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Posted on 12-23-2016
As we wrap up the remaining few days of the year, many of us are focusing on the things that really matter to us. Things like our family and our friends, causes we support, and the values of our very nation. We dig deep to our roots and dust off our holiday traditions. We honor our history through them; they carry our legacies.
My most treasured family tradition is a modest one - a traditional Italian Christmas Eve soup brought to this little corner of Baltimore by a pair of Italian immigrants fondly known as my grandparents. It’s called Baccala. Salt cured cod fish.
The age old saying goes, “There are 365 ways to cook Baccala”. Soup is only one and this particular variation is inspired by both traditional Baccala style soup like this variation and Maryland Crab Soup. We’re mixing things up a little this year and I’m incorporating my love and appreciation for the benefits of homemade bone broth to my soup.
My father has always said that this is meant to be a humble meal. So often, the best are. I find it nourishing to body, mind and soul and share it with you here.
Baccala Soup - Old School Baltimore Version
Serve Small, Serve All (attitude adopted from wife’s Irish Immigrant family)
48 hour prep time required
2-3 Tbsp of Olive Oil
1 Medium Onion
4 Stalks of Celery
1 Sm. Head of Cabbage
1 32 oz of Chopped Tomatoes (glass container is best)
1 Bag of Frozen Mixed Vegetables
1 Bag of Frozen Green Beans
Old Bay Seasoning to Taste
2 Bay Leaves
4 Large Red Potatoes
1 lb Baccala*
2 Cans of Black Olives (we always begged for more!)
48 hours Before Making Soup
Soak the cod fish. Start by rinsing all extra salt off of the cod. Then in a large container (I prefer to use glass) soak the cod, changing the water every 8 hours. I keep this in the fridge but this isn’t totally necessary during colder months.
Start with making a very basic vegetable soup. Chop the veggies as you prefer. Depending on my kids’ size I’m careful with the carrots. Saute the onion, celery and carrots, together. Add in chopped cabbage, chopped tomatoes, the frozen veggies, then add enough water to cover the veggies by several inches. Throw in your bay leaves and start with a teaspoon of Old Bay. Simmer gently, uncovered, until vegetables become tender.
Add Baccala cut up into small pieces, potatoes and the black olives. Mom would toss the juice from the olives right in there. I don’t do that, but feel free to throw in another can or two. Something magical happens to them in this soup. My siblings and I would always fight over the olives. At this point you bring it back to a simmer for about another 30 minutes.
Pro-tip: Baccala is always best the next day. So I’m making mine ahead of time this year. When we were serving the masses, my Dad would add broiled italian sausages with peppers and onions, a salad, and bread with butter (always use grass-fed) to the menu.
Love the addition of bone broth!
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