Sour cucumber soup, in Polish called zupa ogórkowa, is not just any soup. It is, by far, my favourite soup – and it’s been this way since I was a little girl. How to explain a preference for this rather acquired taste? For the 4-year-old me, zupa ogórkowa has always been synonymous with a treat: something I know I’ll enjoy, and what is also nourishing and healthy. Or so I was told.
Polish pickled cucumbers (ogórki kiszone) are a bit different from the vinegary ones we know from the supermarket shelves: they don’t contain a drop of vinegar; they are, in fact, fermented. The cucumbers are packed in a jar with some dill, a blackcurrant leaf, horseradish root, and then a salty solution is poured over. The jars are left in a pantry for a few weeks, during which time the cucumbers ferment, creating a product that is one of a kind, irreplaceable. The explosion of flavour you get when biting into a well-made ogórek kiszony can only be compared to this of good sauerkraut or kimchi: pungent and sour, a lacto-fermented popping candy on the palate.
Pickle soup might not sound appealing to many, but it works. The sourness of the pickle is broken by the sweetness of carrots, potatoes and a generous addition of cream. Add some fresh dill or parsley, and it’s not far from what I’d call a perfect meal. Would you try?
Sour Cucumber Soup
250g sour cucumbers, grated
1 small onion, chopped
1 carrot, grated
1 parsnip, grated
1/4 celeriac, grated
250g potatoes, peeled and cubed
6-7 cups of vegetable or chicken stock/water
100g sour cream (18%)
fresh dill or parsley, chopped
HOW TO MAKE?
1. Add stock to a saucepan and bring to a boil. When boiling, add carrots, parsnips, celeriac and potatoes. Reduce heat and simmer until the vegetables are tender.
2. Fry the onion with butter, and add to the soup.
3. Add sour cucumber, with all the juices. Stir well.
4. Add sour cream to a mug and temper it by adding a ladle of hot soup. Mix well.
5. Add the sour cream to the soup, season with salt and pepper.
6. Serve hot with a sprinkle of freshly chopped herbs and a slice of sourdough or rye bread.