Zurek: A Post-Easter Classic
Marianna Dushar, author of the “Pani Stefa” culinary research project (panistefa.com)
If you have a lot of smoked meat left in the fridge after the holidays, cook zurek – a classic post-Easter soup. With slight regional differences, zurek is found in Lemko, German (the name actually comes from Saurer, Sauermehl Suppe), and Slovak cuisine – in other words, throughout the former territory of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and its borderlands.
The soup can be vegan, with mushrooms, or it can be made using broth from braised ribs or boiled ham. All these can be found in our homes after Easter.
Soup (first course, or zupa) that uses fermented rye starter is usually zurek; wheat starter gives you white borscht (do not confuse this with the kind of white borscht that calls for white beets). Oat starter will give you kyselytsia, and whey – zalyvaika. You can find all these soup variations, with slight regional differences, on quite a large territory, and yet everyone thinks of these soups as local to their area. Whichever recipe you choose, I’m sure it will become “your signature zurek” once you add something of yours to it.
About 7-10 days before cooking zurek, make the starter: rye flour brew. To do this, you need 100 grams of rye flour, 2 glasses of water, and a clove of garlic. Sift the flour and pour warm boiled water over it. Whisk so there are no lumps in the water, add minced garlic, pour into a jar, and cover with cheesecloth. Put the jar in a warm spot to allow it to brew. You’ll know that the starter is ready when it has a pleasant sour taste and smells of bread.
When the starter is ready, make the broth using chicken wings and smoked ribs with roots and seasonings. You will need half a parsnip root, a parsley root, a small turnip (kohlrabi), half a celery, ribs, and wings (cut the vegetables into cubes). When the broth is cooked, remove the vegetables and discard them, and separate the ribs and wings from the bones.
Meanwhile, strain the starter and mix it with a glass (7 ounces) of sour cream. Add marjoram, salt, pepper, bay leaf, and caraway that has been dried in a frying pan. Mix well. Separately, fry some onions with 1 tablespoon of flour.
Add meat, sliced sausage, 2 carrots, and 6 potatoes to the broth and cook over low heat until the vegetables are almost tender. Next, pour in the starter with seasonings and the fried onions. Bring everything to a boil and cook for 5 minutes, then turn off the heat and let the mixture sit.
Place slices of hard-boiled eggs in deep plates, pour the zurek over them, and add parsley and ground marjoram.
Serve with croutons toasted in butter. I also enjoy adding a spoonful of grated horseradish or a few slices of hot pepper to the plate with the ready-made zurek. They add a fresh spiciness that is set off by the overall sour flavor, and horseradish also goes well with eggs…
I am sure you will enjoy this sour, moderately spicy, flavorful zurek after the holidays!