Friday, April 25, 2008

Sorrel soup

Sorrel (Rumex acetosa) is an early-spring easy-to-grow perennial which does well even in heavy clay soil like many of us have in the Greater Cincinnati area. Its flavor is tangy, almost lemony. The smaller, tender leaves can be used in mixed-greens salads and larger leaves can be made into sorrel soup, a traditional spring tonic. This is what sorrel looks like in the garden.

Vicky from Thistlehair Farms had some good-looking sorrel on Saturday at Findlay, big half-pound bags for $2.75 each. A big pot of sorrel soup seemed like a great idea on a blustery spring day, so I bought a couple of bags.

Sorrel is one of the easier greens to clean. After washing it to remove any grit (sorrel always seems to have lots of grit, so don't skip this step), instead of having to trim off the vein completely you can just fold the leaf in half lengthwise (front to front), grasp the vein at the base, and pull to remove any woody strings. With these removed, sorrel will fall apart as it cooks, melting into the stock to provide a thick velvety green base that looks as if it's been pureed. (Sorrel is sometimes called 'green sauce' because of this unusual characteristic.)

Here's my cleaned sorrel, chopped. It's a beautiful bright green, which unfortunately doesn't survive cooking. Even a short cooking time turns it a not-so-pretty muddy dark green, which doesn't exactly sing to me of spring. Fortunately, the spring-fresh tangy taste does survive the cooking.

This recipe is an adaptation from one in Bert Greene's Greene on Greens book, one of my all-time favorite vegetable cookbooks. The addition of potatoes would seem to make this a not-truly-seasonal soup, but nearly every sorrel soup recipe I've found does contain potatoes which tends to suggest the combination is traditional. Perhaps if you have a good root cellar, in April you're still pulling out potatoes that are in good enough shape to cut off the bad parts and chop the rest for soup?

Serves 4

4 strips bacon, diced
3 leeks, cleaned and chopped fine
1 onion, chopped fine
3 cups chicken stock
1 pound boiling potatoes, peeled and diced fine
1 pound sorrel, cleaned and roughly chopped
salt & pepper to taste
sour cream to taste

In a heavy pot (don't use cast iron, as the acidity of the sorrel will react with the iron and you'll end up with metallic-tasting soup), saute bacon until crisp. Add leeks and onions and saute over medium heat, scraping up brown bits from bottom of pan, 10 minutes. Add chicken stock and potatoes and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer 15 minutes. Add sorrel and continue to simmer another 15 - 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until potatoes are tender and sorrel has dissolved into the broth. Correct seasonings, ladle into bowls and top with a dollop of sour cream to serve. My son ate nearly three bowls, so I have to declare this one a winner.


Anonymous said...

Dang, I have to get up earlier. Not likely this Sat though as Scotty Anderson is playing at Jaspers on Friday. If your a music locavore this is as good as it gets, YouTube him.
Val can you eat sorrel raw?

valereee said...

Yes, sorrel is good in salads, too. You want the younger leaves, as the older ones aren't as tender and start to develop a very strong taste, but even the older ones are fine in a mixed salad.

Stephanie Appleton said...

Is it Sheep Sorrel? That can also be found in the wild. We gather it sometimes to add to salads. The soup sounds good though!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Valeree for Your Submission at the ''Grandma Best Recipes'' Blog Carnival...

Regards, Roger

Lily Secret said...

This looks really good - you've inspired me! I'm going to head down to the market in the morning and hopefully there will be sorrel available. I've never cooked with it before; besides I'm craving spring greens.

valereee said...

Stephanie, sheep sorrel is Rumex acetosella, which is a related plant to Garden sorrel.

lily secret, I did see some sorrel down there this morning at Nancy Ogg's booth and at Vicky Tewes'.

Anonymous said...

mmmm... I've loved sorrel ever since my CSA introduced me to it a couple years back. My favorite preparation is to make it into a soup with potato and egg, but I'm intrigued by eating it raw in a salad. Hopefully I'll be able to find some this weekend at the farmer's market!

k said...

greene on greens - i adore that book! another one of my favorites is uncommon fruits and vegetables: a commonsense guide by elizabeth schneider. have you read it?

valereee said...

Jen, I have seen recipes with an egg...was it a beaten egg stirred in, maybe? I can't remember.

k, no, I haven't read even heard of it, I don't think! And I love those big all-vegetable books -- one of my faves is the Victory Garden cookbook. I'll have to look for the Schneider book.

valereee said...

Thanks to Everything and Nothing, Stop the Ride, and Cincinnati Burgoo for the kind words!

Michelle said...

I made a sorrel pesto last summer. Amazing on fish. Sorrel, olive oil, garlic, s&p, I think that's all I put in. Really yummy. Soup sounds great too.

valereee said...

Michelle, I've heard of sorrel pesto! I've been wanting to give that a try -- I thought maybe I'd make some next time I got some nice sorrel.

Sachàma said...

Friends of ours served sorrel soup - it was the best soup I'd had all year (well ... next to my pear and morel soup ;)

Thank you for this recipe! I will be growing this wonderful plant in my garden for 2010.

Anonymous said...

Blogger: Cincinnati Locavore - Post a Comment