Even in the times of our grandparents, korhely (sot) soup was an indispensable element of the day after New Year’s Eve. But few people know that the history of this dish reaches all the way back to ancient times. According to certain legends, its history can be traced to the Roman Empire, during its long campaigns of conquest.
Translation by Tamás Vaski
Sometime between 35 and 14 B.C.E., the Roman conquerors took over the province of Pannonia, which primarily became a strategically relevant region thanks to the ancient trade route known as the Amber Road. This was apparently when Dubitatius, a chef from Rome with an exceptionally important role in ensuring the health and nourishment of the army, arrived at the camp of one of the legions together with Grumio, his assistant.
One day the legion’s food supply simply disappeared, and Dubitatius and Grumio noticed that they had nothing but cabbages left. Over the course of the long trip, however, the cabbages carried in wooden barrels had released their juices and soured, but the chefs did not find anything particularly worrisome in their taste. Thus, with a hint of fear that they might poison the entire army, the two cooked soup from the cabbages. The dish was a huge success, and the soldiers all lined up for seconds. Forget about getting sick, the next day the army was bursting with energy.
The word korhely (sot), by the way, referred to a person who was often drunk, constantly blushing from drinking too much wine. Nowadays these people are referred to as alcoholics. But the term is especially interesting when considering that the word korhely comes from the German word Chorherr, of which the original meaning was to describe the noblemen sitting in the loft of a church during mass. Typically, however, it was the clergy who occupied the upper level of the church.
According to the other legend around korhely soup, this is why the dish originates from clergymen, in whose gardens’ cabbages were always being grown. As clergymen were also involved in brewing wine and champagne, it can logically be assumed that, at the dawn of the culinary arts, they developed a soup that could negate the effects of alcohol. Today’s version is completely full of elements which help balance out the rampant alcohol consumption that precedes the new year. True to its name, there is nothing more merciful than eating a hot bowl of korhely soup to relieve the mighty hangover of January first.
- 200 g meaty smoke-cured pork belly (Szalonna)
- 20 dkg sausage
- 2 onions
- 2 garlic cloves
- 400 g sour cabbage
- 2-4 tablespoons fine flour
- 2 tablespoons sour cream
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 2 tablespoons paprika
- 2 bay leaves
Chop the onions and smoked pork belly into cubes, and the sausage into circular slices. Start cooking the pork in a large pot until it is crispy, then add the onions and sausage. Remove the pot from the heat, and add the paprika, then mix in the chopped sour cabbage. (If the cabbage is too sour, it can be washed prior to cooking.)
Place the pot back on the fire, then cook for a few more minutes. Top it all up with water, then add salt, pepper, and the rest of the spices. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cook for another 15 minutes.
Mix the sour cream with the flour until it is smooth, then add a few tablespoons of soup to it. Thicken the soup with this sour cream mix, then cook it all for another few minutes.
The dish can be served with sour cream, perhaps even topped off with some fresh dill!
Photos by Péter Csákvári/Hungary Today