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Polish White Borscht (Bialy Barszcz)

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 is a tasty Polish Easter soup that is full of ingredients carrying religious symbolism. | www.CuriousCuisiniere.com 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 (called Święconka) 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.
  • 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!

White Borscht is a tasty Polish Easter soup that is full of ingredients carrying religious symbolism. | www.CuriousCuisiniere.com

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:

  • sausage
  • butter
  • hard cooked eggs
  • salt

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.

Our Polish Borscht recipe (Barszcz) creates a beet soup that is chock full of veggies and boasts a bright, sweet and sour flavor making it a perfect first course or warming meal. | www.CuriousCuisiniere.com

Same name, different color. Try traditional Polish Red Borscht.

 

What Is Polish Sour Starter?

Kwas (pronounced kvas) is a sour starter (similar to a sourdough starter) that is traditionally made by fermenting 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.

 

Yield: 10 cups of soup

Polish White Borscht (Bialy Barszcz)

White Borscht is a tasty Polish Easter soup that is full of ingredients carrying religious symbolism. | www.CuriousCuisiniere.com

White Borscht is a tasty Polish Easter soup that is full of ingredients carrying religious symbolism. 

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  1. Bring keilbassa and water to a boil in a large dutch oven or heavy bottomed soup pot. Reduce heat slightly and boil for 25 minutes. Remove keilbassa to a plate and set aside. Leave the broth in the dutch oven.
  2. In a medium, non-stick skillet, saute garlic and onion with a tsp of butter until soft, 5 min.
  3. Add onion mixture to kielbassa broth. Add diced potatoes, bay, salt, and pepper. Cook until potatoes are tender, 15-20 min.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Notes

*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.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

5

Serving Size:

2 cups

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 460

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.

Polish White Borscht (Bialy Barszcz) from Curious Cuisiniere White Borscht is a tasty Polish Easter soup that is full of ingredients carrying religious symbolism. | www.CuriousCuisiniere.comPolish White Borscht (Bialy Barszcz) from Curious Cuisiniere 

 

 

 

 

Mary Ann Haslett

Monday 26th of April 2021

I was so happy to see your recipe and explanation of the soups tradition. I've been making my mother's version for years. I make it similarly but with a few more ingredients. My grandma did ferment it in a crock but I only ever heard that. My mom used a small amount of bacon with the onion and add it to the water with the potato as you did. We also added sliced mushrooms and a can of cream of mushroom soup. Instead of rye flour with sour cream we sometimes break up rye bread and then add the sour cream. A couple tablespoons of lemon juice and a beef and chicken bouillon for additional flavor.. we cut up our kielbasa hard boiled egg and rye bread cubes and serve that in a separate bowl so that people can put that in the bottom of the soup bowl and pour the soup over it. But it looks so much like yours. Thank you for sharing.

Sarah Ozimek

Wednesday 28th of April 2021

Thanks so much for sharing Mary Ann!

Aniela Kowzan

Sunday 18th of April 2021

It's all usually called ZUREK in Polish. The letter "z" has a dot over it in the Polish alphabet, imparting a pronunciation not like a "z", but like the French "j". As in "je suis" or the name "Jean". I am impressed that you included the authentic Polish word "barszcz" for the soup, not the Russian "borscht". For me though barszcz is the red one, beet based. Perhaps the other colors have been devised for other cultures, to help non-Polish people think of colors and to make it easier to remember? BTW, the sour tasting, green looking soup made from sorrel leaves is Szczaw ... of course unpronouncable for most, LOL ! (= zupa szczawiowa) , but I have seen it called "green borscht" ... Yikes!

Keep up the good work, Sarah 🌞 ! AK.

Sarah Ozimek

Monday 19th of April 2021

Hi Aniela. It is my understanding that Zurek is this soup made using a sour rye starter, where as bialy barszcz uses a sour wheat starter. Thanks for sharing! So interesting about "green borscht"!

Deb Steines

Sunday 11th of April 2021

Made this for Easter this year. Used fresh kielbasa and substituted a can of cream of mushroom soup for the sour cream and flour, as my mom always did. It brought back wonderful memories of my childhood Easters.

Mary Ann Haslett

Monday 26th of April 2021

@Deb Steines, that sounds similar to my mom's but I do the sour cream as well as the mushroom soup.

Sarah Ozimek

Wednesday 14th of April 2021

So glad you enjoyed the recipe and it brought back memories!

Mary

Monday 5th of April 2021

When I put the 1/4 cup of flour like it said in the recipe the soup was too thick.

Sarah Ozimek

Wednesday 14th of April 2021

Hi Mary. If it is too thick for your liking, you can add more water or a light broth to get it to your desired consistency.

Valerie

Saturday 3rd of April 2021

My family always made fresh kielbasa, and so in our house, this soup was made with fresh, not smoked sausage! It’s my favorite Easter Sunday food.

Sarah Ozimek

Saturday 3rd of April 2021

Sounds lovely!

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