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Rich Jota Recipe - Jota Ricca - North Italian Sauerkraut and Bean Soup

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Rich Jota, or Jota Ricca: Though one might not associate sauerkraut with Italy, it's common in Friuli Venezia Giulia, and is central to one of Trieste's signature soups, Jota (pronounced yota.) The original version of the soup was extremely frugal, but as prosperity has increased in the region people have enriched it, and this is a tasty modern version.

Prep Time: 12 hours, 30 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 13 hours, 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • A tablespoon of rendered lard
  • A large clove of garlic, crushed and peeled
  • A chunk of smoked pork (rib, ear or tail)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 pound dried borlotti (cranberry beans), soaked for at least 6 hours in cold water and drained
  • A scant cup pearled barley, soaked in cold water for a couple of hours and drained
  • Another tablespoon rendered lard
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 2 cups sauerkraut

Preparation:

Put the first tablespoon of lard in a pot and sauté the garlic in it. As soon as it colors, add 2 quarts of water, the beans, the bay leaves and the pork; season to taste with salt and add the barley after 45 minutes. When the beans are done, sauté the flour in the second tablespoon of lard until golden; stir it into the soup, add the sauerkraut, and mix well. Cook at a barest simmer for 10-15 more minutes, then remove the pot from the fire and check seasoning, adding a grating of fresh pepper as well.

One can obtain a richer soup by cooking pork with the beans rather than the smoked pork listed above. For example a ham bone, some pork shoulder but, or a thick slice of pancetta. Another way to enrich it is to cook either luganeghe or home-made sausages with the sauerkraut, and add them with the cabbage. In any case, this is a soup that's better warm than steaming, and improves with age, being better a day or two after it's made.

If you instead would like to make it with potatoes, keep in mind that it should be served straight off, rather than be made a day ahead. To make white jota, replace the beans with diced potatoes, and the bay leaves with a few celery leaves; add the cabbage immediately and simmer everything together 20-25 minutes, then check seasoning and give it a healthy grating of black pepper.

To make jota with potatoes, reduce the cabbage and barley by half (full ration beans) and stir in two diced potatoes when you add the sautéed flour mixture.

A wine? Ribolla Gialla, a Friulian white, goes quite well.

Yield: 4-6 servings rich Jota soup.

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