As the smells from the kitchen drift through the house I type contentedly, smiling to myself; in the knowledge that my belly will be full of wonderful, traditional, Polish food, sometime soon.
Pierogi (ruskie and kapusta), golabki, sznycel, krokiety, kotlety, krupnik (not the honey vodka), bigos, kapusniak, to name but a few of my favourite Polish dishes, I enjoy them all so much that my Polish vocabulary centres around food more than any other subject; I can talk a good meal 🙂
Of course I’m lucky to be looked after so well by Gosia and her mother, both fantastic cooks who still use traditional methods, to create food for a household of seven people fit for a king. How do they do it?
I think the key is tradition, a tradition that has evolved from simple living and survival; old fashioned values and the hardship of communism. A way of life that Gosia and I want to return to, without the communism 🙂
Whilst discussing the subject earlier today it suddenly dawned on me that the household is surprisingly self sufficient, even though I was involved in the planting of the vegetables in the spring and the harvest of the potatoes later in the year, so much more went on around us whilst we were busy with the house.
Today’s activity is great example as the cottage kitchen industry swings into action for Christmas. Cakes, pastas and pastries are all made with flour from grain grown in a shared family field, Gosia and I took the grain to the local mill to have it milled into flour; 100Kg of grain provides you with 50Kg of flour and 50Kg of husks which is then used as chicken feed. The mill owner takes a little over £2 for his part. And of course you can’t bake without eggs, so it’s just as well that there are roughly twenty ex battery hens hiding out in the old barn at the back of the house who’s diet is supplemented with the grain waste. Any jam and marmalade fillings will be courtesy of the many fruit trees and bushes we have back in Pstrongova, ok the sugar was bought in to aid in the preserving, but that’s about it.
The Pierogi will be stuffed with a number of fillings, Cabbage with wild mushrooms (kapusta), plumbs (ze sliwkami) and cottage cheese with mashed potatoes (Ruskie, my favourite); with the exception of the cheese everything else was grown or foraged. The cabbage will be from the 100Kg or so of sauerkraut that is made every year from the summer harvest, the mushrooms come from our autumn foraging, the potatoes again are from the harvest earlier in the year, with enough stored to keep the family going until next year and the plumbs will be from our trees that we preserved when we had a glut.
Barszcz, white and red will be prepared from scratch, again using our own flour and beetroot, not to mention onions, garlic, carrots, root parsley and other vegetables. And then there is a vast array of pickles and preserves; gherkins, peppers, mushrooms, a variety of salads, cordial and compotes’.
In fact the only things that will be bought in will be the meat, with the exception of our own lamb, the fish, a few condiments and dairy products. Although you don’t have to go back too many years when this was all produced in house with a cow and pigs sharing the barn with the chickens; it was the only way to survive in a communist Poland. Move out to the smaller villages where we are building our house and it is still the norm.
All in all we reckon the family unit is about 75% self sufficient in food; hopefully we can up that number once we finish the house and start working our own land and take on a few animals, but then I’m sure I’ll be telling you all about that as and when it happens.
Got to go now, fresh made noodles with apple sauce on the menu and I’m getting hungry typing this 🙂