Lenten fare – Polish style
RYEMEAL SOUP, LENTEN (zur postny): This tart soup was the traditional Lenten staple in Old Poland. In crock or glass jar combine 1 c rye flour with 5 c warm pre-boiled water, beating with whisk until lump-free. Add 1-2 sliced buds garlic and (optional) a rye-bread crust. Cover mouth of container with cheese cloth fastened with rubber-band and let stand in warm (75°- 80°F) place 3 – 5 days, or until liquid becomes pleasantly tart. Taste it every day. To make your soup, combine 4-5 c vegetable stock (traditional or bouillon-cube-style) with about 1-2 c ryemeal sour. Start with 1 c sour and taste soup to see if you want it to be tarter before adding more. Bring to boil, simmer briefly and season with salt, pepper and marjoram. Thicken with 1 T flour dissolved in a little cold water, if desired. Variation: 1 – 2 rehydrated cooked bolete mushrooms (or other dried mushrooms) may be diced and added together with their liquid to pot. Note: ryemeal sour (Krakus, Vavel and other brands) imported from Poland is available in jars at Polish-American delis and specialty food shops.
RYEMEAL SOUP, EASY LENTEN (zur postny latwy): Break up 4-5 slices Polish rye bread with crusts trimmed away and soak in 6 c water overnight. Next day, heating to boiling, remove from heat and beat with whisk or egg-beater until smooth. Return to heat. Add 1 (11 gram or 1/3 oz.) mushroom bouillon cube (Winiary or Knorr brands) or equal amount of vegetable-bouillon cubes and bring to boil. Sour to taste with 3-4 pinches citric-acid crystals or 1-2 T vinegar and season with salt, pepper and marjoram.
HOME-MADE ALMOST INSTANT GARLIC SOUP (zupa postna „na gwozdziu”): Mince 2-3 buds garlic very find and mash with flat of knife on board with 1/4 t salt. Place garlic paste in soup bowl, drench with 1-1/2 to 2 c boiling water or vegetable stock. Eat with rye bread on the side or rye-bread croutons fried in oil and added to the soup.
BREAD & WATER SOUP (zupa chlebowa na wodzie): For each serving cut 1 – 2 slices rye bread into cubes and fry in 1 T oil to a nice golden-brown on all sides. Salt & pepper hot croutons, place in soup bowl and scald with 1-1/2 to 2 c hot vegetable stock or simply boiling water. May be served with boiled potatoes (garnished with oil-fried chopped onions) on the side.
BEER SOUP, LENTEN (postna polewka piwna): In pot place 1-1/2 c rye or wholewheat bread (or some of each) with crust removed and crumbled or torn into small pieces. Add 4 c, 1 c water, 3 T margarine, 1/4 t salt, 1 t sugar and 1/2 t crushed caraway. Bring to boil and simmer 2 – 3 min. Beat with egg-beater until smooth. Bring to boil again. Serve over cubed farmer cheese or dry cottage cheese and or stale rye-bread cubes or oil or butter-fried rye bread croutons.
BUTTERMILK & POTATOES (maolanka z kartoflami): Cold or room-temp buttermilk, sour milk or kefir (a kind of liquid yogurt) are often served in a bowl and eaten with a spoon like a Lenten soup with a dish of boiled potatoes on the side. The potatoes may be garnished with a little chopped dill and/or butter or margarine, but no pork cracklings, bacon bits or meat drippings of any kind!
HERRING (sledzie): Marinated herring may be served just as they come from the jar For herring in oil, drain marinated herring, discard onions and spices and plunge briefly into cold water. Drain well in colander. Cut herring into 1-2″ pieces and place in jar, alternating with layers of thinly sliced onion. Drench with oil to cover and refrigerate at least 1 day before serving. Serve with rye bread or boiled potatoes. In the olden days creamed herring would not be served for Lent.
FRIED FISH (ryba smazona): Rinse and dry 2-1/4 lbs very fresh fish fillets of choice, salt, sprinkle with lemon juice and refrigerate covered several hrs. Drain, season with pepper, roll in 50-50 mixture of bread crumbs and flour and fry in hot oil to a nice golden brown on both sides. Drain on absorbent paper and serve with plain boiled potatoes and sauerkraut salad (below).
SAUERKRAUT SALAD (salatka z kiszonej kapusty): Drain and squeeze dry 2 – 3 c sauerkraut. Taste a bit. If it’s extremely sour, rinse briefly under cold running water in colander and squeeze dry. Chop coarsely and transfer to salad bowl. Add 1 chopped onion, 1 peeled, diced cooking apple and 1 coarsely grated carrot. Season with pepper and 1/4 – 1/2 t caraway seeds. Toss to mix ingredients and lace with 3 T or so salad oil.
STUFFED CABBAGE ROLLS, LENTEN (golbki postne): Peel, cook and mash well 3/4 lb potatoes and set aside. Grate 2-1/4 lbs peeled, raw potatoes into sieve, catching the liquid that drips out. When liquid settles, carefully pour off clear liquid but add the white sediment (potato starch) to the grated potatoes. In 4 T oil fry 3 chopped onions until lightly browned. Combine mashed and grated potatoes, add fried onion and 1/4 c uncooked Kraków kasha (fine milled buckwheat groats). Mix ingredients well and salt & pepper generously. Use mixture to fill pre-scalded cabbage leaves, roll up and place snugly in baking pan. Scald with boiling salted water or vegetable stock to cover, bring to boil and cook uncovered 15 min. Cover, transfer to 350° oven and bake 2 hrs. After switching off heat, leave in oven until cooled to room temp. Refrigerate until needed. To serve, brown on all sides in hot oil until heated through.
NOODLES & CHEESE, LENTEN (kluski z serem postne): In lightly salted water cook 16 oz egg noodles of choice until tender. Drain well, dot with butter or margarine (about 2 T) and stir in about 2 c grated or crumbled farmer cheese. Dry cottage cheese and farmer cheese may be whirled to a powder in food-processor but do not overprocess because the whey (liquid) may separate from the cheese. Salt & pepper to taste. If you are a food hobbyist, try serving this dish with your own home-made cheese (see following recipe).
WHITE CURD CHEESE, HOME-MADE (twarozek domowy): Set a large flame-proof baking dish in a warm place (on or next to radiator, near heating duct or furnace). Add 1 gal whole milk and stir in 1 c fork-blended sour cream. Let stand until fully clabbered (1 – 3 days). To keep out dust and insects, cover with cheese cloth. When clabbered, gently transfer to stove and heat in same dish on very low flame until curds float up to top. Switch off heat. Do not stir or disturb. Let stand until cooled to room temp. Strain through fine cheesecloth-lined sieve, reserving the liquid (whey) that drips out. When dripping stops, cover curds in sieve with saucer or dish and weight it down with something heavy (a qt jar of water) to extract more moisture. When dripping stops, twist cheese into a tight ball through cheesecloth and refrigerate. Use in any dish calling for farmer cheese or in the whey soup below.
WHEY SOUP (polewka z serwatki): Pour 6 c whey (liquid left over from home-made cheese above) into pot and heat. Dissolve 1/4 c flour in 1 c milk and add to whey. Bring to gentle boil, reduce heat and simmer, stirring constantly. Salt to taste. Crumble home-made cheese into soup bowls and drench with hot soup. Serve with boiled potatoes on the side. Variation: Use only a pinch of salt and sweeten with 1 – 2 T sugar. Add a pinch of cinnamon or several drops vanilla extract for a sweet soup the kids will enjoy.
OTHER LENTEN FARE (inne potrawy postne): Any plain dish of boiled vegetables, potatoes, groats, noodles, dumplings or meatless pierogi can qualify as ‚postny’ (Lenten) if garnished with oil or melted butter, onions fried in oil or butter. For non-fastday meals these dishes are garnished with the Poles’ favorite meat-based toppings: fried salt pork or bacon bits and their drippings (skwarki), pan drippings or onions fried in lard. A typical Lenten meals might be a plate of hot cooked or canned (drained) navy beans garnished with oil-fried onions and seasoned with marjoram; boiled potatoes dotted with butter, butter substitute or margarine; buckwheat groats or cooked barley with fried mushrooms and onions; and boiled noodles or potatoes dumplings with fried chopped onions.