Monday, May 05, 2008
Fermented Cucumber Soup
Soups fulfill all kinds of roles - warm you up on a cold day, make you feel better when you're sick, even evoke childhood memories when served a particular soup your mum made for the family. Soups can be light and refreshing or hale and hearty, there is even one particular group of soups, mainly Eastern European in origin, that are slightly, even strongly sour, such as the gently sour white barszcz, made with fermented rye flour or the quite tart flavour of sorrel soup.
Fermented cucumber soup is also up there with sorrel in terms of tartness, indeed, there is a lot of similarity between them in the way they taste. Both soups are good all year round, especially in summer when they come into their own with their refreshing zing.
The Polish have a love affair with fermented cucumbers and most families bottle their own, it's common to see row upon row of jars stuffed with cucumbers in Polish pantries and they believe no meal is complete without them.
They are simple to make, all that is needed are small cucumbers, water, salt and a few flavourings such as garlic, dill and mustard seeds. All these are placed in a sealed jar and the magic of fermentation begins, turning the cucumbers pleasantly sour after a month or so. There is no vinegar used at all, cucumbers pickled with vinegar are completely different in taste.
This soup is a Polish classic, but there are variations throughout the region. Do not try to make this with vinegar pickled cucumbers, the taste will be too harsh. As fermented cucumbers are well salted, you probably won't need to add any salt, also, if you like things really sour, you can add some of the cucumber brine to make it stronger.
This is also my entry to Kalyn's Weekend Herb Blogging, this week hosted by a local Melbourne girl Anh at Food Lover's Journey, who it seems, is rather missing summer.
Fermented Cucumber Soup
3 or 4 fermented cucumbers, depending on size
1.5l chicken stock
3 medium potatoes, peeled & diced
1 large carrot, peeled & diced
1 tablespoon rice
salt, if needed
optional: cream or sour cream, chopped dill
Coarsely grate the cucumbers, place them in a pot with 1 cup chicken stock and the butter, bring to the boil and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Put the potatoes, carrot and rice into another pot* with the rest of the chicken stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes, then put the contents of this pot into the pot with the cucumber and simmer for 5 more minutes. Add salt if necessary. When serving, if desired, add a spoon of cream or sour cream to each bowl and sprinkle on a little dill.
*you can of course cook it all in one pot, but, as the potatoes cook they will pick up the cucumber flavour and some of their smooth contrast will be lost.