All hail winter stews! Here are jota and segedin, two of my favourites.
Back when I was younger, I never really appreciated traditional Slovenian winter stews as much as I do today. Although I always ate pretty much everything without complaining, they just weren’t something I looked forward to. Fast forward a couple of years abroad and a bit of cold in my not-teenage-anymore bones and I’ve become obsessed with soups and stews of all kinds. So, sometimes, in between curries and cream soups, I also find the time for Slovenian traditional dishes.
I’m currently stuck in a bit of a hearty, farmers’ food phase and I’ve always loved sour stuff, which is why I’ve decided to introduce you to jota and segedin. However, I still don’t like ričet, another type of Slovenian stew made with barley that my grandparents love. Both jota and segedin are Slovenian winter stews based on sauerkraut and sour turnip, but neither of them taste sour in the end (well, segedin is a little bit sour, but jota is not), so they might convince you to give sour stuff another try if you’re on the fence about it. Also, they take a while to make and the longer you cook them, the better they are (they’re usually even better the next day). 🙂
Naturally I chose to improvise a bit with each while making them, but both turned out so great that I’ve decided to share my version instead of linking to a generic online recipe. Every good housewife is supposed to have their own recipe of traditional dishes, right? And yes, I always feel very homestead-ish and -y when cooking traditional dishes, without the internalised misogyny of course.
Jota is a type of thick stew, usually eaten during the colder months or served in mountain huts. As with all traditional foods, the recipes for jota greatly vary from region to region, but it usually consists of the following: beans, sour turnip or sauerkraut or both, some kind of meat (usually smoked pork ribs, sausages and/or bacon) and quite often potatoes as well. All of them are valid of course, but throughout my life jota has been a dish made with sour turnip and I didn’t even realise it could be made with sauerkraut until recently, as that’s the one I’d been fed. So, when I think of jota, I think of the one with sour turnip, beans and spare ribs and that’s the recipe I’m sharing with you today. I could’ve also added potatoes, but I chose not to.
P.S.: Jota should not be confused with another Slovenian dish, bujta repa. Bujta repa is a very similar stew with pork and sour turnip, but there are millet groats (prosena kaša) in it instead of the beans and potatoes. It’s also less popular, because it used to be made with all the excess parts (pig skin, head and bones) following pig slaughter season.
- 1kg (2.2. lbs) of sour turnip
- 450 g (2 cups) of dry brown beans
- 500 – 600 g (1.2-1.3 lb) smoked pork ribs
- 10 cloves of garlic
- 4 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon of cumin
- 1 teaspoon of nutmeg
- 2 tablespoons of flour (optional)
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil
For 4 – 6 people
Prep time: 30 minutes altogether
Cooking time: 2-3 hours
Leave the dry beans to soak in water overnight.
Preheat the oven to 180°C, cook the beans in salted water on low heat and drain them when they’re decently soft, but not overcooked (usually takes about 30-40 minutes). Put the smoked pork ribs on a tray to roast in the oven with 2 tablespoons of olive oil for at least 1 hour.
After the beans and the ribs are done, peel and chop the garlic cloves. Put them in a large pot with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and cook until they turn soft. Wash your sour turnip and add it in the pot with all the spices (salt, pepper, bay leaves, beans, cumin, nutmeg and bay leaves). Add the beans and diced pork ribs – be sure to add the bones as well. Finally, add enough water to cover everything and leave it to simmer for at least 1 hour (the longer the better), adding water as needed.
You should get a thick, rich stew when all the flavours connect and you can stir in 1-2 tablespoons of flour 10 minutes before you’re done cooking it if you want too make it thicker and creamier. Serve with some black pepper on top and enjoy!
P.S.: You can also cook the beans directly in the stew, but boiling them separately reduces bean-related digestion issues. Similarly, you could just add the smoked pork ribs without roasting them in the oven first to make the process faster.
Segedin is another Slovenian favourite and it’s essentially pork and sauerkraut goulash. Much like with jota, there are tons of different segedin recipes out there, but most of them agree on the following: sauerkraut, pork meat, tomato sauce and sweet red paprika spice. Segedin is usually served with pieces of boiled potatoes and you might occasionally see it with sausages as well. Well, for this recipe I broke with tradition quite a bit, because we already had pork sausages at home, but we didn’t have any pork, so I improvised and made a sausage version of segedin. Although it turned out really well, I’m also including the option for making it with pork meat in the “correct” way to get the whole experience. You can always add the sausage on the side and have both. 🙂
P.S.: Compared to jota, segedin is more watery and less thick. It’s also a bit more sour, although you can reduce the sourness by thoroughly washing your sauerkraut before cooking it.
- 1kg (2.2 lbs) sauerkraut (sour cabbage)
- 2 pairs of pork sausages (cca. 440 g – 0.8 lb) OR 700 g (1.5 lb) of pork meat
- 2 large yellow onions
- 6-8 potatoes
- 2 tablespoons of tomato sauce
- 2 bay leaves
- 10 juniper berries
- 2 tablespoons of sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon of cumin
- 1 teaspoon of nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
For 4 – 6 people
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 1.5 hour
Peel and chop the onions and put them in a pot with olive oil (also add diced pork meat if using). Cook until the onions turn glassy. Meanwhile, dice the sausages and wash your sauerkraut. Add both into the pot with all the spices (juniper berries, bay leaves, sweet paprika, cumin, nutmeg, salt and pepper) and tomato sauce. Add enough water to cover everything and leave it to simmer for at least 1 hour, adding water as needed.
While your segedin is cooking, peel and chop the potatoes and boil them in salted water. Serve segedin over boiled potatoes and enjoy!
Note: Like with all one-pot stews, it’s difficult to be exact how much these recipes make. My estimate is that these quantities are suited for about 4-6 people, depending on how hungry you are. It’s best to make a lot in one go and freeze it for later.
So, what do you think – would you give these two Slovenian winter stews a try? What’s your favourite winter stew?
P.S.: You can also use sauerkraut and sour turnip as a side dish if you want, like here.