Zurek (Polish Hangover Soup)

September  9, 2019
7 Ratings
Photo by Paul Brissman
  • Prep time 96 hours
  • Cook time 1 hour
  • Serves 6 to 8
Author Notes

The healing quality of this tangy, fortifying soup comes, ostensibly, from a fermented sour rye soup starter called zakwas. Though you can buy it at Polish markets, it takes just a few minutes to mix it up yourself. Just build in a few days to your soup-making plan for the fermentation to take place. The hearty combination of root vegetables, kielbasa, pickles, sour cream, and hard-boiled eggs makes this soup a meal.

Excerpted from Antoni in the Kitchen © 2019 by Antoni Porowski with Mindy Fox. Photography © 2019 by Paul Brissman. Reproduced by permission of Rux Martin Books/ Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

For more stories, memories, and extended histories behind your most-loved, treasured family recipes from the column, check out our new podcast My Family Recipe.Antoni Porowski

What You'll Need
  • Zakwas
  • 1/2 cup rye flour
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Soup
  • 1/3 pound thick-cut smoked bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-wide pieces
  • 2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
  • 2 1/2 pounds kielbasa or bratwurst, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 1 large carrot, halved lengthwise and cut into 3/4-inch-thick slices
  • 1 large parsnip, quartered lengthwise and cut into 3/4-inch-thick slices
  • 1 medium celery root, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 8 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus finely chopped fresh parsley for garnish
  • 3 fresh or dried bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons dried marjoram
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup drained prepared horseradish
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • Sour cream, for garnish
  • 3 or 4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and halved, for garnish
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped dill pickles (about 4 medium), for garnish
  • Chopped fresh dill, for garnish
  1. Zakwas
  2. For the zakwas: Pour 2 cups boiling water into a heatproof 1-quart jar or glass bowl. Let cool to warm.
  3. Stir the flour, garlic, and bay leaf into the warm water. Tightly cover/seal the jar or bowl with plastic wrap (use a rubber band or two to hold the wrap tightly) and let sit in a warm, dark place (like a cupboard) for 4 to 5 days; “burp” the mixture every 2 days by removing the plastic wrap to let the air out, then resealing it again (this will prevent a little culinary explosion). Alternatively, you can seal the jar or bowl with cheesecloth (more breathable), held tightly with a rubber band, and you will not have to burp the mixture.
  4. The zakwas is ready when it has a pungent fragrance, a solid, spongy deposit on top, and a light brown-gray liquid at the bottom. Scrape off any green or moldy bits that appear on the top (a healthy sign of the fermentation process and not dangerous!), and remove and discard the bay leaf. Strain the zakwas through a sieve into a bowl; discard the solids. You’ll have about 1½ cups liquid. Use however much you have; the exact amount is not important.
  1. Soup
  2. For the soup: In a large Dutch oven or other wide heavy pot, cook the bacon over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until golden and crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a medium bowl. Add the onions to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and lightly golden, 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to the bowl with the bacon. Add the kielbasa or bratwurst to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to the onion mixture. Pour off and discard the fat from the pot.
  3. Add the carrot, parsnip, celery root, parsley sprigs, bay leaves, marjoram, allspice, 1 teaspoon salt, and 7 cups water to the pot, bring to a simmer, and cook until the vegetables are almost tender but with a little bite, 12 to 15 minutes.
  4. Add the zakwas, horseradish, and onion mixture to the pot, return the soup to a simmer, and cook until the vegetables are tender and the broth is flavorful, 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in the white pepper. Season to taste with salt. Remove and discard the parsley sprigs and bay leaves.
  5. Spoon the soup into bowls. Top each bowl with a big dollop of sour cream, a hard-boiled egg half, the chopped pickles, and some dill or parsley, and serve.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Benny
  • cbell86

2 Reviews

Benny November 22, 2020
I have been waiting to make a "from scratch" version of this for a long time..
I am starting the zakwas today. Wish me luck!
cbell86 October 3, 2022
Benny, was it worth it? Sounds interesting but takes some time!