Czernina (pronounced: CHAR-nina) is one of the oldest Polish soups. It’s key ingredient is … blood. Mostly duck blood, but depending on the regional traditions, goose, hen, pig or rabbit vital fluids are used instead.
For the full list of ingredients & detailed instructions, please see the recipe card at the end of this post. But before you scroll, there’s important stuff to know below.
The soup’s name is spelled differently depending on a region (czarnina, czornina) and also known as czarna polewka, czarna zalewajka or juszyca.
In this post we’re going to get familiar with this somewhat controversial soup and will cook one too! If you’re still hesitant to try this one, fry another Polish soup, for example:
A Short History of Czernina
If you go through the oldest Polish cookbooks that survived the test of time, you’ll likely to notice an unusual dish – a soup called juszyca or czarnina/czernina.
Its key ingredient? Blood, ideally duck or goose. Its distinctive sweet and sour taste is the hallmark of the traditional old-Polish cuisine.
As in many other dishes of that time, acidity of blood and vinegar was balanced with the sweetness of dried fruit. Czernina couldn’t do without a dash of exotic spices, which, together with a contrasting sweet & sour combination, created a perfect flavour for noble old-Polish tastebuds.
In 1682 Stanisław Czerniecki (chef of the Lubomirski princely family) described his methods of preparing czernina. His recipes collected in “Compendium Ferculorum” can be read till this day.
If such a noble family enjoyed this soup, it couldn’t have been just a commoner’s dinner, right?
Regional Dish Kept Alive in Literature
Duck blood soup is a well loved dish in the regions of Greater Poland and Pomerania. At the same time, it’s quite known (but not necessarily eaten) all-over Poland.
What propels one regional dish to fame while the others stay in relative obscurity? In case of czernina, if it isn’t familiar from our own home, then it’s from classic literature.
The soup was briefly mentioned in the national epic of Poland “Pan Tadeusz” (“Sir Thaddeus”) written by Adam Mickiewicz. And since this epic poem is a compulsory read in every Polish school, most of us got familiar with czernina.
Back in the day, over 200 years ago, if this soup was served to a young suitor trying to win a maiden’s hand, that could only mean one thing: a rejection.
This theme shows up in “Pan Tadeusz” here:
“The Pantler, my deceased dear Lord, the head“Sir Thaddeus or the Last Foray in Lithuania: a History of the Nobility in the Years 1811 and 1812” by Adam Mickiewicz, translated by Leonard Kress
noble in the district owning land,
had a single daughter, and it was said
she was an angel courted by young devils.
Among them was a certain wild brawler,
Jacek Soplica, called in jest for his revels
and arrogance, the Senator-caller. (…)
He thought he might become the son-in-law
of my dear Lord, because he was received
so graciously; but when the servants saw
his true intent, how quickly they relieved
him of his urge to roost; quickly they served
the black soup, signifying refusal.”
Do you need any special ingredients to make this Duck Blood Soup?
Yes, you’ll need duck blood – fresh or frozen.
🇵🇱 Here in Poland, you’ll simply need to ask around. Usually, the blood won’t be immediately available at the butcher’s, but sometimes it can be ordered-in for a later purchase. Buy more blood in season (late Autumn) and then freeze for future use.
🌍 Outside of Poland, buying duck blood (fresh or frozen) can be a challenge, unless you are lucky enough to live by a duck farm.
I called up a few butchers in the US (in various states). A meat-market keeper from Detroit told me that due to legal changes by the Department of Agriculture, they’re no longer allowed to sell raw animal products of this kind.
I hear that it’s possible to get duck blood in some Polish Deli stores or Asian supermarkets / restaurants, you might want to give it a try.
How should you serve this Duck Blood Soup?
Traditionally, duck blood soup is served with boiled potatoes, ribbon pasta or dumplings – ‘lane’ (‘poured’) or ‘kładzione’ (‘laid’ dumplings).
Garnish-wise, add some lightly precooked pear and/or plums. A healthy amount of chopped parsley will liven up the dish.
Can you cook this Duck Blood Soup another way?
No. While there are many regional recipes for Czernina, the core method remains the same.
What diets is this Czernina soup suitable for?
A vampire diet! Jokes aside: if you use a gluten-free flour and skip the pasta, this recipe will become gluten-free.
How long can you keep this Duck Blood Soup in the fridge?
Once you’ve served the soup, ideally you should eat it within 3 hours.
If you have any leftovers, allow them to cool. Make sure to refrigerate in a container with a lid. You can keep leftovers of this Duck Blood Soup in the fridge for approximately 3 days.
Can I freeze this Czernina Soup?
Yes, Duck Blood Soup can be frozen. Just pour it into a container with a lid. Remember to label it with the contents and today’s date. Place in the freezer and consume within 3 months.
How do I reheat this Duck Blood Soup?
From chilled: You can reheat Czernina on the stove. Move the soup into a cooking pot and cook on a low-to-medium heat for approx. 10-15 minutes. Make sure the soup gets hot, but doesn’t boil.
From frozen: Remove from the freezer and move into the fridge overnight to thaw. Reheat on the stove for 10-15 minutes on a low-to-medium heat, making sure the soup doesn’t boil in the process.
FAQ and Troubleshooting
How does Duck Blood Soup taste?
Czernina tastes sweet and sour at the same time. Some refer to it as a “chocolate soup”, the colour and texture brings chocolate to mind.
Where to buy Duck Blood?
If you know a place that sells duck blood in your country, please let me know.
Where to try Duck Blood Soup?
Today, Duck Blood Soup is more of a regional delicacy rather than an every-day dish. And frankly, I understand why that’s the case. Hunting down duck blood can be a struggle, and then knowing how to cook it well – even more so.
When eating out, it’s difficult to find Czernina on a menu. Especially outside of the region and outside of the season. Keep in mind that Czernina is somewhat a seasonal dish, best times are during a season of late-August till mid-December.
Fortunately, there are places to enjoy it. You’ll find them mostly in Greater Poland (Wielkopolska) and Pomerania (Kashubia and Kuyavia).
Here’s a list of places offering czernina (at the time of posting):
Greater Poland (Wielkopolska)
📍 Poznań & vicinity
In the “Best czernina competition” during the 2018 Good Taste Festival in Poznań, the following restaurants were selected as winners:
More places serving czernina:
You’ll find more recommendations for Poznań here – the article is in Polish, but there is a map at the bottom of the page.
📍 Warsaw & vicinity
The “Kuyavian Food Festival – Duck Blood Soup Day” is an annual culinary event organised by the municipality of Lubraniec. It’s 5th edition took place on 14th Sept 2019.