Krupnik na Żeberkach
How to pronounce it?
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Krupnik is a traditional Polish soup with barley, potatoes and carrots, cooked on a meat and vegetable broth. Its irresistibility comes from its sticky texture, owed to a slowly cooked barley.
Krupnik’s flavours depend heavily on the type of meat used as a base for the broth.
Choosing the Best Meat for Krupnik
It’s crucial that a soup has a rich base, which means we need to pack in a lot of meat and vegetables. “A lot” means that the pot has to be filled at least in half (or better – two-thirds!) of the capacity with meat and vegetables.
For those who love their krupnik as sticky as possible, it’s a good idea to use a pork knuckle (which can be later used for a second course). Fans of lighter, more delicate soups can prepare it on poultry (wings, gizzards) or a veal brisket.
But there is no need to go to fancy. Krupnik can also be brewed on ribs, chicken carcasses or bones. And that’s what I’m going for this time – a classic pork rib, with a random chicken wing dropped in.
Choosing the Barley
Fun fact: Krupnik’s name comes from the word ‘krupy’ (croo-pyh) which is an old term to describe grains that were greased and polished, keeping their natural shape. [source]
While medium-ground barley grits are the most popular choice, I’ve tried krupnik before with thicker/larger alternatives. But while hulled barley (kasza pęczak) tastes great, it’s a bit too chunky for my liking.
Polish Barley Mini-Dictionary
Pęczak = Hulled Barley
Jęczmienna Łamana / Wiejska = Barley Grits
Jęczmienna Perłowa = Pearl Barley
Veggies for Krupnik
In addition to grains and meats, krupnik should be literally stuffed with vegetables. Of course, we’ll need some carrots: grated, chopped or cubed. Just don’t go overboard with these orange roots, because krupnik may get overly sweet.
Another key veg is onion. Just like when cooking rosół, you can charr it first – it elevates the flavours. If you can’t stand the onions, they can be replaced with diced leeks. Can’t decide between them? Just add both! It’s also worth adding some parsley root (grated or finely chopped).
If you’re feeling lazy (hey, that’s okay! I’ve been there too) use a frozen veggie mix. Herb-wise, opt in for parsley, dill or lovage leaves.
Wild Mushrooms? Some Cream?
Some drop in a few dried wild mushrooms into krupnik, and others add cream. Both are totally optional. You’ll have to try different variants to find your favourite type of meat and add-ons that will define the final taste.
Good to know: Don’t mistake krupnik: the soup with krupnik: a honey-infused liquor!
So How Did It Go?
My Attempt at Cooking a Classic
Sadly, all my cookbooks are temporarily stored away and I cannot get to them. I headed online in search of a recipe that was a) classic, without any twists and b) easy enough for me to follow.
And I’m going to be honest – it proved harder than I thought. One (sic!) carrot for 4 litres (roughly 1 gallon) of water? That just sounded wrong to me. Then again – what do I know…
In the end, I picked a recipe by a popular Polish chef Karol Okrasa (you can find it in Polish over here) and decided on adding more vegetables than specified. I’ve also dropped in two extra wings.
- 14 oz (just under 1 lb, 400 g) Pork ribs
- 2 Chicken wings
- 4 Bay leaves
- 5 Allspice berries
- 1 Carrot
- 1 Parsley root
- 1 Onion
- ¾ cup (150 g) Barley grits, medium-ground
- 1lb (almost 500 g) potatoes
- 2 tbsp Parsley leaves, chopped
- Wash the ribs and place them into a large (5 US qt / 5 litre or larger) cooking pot, together with chicken wings, bay leaves and allspice.
- Peel carrot and parsley root and chop them into large pieces. Pour about 4 liters (around 1 gallon) of cold water.
- Cook for about an hour, skimming scum from the surface.
- Next, remove the vegetables, cool them down and cut into smaller pieces. Continue cooking the ribs until they’re tender.
- Peel and cut the onion in half, char it on a dry frying pan and add to the rib stock.
- When the ribs are soft & tender, pull them out of the broth and separate the meat from the bones. Tear the meat into smaller pieces.
- Peel & dice potatoes. Add barley and potatoes into the soup. Cook for about 30 minutes.
- Finally, add meat and vegetables. Season the soup with salt and pepper.
- Serve with chopped parsley.
Adapted from a recipe by Karol Okrasa.