Polish Sour Rye Soup {Żurek}

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Polish Sour Rye Soup {Żurek}

Polish Sour Rye Soup {Żurek}

The star of my Easter table, sour rye soup. Żurek is creamy, smoky, garlicky and tiny bit sour in taste. In my home, it’s served as a starter, with slices of fresh sausage {biała kiełbasa}, garnished with a teaspoon of spicy horseradish {chrzan}. It takes some preparation, as the base of this flavorful favorite is mixed and set to ferment about a 5 days to a week ahead of time {recipe here}. The starter is a rye flour mixture and this recipe makes a very garlicky and fragrant variety.

A milder version can be found in almost any Polish grocery store here in the US, under the name of “Zakwas na Żur”, and it comes in 1 liter bottles. Prepare about 4 cups of stock for 1 liter of store-bought starter.

Poland is known for this fragrant soup, and I think it’s safe to say that it’s served at almost any Polish restaurant. Often served in a bread bowl it became my husband’s favorite as soon as he tried it. It’s hard to walk by a restaurant in Poland that serves it, and not stop in for a quick bite. Pieces of fresh sausage or smoked sausage, hardboiled egg make it extra appealing and fragrant. A side of horseradish will add slightly sharp and spicy edge. Highly recommended!

Polish Sour Rye Soup {Żurek}

  • Yields: 5-6 small servings
  • Prep Time: 5-7 day (for starter)
  • Cook Time: 30 min

Ingredients

  • 2 cups / 500 ml of rye sour starter
  • 4 cups / 1 liter of water
  • 4 oz / 100 g of good quality smoked bacon
  • 2 carrots
  • 1/2 of a parsnip
  • 1/4 of burnt onion*
  • 6-8 allspice whole
  • 6-8 peppercorns whole
  • 1/2 tbs of salt
  • 1 tbs of dried marjoram
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tbs of flour
  • 4 tbs of butter

Instructions

  1. Place bacon, carrots, parsnip and onion in a pot, cover with water and add salt. Simmer on low for about 20 minutes.

  2. Remove everything from soup and add sour starter, marjoram and crushed garlic. Bring to boil and simmer on low for a few minutes.

  3. If soup is not too thick make roux: heat a small pan to medium heat, add butter and flour and brown lightly. Add to soup and stir well. Bring to boil and simmer for a couple of minutes.

  4. Taste, add a bit more salt to taste.

  5. To serve, slice fresh/white sausage {biała kiełbasa} or smoked sausage used for making this soup. Add a boiled egg and a 1/2 teaspoon of horseradish.

Notes

*burn onion right on the gas burner or if using electric stove, place in a hot pan and keep heating until it develops burnt edges.

Best, if made a couple of days before serving.

If you haven’t made it yourself yet, I hope you give it a shot.

Smacznego!

Anna

ps. if ALL fails or if you’re just not a cooking type, you can get a pre-made / dried żurek here. Obviously it is not as good as home-made, but if you “Polish” it with the ingredients from this recipe (minus the starter and water) you can get away with this substitute.


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11 Comments

  1. When making the starter, is it normal for it to separate with the flour sinking to the bottom and the water on top?

  2. Cześć Anna– I made the Zakwas na Żurek a few weeks ago and today I made the Żurek (Dzisiaj ja gotuję żurek… I am learning Polish!!). It was very good and very close the soup my husband’s family served me when we visited them in Bydgoszcz (My husband’s ciocia, Grażyna, recipe). I have longed for that taste experience again for some time now… thank you so much! I love watching your YouTube videos and you are my go-to person for Polish recipes. Dziękuję Bardzo!

  3. After a week of tending to my starter, I finally made my żurek. And just as you said, it was even better the day after. Still trying to find the right meat substitute, but the soup base was delicious and tangy.

    1. Kyle, awesome to hear! If you’re looking to make this soup as a vegetarian version, make a base similar to the one I make for Christmas beetroot soup {barszcz wigilijny}: dried wild mushrooms plus some veggies. I recently posted a video to my YouTube channel about how to make it. The mushroom based broth will be excellent with żurek starter.

  4. I’ve been researching this soup for many years. I’m surprised my Polish grandmother never made it, since she was a professional cook/baker. She died when I was 16. I first discovered the soup in a Polish restaurant in NYC 1979. They made there’s with smoked kielbasa, and I fell in love with the unique flavor and texture. In my research, I quickly discovered the use of a flour starter, which made the soup even more curious to me. Truthfully, that step scared me. Now that I recently discovered your YouTube channel, I am no longer scared of this recipe. Your video has empowered me, and I’m going to begin the starter soon. Thank you for sharing your cooking secrets. You just can’t imagine the childhood memories you are stirring among many of us around the world.

  5. I am making Zurek this morning so that we can enjoy it for our second breakfast! My starter turned out great. I started it last Saturday. I think it will be a huge success! Thank you Anna for all your invaluable guidance so that we can recreate our memories. Happy Easter!

  6. I started my starter tonight! Looking forward to how it comes out. With the weather getting cooler, I was thinking of a good soup recipe…and this one came to mind.

    The first time I made it, I used Adamba dried starter because I didn’t have time to make it from scratch. It was pretty tasty, and I’m sure it’ll be even better with homemade starter. Fingers crossed!

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