żurek – a white barszcz

This is an Easter soup.

I didn’t realize when I started this blog that I would have so many soup recipes, although I am not surprised because Polish food is so much soup. A meal is not complete without a soup. Even in the summer. I have a secret dream of opening a soup shop somewhere, maybe here in Chicago, called ZUPA, and we just serve soups. It won’t even be just Polish but French and Italian, all soups welcome. And we’ll have really good bread and coffee. Would you go to a place like that?

This soup, like barszcz in general, needs to be prepared in advance, you need to know you will be making it because you need to make your sour starter. But the good news is you can buy it ready made in a jar from Eastern European stores, so check it out. This time we are using rye. We are making a fermented rye juice. There are different ways to make it, here is my way.

żur zakwas (fermented rye liquid)

1/2 liter warm water (2 cups)

60 g rye flour (1/2 cup)


4 garlic cloves

2 bay leaves

a small pieces of stale naturally leavened bread (optional but helps it turn sour faster)

liter jar

– Stir everything together in a very clean jar with a clean spoon. If you don’t have a piece of stale bread that is ok, it might just take longer. Cover the jar with a paper towel or cheese cloth with a rubber band. Let it sit for 4-8 days. Stir it around the first two days and then check it to make sure it is not getting too sour because you don’t want it to grow mold. Keep it in a bowl in case in bubbles up. If it turns sour enough you can always put it in the fridge before you use it for soup. But sour is good, that is what makes this soup good! Longer is better is you like it to be very sour so give yourself time to have some wiggle room.

Żurek – a white barszcz

2 carrots, peeled and diced

1 parsnip, peeled

1/4 celery root, peeled

4 peppercorns

2 bay leaves

a couple of dried mushrooms if you have them

1 tbsp butter or ghee

3 white sausages (like Polish or German bratwurst)

1/4 pound thick slab bacon, diced

1 small onion, peeled and diced

2 tbsp dried marjoram

1 tbsp horseradish from a jar, less if you can get fresh

4 garlic cloves crushed and minced

1/2 liter żur zakwas

4 hard boiled eggs

salt and pepper

sour cream (optional)

– First make a base broth. In a large pot add the carrots, parsnip, celery root, peppercorns, bay leaves, dried mushrooms and one sausage. Cover with 2 liters of water. Bring it to a boil and then simmer for 30 minutes.

– In the meantime you will sauté the other sausages. If they are really fresh, cook it with a lid on a low heat so it cooks through all the way and then slice it after it has cooled. If it is pre-cooked or you can easily slice it, sauté with butter or ghee in small circles on a skillet. Set it aside.

– On the same skillet or cleaned if that one is dirty, sauté the bacon for about 5 minutes on a medium heat until just a little crispy. Add the onion and sauté for another 5-8 minutes. Set aside.

– Once the broth is ready, remove the parsnip, celery root, mushrooms, bay leaves and peppercorns if you can with tongs. Otherwise strain it into a different pot. But you want to keep the carrots! (At least I do). Take out the sausage and slice it up. Add that sausage plus the sautéd ones and bacon and onions. Stir well.

– Strain the zakwas and add it into the soup and cook for about 3-5 minutes to break down any flour. Add the marjoram, horseradish and garlic and cook another 3-5 minutes on low. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

– Serve the soup with slices of hard boiled eggs. enjoy! You can also add a bit of sour cream.


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