Hot and sour soup! Is it Asian food? Nope. Asian cuisine is not the only one to take advantage of the awesome combination of sweet and sour. There is another locale that values the combo of sweet and sour, and it’s Eastern Europe. Just thinking about a bowl of sour, sweet, meaty soup makes my mouth water, it just hits you in all the right places. My mind often wonders what the mushroom picking Russians in the Twin Cities are making with all of their honeys and slippery jacks, so this is a recipe I came up with in their honor.
Eastern Europe’s love for slippery jacks is well documented, see another post on that here. Another one of their favorites, and a slightly superior mushroom in my eyes is the honey mushroom, or as they call it “pidpenky”. There are a bunch of different varieties, but you can narrow it down to two different types if you see which tree they are growing on/near.
If they are growing on a deciduous tree they will be a particular set of species, growing on or around a conifer will mean they’re another, and will usually lack a ring around the stem. I won’t even try to classify or act like I know all the varieties of honey mushrooms out there because I don’t. Lets just say that finding the tree they are infecting is not that difficult, these things can be the scourge of a forest, and look like an infection. I know a couple of local hunting patches that are severely infected with honey mushrooms.
Some people in the mycological societies poo poo honeys, or ban them from potlucks, and that’s understandable since some people might be allergic to them. Its true too that they are not as easy to identify as a chicken of the woods, or a morel for that matter. Either way, I have eaten every species of honey mushroom I have ever picked, and I have loved everyone. Just make sure to cook them thoroughly.
Back to the soup, I made a small test batch just to test the seasoning for you. I ate the whole thing in 2 sittings, its simple, cheap, and is a great way to stretch a small amount of meat, such as that old venison roast that has been sitting in your fridge that your hunter friend gave you a while back.
A little curious note on the honey mushrooms is needed before I run through the recipe here. Honeys have some quirks to them, nothing serious, but definitely stuff you need to know before you make a soup with them, or cook them for anyone else, for that matter.
- Firstly, for safety’s sake, cook your honey mushrooms for at least 15 minutes, even slightly undercooked honey mushooms could cause gastro intestinal distress, trust me, it sucks, but not as bad as undercooked leccinums, that’s for sure!
- Secondly, the curious part. Honey mushrooms need to be caramelized on high heat before being simmered in a soup. With the lack of honey mushroom soup recipes on the internet, i’m guessing people may have tried it, been confused and or disgusted, and thrown away what they have made. You see honey mushrooms exude a viscous mucilage when cooked from raw in liquid, it is exactly the same phenomena as when I talked about my method of cooking the slightly more complex amanita muscaria here.
If you put honey mushrooms in your soup without cooking them in oil or with dry heat beforehand, your soup will have the texture of snot, or overcooked okra, since the compound mucilage (what makes them slimy) is present in okra as well. I have found old Russian recipes in two of my old books that call for pidpenky. In the Russian soup recipes, they called for them to be boiled first, the water discarded, and then placed into the soup. My method here bypasses that by caramelizing the mushrooms in oil first, which will counter act the mucilage, as well as preserve the flavor they will add to the soup, though you could do it either way.
Sweet and Sour Venison Soup with Honey Mushrooms
Serves 2, you will get about 2 qts from this recipe
Prep Time: 30 minutes to clean mushrooms, dice meat, chop cabbage and a couple vegetables.
Cook Time: 2 hours
- 1.5 lbs venison, such as top round or a roast, diced into 1/2 inch squares
- 1 lb green cabbage. (you could use napa or savoy cabbage, if you do, increase the volume by 50%-it cooks down to near nothing.)
- 2/3 cup grapeseed or canola oil, for browning the venison
- 3 cloves garlic, sliced
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 cup diced white onion
- 7 cups water or meat stock (I was in a pinch and used water, and that’s fine if you’re pressed for time, the venison meat adds flavor in itself)
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, you could also substitute champagne, or just plain white
- 3 tbsp sugar or honey
- Bouquet garni consisting of:
- 1 crushed juniper berry 1 dried bay leaf, 10 peppercorns, 2 allspice berries, 3 cloves
- 1 lb fresh honey mushrooms, trimmed of their stems, leaving about 1/2 inch remaining below the cap
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- Fresh herb of your choice for garnishing such as chives or fresh dill
- Get a 6 qt stock or pasta pot, begin by heating the pan with half of the oil, when the oil begins to smoke lightly, add the venison, season with salt and pepper, and cook on high heat until nicely brown and colored, working in small batches if necessary. (If it gets smokey in your kitchen, open the window.) Remove all of the venison from the pot so you can pour out the oil, (it is most likely scorched and burnt after all that browning and will make your soup greasy), although the bottom of the pot better not be scorched, since thats where much of your flavor is going to come from for the soup.
- Add the onion and garlic to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally until its translucent, then add the water or stock, cabbage, venison, bouquet garni, and bring to a simmer.
- while the soup is heating, heat a large 10 saute pan with the remaining 1/3 cup of oil and brown the honey mushrooms on high heat, working in batches so that you don’t over crowd the pan. Just for the sake of clarity, if the mushrooms are not caramelized and browned, they could still release their mucilage into your soup, so cookem on high and give them some nice color. When all the mushrooms have been browned nicely, drain them on a towel to remove oil, then add them to the soup pot.
- Cook the soup for 1.5 hours. After that, the meat should be tender and soft. Finish the soup by adjusting the salt and pepper to taste, add the sugar and vinegar as well.Serve garnished with some chives or chopped dill, parsley would be just fine too.
- This is just a basic soup, adding cooked barley, millet, or rice would be great additions. To add a grain, add 1 cup cooked grain of your choice at the end of cooking, or 1/2 cup raw when starting to cook the soup. To keep the broth clear and preserve the texture of grains, I like to add them precooked at the end of cooking, your choice though.
- If you want you could add the honey mushroom stems to the soup as well, I’m a fiend for the caps though, so I used only them since I had a great excess.