Żurek (pronounced as “zhoorrek”) is soup , with a typical polish taste. It is made from fermented rye flour, similar to the one which is a base for baking bread. It can also contain various meats, like pork, Polish sausage, bacon, etc., along with potatoes, vegetables and mushrooms.
It is known all over Poland, but each region has its own modifications. In Silesia, it is served with white sausage. Other versions can be served with bacon, potatoes, and hard boiled eggs, and seasoned with a little bit of horseradish. Sometimes it is served in a bread-bowl. In southern Poland, it is prepared for Christmas Eve, and they call it “Żur”. This version is very thick, and sour, with a lot of wild mushrooms. Traditionally, it should be eaten from one large bowl. There is also a variation made from fermented wheat flour, with a more delicate taste. This version is sometimes called “white borsch”, but there are some who would argue about that name. We would say that every family has its own customs about żurek!
In some villages, there is a funny Easter tradition concerning a “żur and herring funeral”. A meatless żurek , along with herring, were common meals eaten during Lent, but were not enjoyed by all. When Lent was over, on Good Friday evening or Great Saturday morning, young people organized a pageant, with songs and short playful poems, as a symbolic goodbye and revenge to the obnoxious dishes. The herring was usually hanged on a tree, and the pot of żurek was buried in the ground.
The Zurek recipe is very easy, you just need to prepare the base “zakwas” a few days before (or it is possible to buy it in Polish shops).
How to make the base for żurek?
You will need:
-about 1 cup of rye flour
– 1 cup of boiling water
– 2-3 cups of warm water
– bread crust (the best would be rye bread)
– few grains of allspice
– optionally 1-2 cloves of garlic
Mix the flour with the boiling water until there are no lumps. Then set it aside to cool. Add bread crust (it should sink completely), garlic, and remaining water. Put the mixture in a jar or clay pot covered with gauze or a delicate piece of cloth. Let the mixture sit for 3 days at room temperature. (each day mix the ingredients delicately). After that time it should be ready to use. As the flour ferments, there will be some lactic acid bacteria and wild yeast. There is also a very special (?) aroma.. You can use it immediately or put it in the fridge (it can be stored for about 2 weeks).
Now you are ready for the classic żurek recipe:
– Zakwas (żurek base) – about 0,5 l
– Soup vegetables
– Sausages and smoked bacon
– Dried mushrooms (optional)
– Garlic (3-4 cloves)
– 2 laurel leaves
– 5-6 grains of allspice
– Salt and pepper
– Hard-boiled eggs
Prepare the vegetables (wash, peel and cut into smaller pieces). Bring them to boil with about 3-4 cups of water. Reduce a heat and simmer for about 30 minutes. Add sausage or bacon and mushrooms, return to the boil, reduce heat and cook another 30 minutes. Remove sausage from soup, slice when cool enough to handle, and set aside. Strain stock through a sieve, pressing on the vegetables to extract as much flavor as possible. Return the stock to the soup pot. Add “zakwas” to the stock (the clear part from the top and 2-3 spoons of the thick flour from the bottom). Bring to a boil, add sliced sausage pressed garlic and other spices. in heated bowls with half a hard-cooked egg in each serving and rye bread on the side.