Actorboy and I took a trip to Poland a few months ago. The trip was planned to research our geneology and put together the missing pieces of our heritage. Actorboy's motivation was also to create a piece of art that could be shown on stage. This is an ongoing project and is currently being written. We travelled with a videographer who literally filmed everything. Thankfully, our videographer also speaks fluent Polish and was able to be our voice as well as interpreter.
One of my goals while in Poland was, of course, to make sure that I sampled as much authentic Polish food as possible. One evening as we travelled from one city to the other, we stopped at a hotel restaurant. Katka (the videographer) suggested that I try Zurek; a fermented rye meal soup. I'd never eaten fermented soup before and although it sounded a little strange to me, I did want to know that I'd eaten it and understood what it was.
Every region in Poland seems to have its own version of this soup, some vegetarian but most made with a combination of a base broth infused with bacon, sausages, kielbasa, potatoes or derivitives of these combination completed with a rye starter much like sourdough and often served in a bread bowl. At first spoonful, you definitely taste the sourness of the soup (in a good way) and it's very addictive.
The starter. I did my research and although the starter is readily available everywhere in Poland, finding it at home was another story. Thank heavens for you tube - you can find whatever you want on you tube.
For the starter:
1/2 cup rye flour
1 1/2 cup tepid water (boil first and cool to tepid)
3 cloves garlic (I mashed it with my chef's knife)
1 large bay leaf
3-4 black peppercorns
3-4 whole allspice
In a 1 liter mason jar, mix the rye flour with tepid water.
Add the remainder of the ingredients, give it a stir and cover with a piece of cheesecloth and fasten with a rubber band.
The starter should sit in the fridge for 5 days before preparing the soup.
As seems to often be the case for me, after I say I can't find something I end up somehow finding it and this was true with premade starter. I found some in a Polish store (imagine that) and now I have it for the next time.
1 1/2 - 2 liters vegetable broth
1 onion, peeled and halved
2 slice carrots
4 potatoes, medium dice
1 clove minced garlic
1 uncooked Polish sausage
1 length of kielbasa (I used a piece the length of a ruler, peeled and cubed)
4 boiled and peeled eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp marjoram
Add all the ingredients (except for the eggs) to the vegetable broth, bring to a boil, turn down and simmer until the meat is very tender - 40 min - 1 hr.
Take starter and mix it well and put through a strainer. Discard the onion, garlic, peppercorns and allspice
Add starter, bring soup back up to a boil. Turn back to medium and cook for another 10-15 minutes.
Serve with a halved boiled egg on the top.
I really enjoyed the soup although it wasn't as rich as the soup I had in Poland. But, like I said initially, each region has its own version of Zurek (pronounced jsurek). I also think that serving this soup in a bread bowl makes it even more delicious.