Caraway seed soup.
It is pretty simple.
Gramma always made this as our Christmas soup for our Christmas Eve Wigilia dinner.
Wigilia (vee-ghee-lee-ah, or veh-lee-ah in my family. Please don’t say “wig-lee-ah,” I will cringe) translates as “vigil.” The meal is traditionally meatless. Foods served are a Christmas soup with noodles, pierogis, fish, sauerkraut, and kolaczki/roshky for dessert. Plus, we broke oplatki (a flat wheat wafer similar to communion hosts) and wished each other “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.”
The Caraway Seed Soup, done.
The meal can begin when the first star is seen in the sky, or assumed if you have cloud cover.
There are many types of Christmas soup.
This was the Slovak style one Gramma grew up with and continued.
Caraway soup is great for Christmas Eve but also can find a place in New Year’s meals.
It can also be incorporated into Epiphany dinner tradition (Gramma called it “Second Christmas”) or start one.
Caraway is found in sausages and in sauerkraut dishes made for New Year’s.
I’m an herbalist, kitchen goddess and traditional foods enthusiast, so I wanted to look at the tradition and energy of caraway seed particularly at these celebrations.
If you look at the foods at this time of year, they tend to be heavy and fatty. Digestion can be slow.
Caraway is used to improve digestion (stomachic), settle the stomach, prevent stagnant digestion from fermenting, and helps to move and/or prevent gas (carminative). It has been used to help gas in children.
Caraway carum carvi (Latin name) has strong antiseptic properties. It can also aid menstrual cramps (antispasmodic) and help to promote menstruation (emmenagogue). It has galactagogue properties as well, which help the flow of breast milk.
Folklore and magical associations:
Caraway has been used in Europe for thousands of years. In that time, many practices have been generated around its use.
It was thought to be protective, preventing loss and theft as well as demonic interference. It guards against all negative energies.
In the same line, it was believed to keep lovers from straying; promoting fidelity. The seeds were used to attract a lover by baking. The seeds were thought to induce passion and lust.
Caraway was believed to promote mental prowess and keep a sharp mind.
So, if you are looking to bring energies of love, passion, health, mental abilities, and protection, add some caraway seeds to you meals.
And now… the recipe!
First is the basic framework I created from.
I know some may be driven crazy by this tendency of mine, but, as with many traditional passed-down recipes, it is not a recipe as much as it is a taught “technique.” I sorta-kinda work just by feel and knowing, experiencing the food as I could to how the recipe should be. I did my best to have a “written account.”
From the Jednota newspaper:
CARAWAY SOUP (aka: “Christmas soup”)
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup chopped onion
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
3 cups water
3 tablespoons flour.
Melt butter in sauce pan. Add onion and cook till lightly golden. Add salt, flour, and caraway seeds. Blend in 3 cups water, stirring constantly until mixture is slightly thickened.
Flour, butter, and spices.
Now, for mine!
I took the Jednota recipe and what I knew about the way Gram did it. I also added a few tweaks of my own. The above recipe was too watery and to bland to my liking.
AND I use organic where I can: flour, butter, spices, and of course organic caraway.
I like to make mine on December 21 for Yule, since I tend to be very busy with music and Mass on the 24th. I save my leftover soup to eat with Christmas Eve meal.
Roux with a small amount of water mixed in.
In the pictures, I used a small sauce pan and I will make a smaller amount: 2 cups or less.
Drea’s Version of Gramma’s Christmas Caraway Seed Soup
I used a generous/heaping tablespoon of organic flour.
In the pot, I add salt.. maybe a half teaspoon. When in doubt, go for less. You can always add.
Ground celery seed powder- 1/8 teaspoon.
For ease when I am pressed for time, I use onion granules, which I prefer over powder, equaling quarter onion.
Garlic granules- one or 2 cloves equivalent. –Feel free to sauté onion and garlic
Good dash of paprika.
Black fine ground pepper 1/8 teaspoon.
Wee dash of ground cayenne that I love in everything.
Caraway seeds—I use 1 teaspoon in my small batch.
2 generous teaspoons of unsalted butter.
Combine the spices, flour, and salt. Melt the butter with the seasonings. Keep stirring so it doesn’t burn.
This melts and toasts the ingredients.
I like a slight toast to deep flavors.
Don’t burn and don’t really brown the butter. This is your roux base.
Add a little water and mix, preventing lumps.
SLOWLY add water little by little, mixing to blend. For this, I am working with a cup of water. You can add more if the mix thickens more than you desire. However, if you want a larger batch and more water, add more flour at the beginning of the process [bet you wished you read the recipe through first] and seasonings to suit.
Once your water is added, bring to a simmer, stir, frequently to prevent the bottom from clumping.
I like to give it around 10 minutes.
The simmering is like creating a tea.
If the liquid evaporates or becomes too thick, add more.
Once soup slightly thickens and a beautiful taupe color, turn the heat off and let it sit. It can thicken further. I do not strain the caraway seeds out.
Gram used these tiny square noodles for the soup. I use organic Acini de Pepe noodles. They are really cute. Orzo would also be great.
Put your noodles in the bowl and pour the soup over. I like to add more salt and cayenne, if needed.
I have tried some of my bone broth along with the caraway soup in my bowl and I love it.
Experiment. See how you like it.
I hope the guidelines I provided give you a way to express the flavors you like and your creativity.
Comments and questions are welcome.
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