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Milk Street Recipe

Romanian Pork and White Bean Soup with Vinegar and Caraway (Ciorba de Porc)

2¾ hours Plus soaking time for the beans

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Romanian Pork and White Bean Soup with Vinegar and Caraway (Ciorba de Porc)

This soup, called ciorbă de porc, was inspired by a recipe from “Carpathia: Food from the Heart of Romania” by Friend of Milk Street, Irina Georgescu. It’s a hearty, subtly smoky potful of pork and beans in a tomatoey broth scented with caraway and finished with fresh dill. A staple on Romanian table, ciorbă might feature beef, pork, sausage, meatballs or even just vegetables. Beans and smoked meat are a common pairing, and we’ve included that in our version. No matter the headlining ingredient, the defining characteristic of ciorbă is a distinct tanginess that comes from the addition of a souring agent. We use white wine vinegar, but according to Georgescu, other options include pickle brine, sauerkraut liquid, even the juice of sour plums. Quick-pickled red onion garnishes individual bowlfuls of this ciorbă, adding a sharp, punchy flourish. Make the pickles while the soup simmers so the onion has time to steep in the vinegar mixture.

4 to 6

Servings

Tip

Don’t forget to soak the beans, as directed in the first step of the recipe, for at least 12 hours before you plan to begin cooking. Soaking the beans in water that is salted tenderizes them as wells as seasons them throughout.

2¾ hours

Plus soaking time for the beans

Reviews
Timothy D.
August 20, 2022
Good!
I wish I had read reviews before I cooked it, would have probably done it differently than what I did. I am pretty experienced in BBQ, so I smoked the ribs, and added them at the end. It was really good. I didn’t have caraway seed, but it was still good.
Jennifer B.
July 5, 2022
Acquired taste
This was ok, by the end, the vinegar and the dill made the dish. It's tasty all right, but somethings just off visually. Am not sure i needed ribs, maybe chopped pork chops or even smoked sausage would have been a better choice. Not bad, but just not a winner.
Debbie A.

I don't know about this one. I had hoped to find reviews of those who had made the recipe. Not sure I want to invest in this one.

Nina R.

Well, I made this. I was intrigued by the caraway and the meats, but this is really just a white bean soup. It's not especially tasty. Given the price of ribs these days, I regret making it. I also didn't get
Much meat from the ribs and ham hocks, though the broth was tasty. The skin of my white beans never fully softened, I used Goya brand, and I've had this issue before with Great Northern Beans. It really effects my ability to enjoy the soup.

It makes a HuGE amount of soup, So when they say large pot, they aren't kidding. I had to switch over from my "large pot" to my "LARGE pot"!

Tatiana R.

I didn't use any caraway seeds because I didn't have/buy any, but I think the dill has a similar flavor profile and so using a bit more of it made up for the lack of the caraway seed flavor. I want to make it again with the caraway seeds and different pork cuts. I'd probably still use the ham hock because its smoky flavor seems like something without which the dish just wouldn't be the same. I just find it annoying to have to remove the bones and to have to deal with the fat/cartilage (being from Russia, I should be a fan, but I'm just not - my mom probably would have loved those bits in the soup, so I should make it for her). I definitely plan to make it again sometime - it's a significant amount, and my husband and I ate it for several days. Our 11-year-old son ate it, too, and didn't complain about the pork bits, which is amazing.

Tatiana R.

Oh, regarding the beans, I didn't use the dry kind. I got them canned and simply added them later in the cooking process. Worked great.

Luann D.

This is a delicious recipe, and like the others have said it probably makes more like 6-8 servings. Just pitching in to say that I also made this recipe using dry beans, soaked them for 24 hours, and still it took three hours of simmering before the beans became soft enough to serve. The pickled onions are a great touch and the dill adds wonderful flavor. Would definitely recommend this recipe.

Mark D.

Tasty recipe. I really enjoyed the pickled red onions at the finish & highly recommend not forgetting its use. With grocery prices strangling my wallet I opted for boneless country ribs (1#) in p!ace of the baby backs. Seasoned with salt & pepper before throwing it in the pot.

Michael M C.

I’d agree with the majority of comments. Soup was okay but not great. We’ll finish it but I don’t think I’ll make it again. I will note that my grocery didn’t have smoked ham hock so I substituted four strips of thick cut bacon.

Jonathan M.

I made this with a few modifications and liked it as a change of pace, could be great with a little more tweaking I think. Definitely needs some crusty bread.
Modifications:
Canned beans
I used half as much chicken broth and added an extra tsp of better than bullion
Couldn't find baby back ribs so I used "boneless country ribs" Not a perfect sub, but it worked out. Seared them in a pan then deglazed it with chicken broth.
Added one thinly sliced leftover italian sausage link (my brand it only mildly fennel-y)
Added 6 oz of Berliner weiss - sounded similar to the lacto fermented Bors mentioned in the article. I think a more sour beer like a geuze or Petrus Aged Pale could work really well.
Added vinegar to taste since the Berliner didn't contribute enough acidity, a little less than the recipe called for.

I used a ham hock, but next time I would try using some smoked pork neck bones. I think that some sliced chunks of dry chorizo or smoked andouie would work decently well in this.

Mary S.

I used this recipe as an inspiration source following quantities but making adjustment as to cooking method.

I opted to use a slow cooker, layering a can of beans ( rinsed) on the bottom. Topped this with sautéed onions, celery, carrots ( chopped and sauteed on top of the stove) about 5 min. Then added some chopped garlic and baby Bella mushrooms ( quartered) and cooked 2 more minutes. Topped the beans with this mixture. Instead of ham hock I used a hunk of left over pork shoulder that I nestled in the center of the crock pot mixture. Surrounded it with left over baby backs ribs ( about 8) and slices of ( leftover) Smokey kielbasa ( in lieu of chorizo). Sprinkled dried dill ( all I had in the middle of an ice storm) and caraway seed and added crushed tomatoes then broth which covered the veggies and meat. Cooked on high 2.5 hours then added vinegar. Would make again as the flavor was very tasty. I would use fresh dill , double the beans ( 2 cans) and reduce broth from 4 cups to 2 and if time allowed cook on low for 4 -5 hours vs high for almost 3. Really liked the flavor- what sounded like a “heavy” soup in the recipe was actually like and lent itself to using different meats
Putting my leftovers to a tasty use made it a plus in my book! Be more adjustment- threw in a Parmesan rind which ever do slightly thickened the soup


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