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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Pickle Soup

I have discovered a taste treat that sounds absolutely awful: Pickle Soup.

It's a Polish dish served at a local Polish restaurant here in Clearwater called Piramida. The reason a Polish restaurant is sporting an Egyptian name is due to the owner's eccentric obsession with the Egyptian culture. However, he sticks to good old Polish home cooking.

Piramida is an eclectic little restaurant, whose owner used to jump about outside dressed in a hotdog suit until he was repeatedly fined and ticketed by the City of Clearwater, which felt that his antics didn't enhance the resort town image they are trying to encourage.

But despite the odd reputation, Piramida's food is amazing.

They only make Pickle Soup when the cook is so inspired, so the chances of ever getting a taste of it are slim-to-none. This is in spite of the fact that customers are constantly requesting it, according to the waitresses there.

The first time I heard of it was when I walked into the restaurant and saw scrawled on the whiteboard "Pickle Soup Today". I asked about it hesitantly. After all, the concept of turning pickles into soup is far removed from how most Americans think.

I like to try new things, but Pickle Soup sounded about as appealing as Tomato Ice Cream. And yet, one year when I was a very little girl, my mom had a bumper crop of tomatoes.

What to do? What do do...?

Mom made tomato soup, tomato sauce, tomato bread, tomato paste, pickled tomatoes, stewed tomatoes, and casting about for something different, she lit upon the concept of Tomato Ice Cream.

Mom experimented in the privacy of her own home. Although she never repeated her experiment, and I don't have the recipe, Dad still says it was surprisingly good.

So, I decided to try Pickle Soup.

The waitress brought out a vat of the stuff. I'm not kidding, here. It arrived in a small mixing bowl, brimming to the top with broth, with whole potatoes hiding below.

I decided that ordering the pierogies in addition to the soup had been a great mistake.

I ate as much of the soup as I could, omitting the potatoes which seemed to merely be an interruption. And I fell in love. It's a nice light, tangy soup that works well with almost any dish.

Since then, I've gone home to experiment with different versions of Pickle Soup, and I've even called Piramida. One of the waitresses was kind enough to share their recipe with me. And now I will share my final triumph with you.

It's traditionally eaten hot, but I made some for my parents and they ate it cold (like vicchyssoise) and pronounced it divine. Of course these are the people who invented Tomato Ice Cream.

PICKLE SOUP

8 C. clear chicken broth (low salt, low fat)
2/3 to a complete large jar of Claussen Garlic Dills or the freshest dill pickles you can find (to taste)
3 - 4 Tbl. butter
3 - 4 Tbl. flour
1/2 C. or more pickle juice (to taste)
1 tsp. or more fresh dill weed (to taste)
1/2 - 1 C. non-fat sour cream (to taste)

Warm broth in large pot to a simmer. Meanwhile, take the pickles and chop them into a paste in your food processor. Stir them into the broth, and add the pickle juice. You'll have to taste this periodically to see if you find it too weak or if it's reached the point that it seems to be just about right.

In a saucepan, melt the butter, stir in the flour and brown it. Gradually add some of the soup to the mixture until the mixture itself gets soupy and you can add it back into the soup itself. This will thicken the soup nicely without making it too thick. Cook it a little longer until it gets to a thicker consistency, then remove it.

Take 1/2 C. of the sour cream and stir some of the soup mixture into it to make it a little soupier (this keeps you from getting lumps of sour cream floating in the soup), and then add it to the soup itself. Taste. If it seems like it needs some more sour cream, add it.

Serves about 6.

17 comments:

Ed Abbey said...

Like you, it sure doesn't sound inviting to eat but I'm going to make some and try it. I'll probably use some of the dill pickles I made this year from our garden instead of the Vlassic. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Ed, Do try it, you'll be pleasantly surprised! Your wife is a Filipino, so I'm sure you're used to unusual and wonderful foods as it is.

I think your fresh pickles would be a great choice. The reason I recommend Vlassic is that they're fresher than the variety you find on store shelves.

Saur♥Kraut said...

OOPS. I realized that the brand I like best is Claussen. I've corrected the mistake in my post.

Crockpot Lady said...

bwhahahahaa! I love it!
I'm totally bookmarking this---thank you for giving me the heads up!
-steph

Saur♥Kraut said...

Steph, Good! I was thinking you could easily convert this to the crockpot! ;o)

M@ said...

You lost me at food processor (I don't own one).

But I like Polish restaurants and, as someone who's 1/4 Polish, appreciate the sentiment. I'd like to try food east of Poland.... Saw something in the Times about the typical meal eaten by Georgians--and it looked pretty damn good.

Saur♥Kraut said...

M@ You can buy very cheap little food processors that will get the job done. You don't have to spring all-out for the fancier models unless you have the need for one.

I've never tried Georgian food, but you sound like you might really like one of my favorite movies of all time: Babette's Feast. It's Russian (with subtitles) and won all kinds of awards when it came out. It's MARVELLOUS.

Uncle Joe said...

for a long time our little town in eastern Okla. had the "Only Polish Restaurant in Oklahoma" owned by a couple that moved here from Poland in the late 80's.

The wife ran the restaurant and the husband owns an old fashioned book bindery.

I remember Pickle Soup being on the menu.

The rest. is now closed.

The Lazy Iguana said...

I know a Pollock. Ill see what this person knows about this pickle soup stuff.

when I go to ethnic restaurants I often wonder if the cooks and owners get drunk, and come up with a concoction that they pass off as a "national food" just to see how many people actually order it.

But I like pickles. In fact at the County Fair I found a food booth that was deep frying everything you can think of - including pickles. So I got some. Chances are I would like this stuff.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Uncle Joe, This should bring back memories! ;o) What a quaint memory. It's nice that he still owns the book bindery.

Lazy Iguana, I looked it up, and it's considered to be classic Polish cooking. But I'll agree with the drunk what're-we-gonna-make-outta-the-leftovers type chefs - I'm sure you're absolutely correct!

Fried pickles are awesome. And if you like those, you'll like the soup. If you lived closer, I'd make you some but I'll be darned if I travel all the way to Miami to deliver it. ;o)

The Lazy Iguana said...

You can freeze it and then mail it. Packed in a little dry ice and old towels it should stay frozen for some time.

The smoke like mist coming from the package as the dry ice sublimates into a gas should not attract any attention at all.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Lazy, You really have me chuckling over this one. It might actually be worth it. ;o)

The Lazy Iguana said...

Post office employee: Why is your package smoking?

You: Its OK. The package is over 18. I tried to get it to quit, but you know how 18 year old packages are! They think they know everything.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Lazy, ;o) I wonder if smoking pickles is illegal...

Three Score and Ten or more said...

Hmm. who knows?

Ed Abbey said...

Delicious! I made a pot of pickle soup last night and it was excellent. The only thing that would have made it better was a crusty loaf of freshly baked bread but we were out. I made it per your/their recipe except used some of this years pickles that didn't seal in the canner and I added some chopped celery. Excellent!

I plan to post about it sometime in the future and link to your recipe if that is okay with you.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Ed, WONDERFUL! I'm so pleased! Of course you can use it, and feel free to link to it. You're right - fresh, crusty bread should be a requirement. Make sure there's plenty of fresh butter, too. Mmmm.

3 Score & 10, You really should try it!