Kinda-sorta Russian Soup November 15, 2010 16:00

[caption id="attachment_265" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="Pickle soup"][/caption]

I love dill pickles! Not the type of pickles from the grocery store that are pickled in vinegar, but the traditional lacto-fermented pickles made with cucumbers and salt. Lacto-fermentation is a way of preserving foods that relies on lactic acid, a naturally occurring preservative that is produced by lactobacilli. Lactobacilli are live bacteria that exist on the surface of every living thing. You create a brine of water and salt, which preserves the food long enough for the lactobacilli to catch up and produce lactic acid, which then preserves the food for the long-term. In addition to being preserved, the food is live, meaning that the healthy bacteria are still thriving in the finished food product and are available to your body. Live beneficial probiotic bacteria  help strengthen immune system function, aid in detoxification, and regulate digestion...food as medicine makes me happy (especially when it's so tasty!). I usually make 2 or 3 gallons of these pickles each summer to last us through the dark days of the winter season. After we finish eating the pickles we are left with about 1/2 a gallon of this delicious tangy, lightly salted pickle juice, that still contains lots of  the probiotic bacteria. It's truly too good to be wasted, so yesterday I made a soup from it. This soup is loosely based on a Russian soup called Rasolnik.  As usual, the amounts of the ingredients are approximate and vary from batch to batch depending on what I have on hand. Rasolnik 2 tablespoons of olive oil 2 large onions, diced 4 carrots, diced 2 potatoes, diced 6 cloves of garlic, crushed (I used the garlic from the pickles, which is a little milder than fresh) 1/2 cup of barley 8 cups of broth (veggie, chicken or beef) a big handful of nettles (or spinach, chard or kale) 2 large pickles, diced 2 to 3 cups of pickle brine dill, paprika, black pepper to taste yogurt Sáute the onions until soft. add the carrots, potatoes and garlic, sáute for another couple of minutes until aromatic. Add the barley and broth. Simmer covered for about 45 minutes until the barley is cooked. Add the greens and pickles and let simmer for another few minutes until they are wilted. Take the soup off the heat and add the pickle brine. Start with 2 cups and taste it. The amount varies according to how sour your brine is.  Season the soup with the dill, paprika and pepper. Serve it with a dollop of yogurt. Enjoy!!