But what exactly is żurek (sour rye soup) and barszcz biały? What do those two soups have in common and what sets them a part?
White Borscht (barszcz biały) and Żurek can be found on Polish Easter table as well as in some part of Ukraine. Both of them are also served in many Polish restaurants, here in the US.
These two traditional Polish soups seem very similar. They are creamy, rich and smokey. But they differ in flavor and appearance. If you never had them you absolutely need to try both of them.
First, let’s start with what they have in common:
Broth. Usually based on white sausage (kiełbasa), made by boiling it in water, sometimes with the addition of vegetables and spices. The quality of kiełbasa really will make a difference. You can find a great kiełbasa in your local Eastern European deli or market. Be mindful that it has a deep garlic smell so it may perfume your fridge.
Meats. In the traditional version of those soups there is meat, lots and lots of meat. Usually different kinds of sausages and sometimes bacon. But there is also fully vegetarian żurek that used to be served during Lent.
Third similarity are toppings. The soups traditionally are served with hard boiled egg and with a slices of bread on a side or in a bowl made form bread.
Lastly, both żurek and barszcz biały require a soup starter. A mixture of flour, spices and water. Mixture has to ferment for a min. 3 days, and is added to the broth which gives the soup its original flavor.
So what are the differences?
The main difference lies in the mixture - the soup starter, but there are also small other differences.
Żurek (sour rye soup), also called Żur. Its name comes from German language - 'sūr', meaning sour. It is a star not only in Poland but also in Slovakia, Czech Republic and Belarus and Ukraine tables. It varies from region to region, for example in the Silesia region (Śląsk) - sour rye soup (żur śląski) is poured over mashed potatoes. In the Podlaski region, it is common to eat it with hard-boiled eggs. In Kraków, you can try Żurek Galicyjski. It is usually thick and has a light grey color.
Barszcz Biały. White borscht is not as thick as its cousin. It is more delicate in flavor and its color comes from the flour that is being used, which usually makes it white.
So why two different soups since they sound so similar? The secret lies in the flour used for the starter of the soup. Żurek soup start is based on rye flour, and barszcz biały is always made on wheat flour. I personally use the whole wheat flour, which changes its color, but traditionally barszcz biały colors' comes from the bleached wheat flour in the soup starter.
Both of those are super easy to make and you do not need to buy them. Here are two recipes that you can follow while preparing for Easter.
You can also buy it when you do not have 3 - 5 days to wait for your fermentation process.
The one that I like and can get here in the US (and you will need a Polish or an Eastern European shop) is Żurek made by the company Krakus. But again it is cheaper, healthier and tastier to make it at home.
Preparing for Easter: