked beautifully!