Polish Tradition of Pickling Cucumbers
It’s August and that means its pickling season!
Pickling is an age-old tradition that has been a part of many cuisines around the world. For thousands of years this process of preserving foods has been used by the Chinese, Japanese, and many other cultures, and Poland is no different! In fact, pickling is an intrinsic aspect of Polish cuisine. From pickled cabbage to fermented flour soup (sour rye soup/żur) and pickled beetroot which forms the basis of red borscht, Poland’s most popular national soup, pickled foods are an essential element of Polish culinary tradition. But of all the characteristic (and health promoting) products produced by Polish bacteria, it is the pickled cucumber that arguably reigns supreme among them all.
Loved for their crisp, sour taste, they are incorporated into the everyday Polish menu in many ways! Sliced lengthwise they are the burst of flavor inside popular dishes such as the Silesian “zrazy,” or beef roulade. Finely chopped they are a key element of the timeless Polish vegetable salad (sałatka jarzynowa), and they’re also the basis of one of Poland’s best known sour soups - Zupa ogórkowa/dill pickle soup!
When they’re not being incorporated into traditional dishes, they are commonly enjoyed on their own or as a side to popular main courses. From crisp potato pancakes topped with a thick meat goulash to a plate of kielbasa hot off the summer grill or a serving of cutlet and mashed potatoes, it’s the pickle that cuts into all these hearty Polish specialties with a burst of refreshing flavor and nutritious properties that promote health and good digestion! The polish pickled cucumber has also been popularly enjoyed as a “zagrycha,” - a small “bite” (or more precisely, a chaser) to help a shot of vodka go down.
With the pickled cucumber being such an intrinsic part of Polish cuisine, it is no surprise too, that there are many different varieties (types) of pickled cucumbers made around Poland. Though every Polish family has their own, secret recipe for a great jar of pickles, some of the most successful recipes come from the northern part of Poland. The most premium of all Polish pickles are made of the “kruszewskie” cucumbers grown in the northeastern region of Podlasie. It is there that pickled barrels used to be submerged in the Narew River and left to pickle even until the following spring. The result, as legend has it, was a pickle that even Napoleon himself marveled at!
The city of Kołobrzeg by the Baltic Sea also boasts of a popular pickle variety. The kołobrzeskie pickles which are produced in a brine taken from a local spring, while the Pomeranian region is known for its “lake pickles” which are made in 100-liter barrels submerged in nearby lakes.
Though most polish pickling isn’t quite as elaborate, this process of conserving foods (mainly cucumbers and cabbage) is one of Poland’s most loved traditions! As gardens bloom in late July and August, Polish families around the world gather these homegrown veggies and ferment them in jars and barrels to enjoy when the weather gets cold. Although a few of the jars are often also opened earlier and enjoyed by the bonfire with a sizzling kielbasa dipped in mustard before the summer season ends!
If you don’t have the time or the garden to pickle your own cucumbers this season, we’ve got a package full of some of the finest Polish pickled cucumbers available for purchase on Polana.com.
Visit our condiments section for traditional Polish pickles and sauerkraut to add to your menu this summer!