Polish sour rye soup - zurek...

I come from Silesia region, which is a region in the south part of Poland. Zurek is one (if not the) most famous soup there and one that is made frequently. I remember when I was only few years old I used to go to the next block of flats, to a rather old lady and buy the starter for zurek from her. My Dad used to make zurek every Friday. Now you can buy the sour rye starter in Polish shops but it's very easy to make one at home. Not to mention the shop bought ones aren't really very good. The shop bought ones will have an unwelcoming addition of vinegar to make them acidic - rather than natural yeast. It will be also watered down so the starter won't be so strong and your soup won't have the desired taste.

"In Poland it is sometimes served in an edible bowl made of bread or with boiled potatoes. The recipe varies from region to region. In Silesia, a type of sour rye soup known as żur śląski is served in a bowl, poured over mashed potatoes. In the Podlasie region, it is common to eat żurek with halved hard-boiled eggs. In Poland żurek is traditionally eaten at Easter, but is also popular during other parts of the year. It is usually served with bread or buns, and sometimes flavored with bits of sausage." - by mycitycuisine.org

How to make it...
Soup starter:
- 1 part or rye flour (I used organic rye flour from Ballybrado)
- 3 parts of tepid (boiled) water
- 2 cloves of garlic, whole
- 1 teaspoon of sourdough bread starter or 1/2 sourdough bread slice, with crust on
- 1 kg of pig's breast bone or ribs or chicken
- few slices of panchetta or salami or smoked streaky bacon, cut into small pieces
- 1,5 - 2 l water
- carrot, sliced
- parsnip, sliced
- onion, cut in half
- 2 all spice berries
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 clove of garlic, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon dry marjoram

Take a clay dish/big jar and mix all your ingredients for the soup starter and leave in the kitchen, covered with tea towel for at least 2 days. On the third day check the starter - it should have acidic, yeasty smell and taste. It will be separated: on the top you'll have very liquid, see through starter and the flour mix will lay on the bottom of your jar.
Don't make it in a tall and slim jar as it may raise too much and 'boil' over. Also if your kitchen is very warm it may take shorter time to develop. If you're using bread instead of the bread starter it will take longer, I would wait 3 days not 2.

Pour your water into a big pot and add all the meat, veges and salt and pepper. Simmer your soup base until the meat falls off the bone and you have a nice and strong stock. Strain your stock so you're left only with the liquid. Now it's time to add your starter - if you want your soup to be 'runny' add only the liquid part of your starter, if you prefer your soup a little thicker mix your starter well and add all of it to the soup (we prefer it thick).  Now add your bay leaves, all spice berries, marjoram, garlic and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes. You can put back your carrots if you like too.
Traditionally we serve zurek with boiled potatoes and hard boiled egg, an addition of a white sausage is always welcome too.

P.S. You can make your soup on a shop bought chicken or beef stock too, but it won't be as good as on a home made (pork based) one.


You may also like:

Starter for the sourdough bread