About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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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
25g butter
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.
  posted at 7:37 am

At 9:25 pm, Blogger Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

I love pickles, but I've never tasted fermented cucumbers. I'll have to look for these the next time I'm in a Polish market.

At 9:39 pm, Blogger www.ifoods.tv said...

I have just stumbled upon your blog. I love the clean design and fantastic photos. I am a blogger myself and always thought that design was key and you have certainly captured that! There are so many food blogs out there these days and being different to all the others is key. I have just started www.ifoods.tv which is a website for chefs, foodies and food bloggers to hand out, share recipes, photos and videos. When i was blogging I always thought i should be getting more traffic as my blog was getting lost in the masses of stuff out there so my new site is aimed at giving food bloggers and chefs a bigger platform! Hope you enjoy it and keep up the good writing and design here! I have now bookmarked you so will be regular reader, Cheers!

At 10:40 pm, Blogger Kalyn Denny said...

I really like cucumbers, but this is completely new to me, never heard of fermented cucumbers before. The idea of using them in soup is doubly interesting too, great post!

At 1:39 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi lydia, I'm sure you will like them, they're not as sour as vinegar ones and have citrus notes as well.

Hi private chef, thanks for the message.

Hi kalyn, I'm sure you would like them if you like pickled cucumbers. Thet are Polish fast food.

At 6:14 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I still say it looks like vomit - P

At 8:03 am, Blogger neil said...

Hi honey, guess what you're having for dinner this Thursday?!!!

At 12:03 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 5:02 pm, Blogger Anna (Morsels and Musings) said...

do you cut the cucumbers when you're fermenting them or keep them whole?
and you serve the soup hot or cold or either/or?
my husband is a vegetarian so do you think it would detract from the flavour too much if i used veggie stock instead of chicken?
i love these kinds of flavours so i plan to make my own cucumbers and then the soup.

At 2:53 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi! I've just discovered you blog through Kalyn - she just commented on my Polish cucumber soup and told me about your version, it looks great. I'm looking forward to browsing the archives.

At 11:31 am, Blogger neil said...

Hi anna, you need special pickling cucumbers, the ones with little bumps all over and they can't be too big - about 4 to 5 inches long is about right. You can find them in continental greengrocers in the summer or even better is to grow your own, you also need to grow your own fennel seed heads. No, you can't cut them, though I've seen recipes that say you can. The cucumbers are in fact ready in about a week, very crunchy and only slightly sour, but I prefer them later on when they sour right up. No problem with vegetable stock, it's just background for the sour flavour. I've never eaten it cold but I've been told you can, in which case oil might be better than the butter.

Hi helen, that's so awesome, two versions of the same soup. Very nice blog you've got there too. Isn't kalyn so great for alerting us?

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