There are many variations of Aalsuppe, some of them even contain eel! Not as far-fetched as it sounds, the name, "Aalsuppe" came from Low German or "Plattdeutsch" "allens rinkümmt or "alles hineinkommt," and meant everything in the kitchen should go in it, a leftovers soup, if you will. Now Hamburg even has rules regarding the ingredients, specifically eel, in this soup, so that no visitor is disappointed by its absence.
Hamburger Aalsuppe is a sweet-sour soup with dried plums and apple pieces. Ham broth is made using a ham bone as well as fresh (sometimes smoked) eel. This recipe is adapted from one from 1879.
- 1 pound pears
- 6 to 8 ounces dried plums
- 4 to 5 ounces dried apple rings
- 1/2 celeriac root (or regular celery)
- 8 ounces carrots
- 1 leek
- Optional: 1 small parsnip
- 1 ham bone (usually from a Katenschinken with some meat still attached)
- Optional: leftover rind ("die Schwarte") from the ham
- 8 ounces peas (fresh or frozen)
- 1 bunch savory
- 1 bunch parsley
- 1 bunch dill
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon flour
- Salt to taste
- Pepper to taste
- Nutmeg to taste
- 1 pound prepared eel
- 3/4 cups white wine (dry)
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon vinegar
- 1 bay leaf
- Garnish: parsley
Prepare the Fruit Ahead of Time
Peel the pears, quarter and remove the core. Poach them in lightly sugared water for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the liquid and let cool. Serve them cold, with the soup.
Cover the dried fruit, most often prunes and apples but can also contain pears or apricot pieces, with hot water to soften.
Start the Soup About 2 Hours Before Eating
Clean and dice the celery, parsnip, and carrots.
Place the ham bone in a large pot and cover with 3 quarts of water. Bring to a boil, lower the temperature and simmer. Add the ham rind, the herbs (lay them on top, to be removed later) and the peel from the celery, parsnip, and carrots.
Cover the pot and simmer for an hour or so.
Remove the fat from the broth, remove the bone and sieve the broth. Discard the solids.
Take the rest of the meat off the bone and cut it into small pieces. Add the meat back into the broth. Add the celery (celeriac), carrot, parsnip, and peas and simmer for 30 minutes.
Add the dried fruit with its soaking water to the strained broth.
Mix 1 tablespoon of soft butter with 1 tablespoon of flour to form a ball or clump. Stir it into the soup to thicken the broth. Let the soup boil for 3 minutes so the flour loses the raw taste it sometimes has. Add freshly ground nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.
Taste and season the broth with sugar and vinegar to give the soup a sweet and sour note ("süß-sauer abschmecken"). Start with a couple teaspoons of sugar, a tablespoon of vinegar and go from there.
Prepare the Eel Before the Soup Is Done
While the soup is simmering the second time (after you add the diced vegetables), take the cleaned eel and cut into 1 1/2 to 2 inch chunks. You may buy filets in the store, filet the fish yourself, or cook the eel with the bones still in it.
Bring 1 quart of water and the wine to a boil and reduce heat. Add the bay leaf, salt and a tablespoon of sugar to the pot.
Add the eel and simmer for about 20 minutes (fewer if you have fillets).
Remove the eel and take the meat from the bones. Discard the bones and the cooking liquid.
Add the eel to the ham broth.
Some people love to add flour dumplings to the soup. These dumplings are cooked separately in salted water, then added to the soup just before serving.
Garnish with chopped parsley. Serve the soup with a baguette or other crusty bread.
- Use smoked eel, no need to cook beforehand. You can buy smoked fish from fishmongers in Germany or try some smoked salmon or halibut. A high-fat fish is preferred.
- Some people thicken the soup as described here, others like the broth see-through.
- Add some garden sorrel ("Sauerampfer" - large leafy greens with a sour note) cut into ribbons at the end for a green treat. You might be inclined to add chard or other, leafy green if you do not have sorrel.
- If you do not like fish or eel, leave it out. The soup then becomes "Verlorene Aalsuppe," or lost eel soup. It tastes good this way, too.
- This soup is rather polarizing. either you love it or you don't. Whoever asks for a second bowlful is stuck on it.