This is a reanimation of the Vicaribus blog as lived by Miro Kazakoff and Ehren Foss in 2004 and 2005.
The photos may be spotty.
Zhurek (Sour Polish Soup)
Posted by Miro recipes
Zhurek is a sour Polish soup I had in Krakow. Itís salty, sour, porky and unusual tasting to an American palate. The Zh in Zhurek is pronounced slightly harder than the same letters in Dr. Zhivago.
This is one of, if not the first, English language recipes for Zhurek on the Internet.
This recipe is adapted from one I discovered in ďPolish Heritage CookingĒ by >>> at Powellís Bookstore in Portland, Oregon. There are three parts to making this the soup: the sour rye mash, the smokey pork stock and the assemblage of the mash and stock to make the soup.
The sour rye mash:
The reason you donít find English language recipes for this soup is that it involves a multi-day process of souring the rye flour. Rye flour is hard enough to find, and almost all American cookbooks omit recipes that have multiple day prep times. Still, it didnít sound that hard.
I took a glass canister and primed it by pouring in boiling hot water to warm the canister. The recipe warns to use glass or ceramic and certainly not metal (not sure if plastic would work). Then I combined 1.5 cups of rye flour with 3.5 cups of lukewarm water and covered with a cheesecloth. We donít have any elastics, so I secured the cheesecloth with a string of metal garbage bag twist ties crimped together.
I gave the flour a light stir to break up the biggest chunks of flour. I wasnít sure whether I should fully integrate the flour and water. When I checked it after driving, the vibration had thoroughly mixed the whole thing. I probably put in bit too much water since the water level is now about three quarters of an inch above the flour sediment.
The instructions are to let this sit for 3-4 days until very sour and skim off any mold that forms. The instructions assure me that the mold is harmless. If I understand my food chemistry properly, yeast from the atmosphere settles into the mixture through the cheesecloth. There the yeast eats the rye flour and produces the sour taste as a byproduct of the reaction. Sourdough bread is also started this way. Since atmospheric yeast is slightly different in different place, the taste of sourdough bread is different based on where the yeast starter was made. San Francisco is famous for its particularly tasty atmospheric yeast.
Since weíre traveling, Iím not sure what kind of sour flavor weíll get. Hopefully one not too different than the kind they get in Poland.
Three days later: the mixture smells mildly, but noticeably sour, and no sign of mold formation. Iím going to give it another day before straining out the flour as per the instructions and refrigerating the whole thing to slow down the yeast (which will be killed entirely in cooking). Iím a little nervous, as the sour smell isnít exactly pleasant: kind of that unpalatable yeasty smell you get when you first mix the yeast and hot water. Iím wondering whether Iím nuts for having enjoyed this soup. Will I be making the only dish Ehren refuses to eat? If he does, it will be my sign that itís totally and completely inedible.
One day later: The sludge smells distinctly sour and has frothed itself up a bit. The top of the flour is at the top of the water level. Weíre headed into the wilderness for three days. So I figure I better strain and refrigerate it now, lest it take over the bus before we get back. Straining is a messy process. The instructions said just to pour the mix through the cheesecloth stretched across the jar lid. My cheesecloth is attached on with garbage bag twist ties. They give way as soon as I invert the jar.
I manage to catch the cloth and turn back the jar before too much slops into the bowl. Eventually I cut a new stretch of cheesecloth and slowly allow most of the mix to filter through it, gently encouraging it by flexing the cheese cloth with a slop covered finger. Ehren walks in midway through this process and comments on the smell: ďYeasty.Ē
The strained mix isnít that much thinner than the unstrained mix, but itís more even. I guess the flour will in part help to thicken the soup. I screw on the jar lid and leave it in the fridge. We head for the wilderness.
Emerging from the Wilderness: Iím not going to cook the mixture till I get back from Vegas since I wasnít confident enough in my skillz to foist it on Sean & Rana. The mix sits unopened in the fridge as it has for 5 days now.