White Borscht is a tasty Polish Easter soup that is full of sausage, eggs, potatoes, and other ingredients that bring a lot of religious symbolism to each bite of this delicious soup.
White Borscht: A Polish Easter Soup
White borscht (or Bialy Barszcz in Polish) is a classic Polish dish eaten on Easter Sunday morning.
Traditionally, this soup is made with items in the basket of food that Polish families take to Church to have blessed on Holy Saturday.
The History Of Easter Baskets
We never realized that blessing baskets of food on Holy Saturday is a tradition in many cultures.
In the States, we’re used to Easter baskets for the kids on Easter morning, but this tradition has long standing roots in the baskets that families would bring to Church to have blessed on Holy Saturday.
These Easter baskets were filled with things that symbolized every part of life, and their blessing was considered a sign of blessing for a bountiful year ahead.
Polish Easter Baskets
In Poland, the practice of blessing Easter baskets dates back to the early 15th century.
Each family brings a large basket to church on Holy Saturday. These baskets are lined and covered with a white linen cloth, representing the shroud of Christ. And, each of the foods in the Easter basket has a special significance.
- Bacon is a symbol of the abundance of God’s mercy.
- Easter bread symbolizes Christ, the Bread of Life.
- Butter or other dairy products celebrate the end of Lent and the richness of salvation.
- A candle, while not edible, symbolizes Jesus, the light of the World.
- Cheese reminds Christians of moderation.
- Hard cooked eggs are signs of hope in new life.
- Ham or other meats symbolize the abundance of the celebration of the Resurrection.
- Sausage links represent the chains of death that were broken by Christ’s resurrection.
- Horseradish is a reminder of the bitterness of the Passion and the sour wine given to Christ at the Crucifixion.
- Salt preserves us from corruption and speaks to the Bible passage “You are the salt of the earth.”
Now, that’s a lot of food!
Ingredients for the Family Meal
Not every basket has to contain all of these items, but the important things is that every family member has a bite of blessed food from the basket.
So, Polish mothers typically include foods that they will be using at Easter breakfast or dinner, and a few daily staples.
You will notice that a few of the basket items appear in this soup:
- hard cooked eggs
It’s almost as if this soup was designed to be a soup made from the blessed ingredients!
Ingredients in white borscht do vary greatly by region and family.
With meats ranging from Polish sausage, to ham and bacon; and add ins including sour cream, buttermilk, vinegar and sugar.
The two elements that do not change are the sausage-water base and some type of sour (kwas) used to flavor the soup.
What’s The Difference Between Red Borscht And White Borscht?
In a word: EVERYTHING.
Well, maybe not everything.
But it would be easier to talk about what characteristic these two, seemingly VERY different, soups share.
The one thing that these two soups have in common is that they are both considered sour soups.
Red borscht uses a splash of apple cider vinegar near the end of cooking time to give a slight sour brightness.
White borscht uses a sour starter (kwas) as a base, which gives the soup an underlying taste that is similar to sour cream.
What Is Polish Sour Starter?
Kwas (pronounced kvas) is a sour starter (similar to a sourdough starter) that is traditoinally made by fermenting rye bread. This fermentation technique is actually quite popular in many Slavic countries.
In Poland, you will find another soup, very similar to bialy barszcz, called zur or zurek. The only difference is that zurek uses the kwas rye sour starter, while the bialy barszcz uses a wheat starter.
Our White Borscht Recipe
Tim was a bit skeptical about using fermented bread as a base for the soup, so we went a more non-traditional route and used a mixture of sour cream and flour to give a sour taste and thickness to our soup.
The resulting soup is creamy with a mildly sour flavor.
While flavor of this soup is slightly different than if you would use the traditional sour bread starter, we found the flavors to be incredibly similar to the bialy barszcz that we tasted during our trip to Poland. It made us happy to discover that sour cream does work quite well as an easy adaptation to stand in for the more traditional ingredients!
We’ve made it numerous times since our trip, and love the way the flavors of this soup transport us right back to Krakow.
White Borscht is a tasty Polish Easter soup that is full of ingredients carrying religious symbolism.
Yield: 10 cups of soup
- 4 hard boiled eggs*
- 1 lb Polish kielbasa (smoked)
- 6 c water
- 1 tsp salted butter
- 4 garlic cloves, diced
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 lbs potatoes, diced
- 1 bay leaf
- ¾ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp pepper
- 1 c sour cream
- ¼ c unbleached all-purpose flour
- Bring keilbassa and water to a boil in a large dutch oven or heavy bottomed soup pot. Boil 25 minutes. Remove keilbassa to a plate and set aside. Leave the broth in the dutch oven.
- In a medium, non-stick skillet, saute garlic and onion with a tsp of butter until soft, 5 min.
- Add onion mixture to kielbassa broth. Add diced potatoes, bay, salt, and pepper. Cook until potatoes are tender, 15-20 min.
In a small bowl, whisk flour and sour cream together until smooth. Add ½ c of the soup broth to the sour cream mixture and whisk until smooth and thin. Pour mixture into the soup, stirring constantly. Simmer, stirring often, until thickened, 10 min.
Cut the kielbasas into 1/2 inch slices, chop the hard boiled eggs. Add both to the soup. Taste the soup and adjust the salt an pepper as desired. Cook 1-2 minutes to heat through.
*To hard boil eggs: Place eggs in a medium pot. Cover with water and add 1 Tbsp salt (to make peeling the eggs easier). Bring the pot to a boil over medium heat (20 mintues). Turn off the heat and let the eggs stand in the hot water for 3-5 minutes, depending on how firm you like your eggs. Remove the eggs and place them in a bowl of ice water to cool.
This is one of the recipes from the early days of Curious Cuisiniere. We’ve updated our pictures since we first shared it, but we’ve left some originals here, in case you’ve found us in the past and are looking for that old, familiar image.