Polish White Borscht on Wheat Starter

Barszcz biały na pszennym zakwasie i żeberkach

White Borscht (Polish ‘Barszcz Biały’, pronoun.: ‘barsh-ch bya-we’) is a hearty soup that has graced Polish Easter tables for centuries. 

Depending on the region, it’s soured with fermented wheat starter, sauerkraut juice or the leftover juices from fermented dill pickles. 

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.

In this recipe, we’re using wheat flour starter. It might sound scary, but it’s easy to make at home. 

Thanks to pork rib and white sausage, the soup has that meaty richness to it. Fragrant smoked bacon adds a pleasant, smoky vibe. Sourness of the starter is balanced nicely with sour cream and boiled egg. 

If you enjoy Polish soups, why not try these ones next?:

Fun fact: White Borscht is often confused with Żurek soup, and no wonder – at a first glance, they’re similar. The latter is soured with fermented rye starter, and is much sharper in flavour as a result. 

Do you need any special ingredients to make this White Borscht?

Yes, to make this recipe, you’ll have to shop around.

Wheat Starter

This soup is based on Fermented Wheat Flour Starter, or what we call ‘Zakwas Pszenny’ or ‘Żur Pszenny’.

🇵🇱 In Poland, ‘Zakwas Pszenny’ is sold at some bakeries and supermarkets, especially around Easter time. It’s sold in glass bottles or jars.

🌍 Internationally, you might get lucky and find ‘Zakwas Pszenny’ at a Polish deli. 

If you can’t find it anywhere – fear not, it’s easy to make at home. All you need is a jar, some whole wheat flour, garlic, water and… a bit of patience. It takes 5 days to ferment.

White Kiełbasa

Another ingredient that may be difficult to source is a Polish-style White Sausage (‘Biała Kiełbasa’). Quality is important here, a bad sausage can spoil the whole dish. 

White Kiełbasa is a pork sausage, parboiled or raw (ideally, we’ll need the latter). It’s mildly spiced, often enriched with veal. 

🇵🇱 In Poland, you’ll have no trouble finding it, any well-stocked meat store sells raw White Kiełbasa.

🌍 Abroad, try asking in a Polish store. When searching for alternatives, German-style Weisswurst will work too. 

If you just can’t find any of the above, get a regular raw pork sausage from the local butchers, the highest quality you can afford. 

I’m not being fancy here, but whatever you do – avoid vacuum-packed so-called “Polish kiełbasa” from a supermarket! It’s pre-cooked and full of unwanted additives. While it tastes fine when fried, it will definitely spoil your soup. 

How should you serve this Barszcz Biały?

In this recipe, White Borscht is served with boiled egg (halved), slices of white sausage, some chopped root vegetables and a little meat off the rib. I garnished it with some fresh marjoram.

Every region and household serves White Borscht differently, so feel free to mix it up! Here are some serving suggestions:

  • Eggs: sunny side up, boiled quail eggs, scotch eggs
  • Potatoes: Chopped spuds (boiled or baked), a solid spoonful of mashed potatoes
  • Farmer’s Cheese, crumbled or cubed, as a garnish
  • Meat: fried bacon as a garnish
  • Bread: croutons, serving in a bread bowl

What should you serve with White Borscht?

White Borscht is not a light appetizer – it’s a proper, hearty meal on its own right and no sides are needed. Serve it with some fresh bread on the side.

Can you make this Barszcz Biały another way?

Not really. There are many regional Barszcz Biały recipes, calling for additional ingredients, while skipping the others –  but the core method remains the same. 

In some regions, wheat ‘zakwas’ starter is replaced with sauerkraut juice. If you would like to give it a go, choose a ‘real’ sauerkraut – properly fermented, without any vinegar added.

What diets is this White Borscht suitable for?

This White Borscht contains meat and gluten. 

If you follow a gluten-free diet, swap the wheat starter for sauerkraut or dill pickle juice. It’s also a traditional method and it tastes really nice as well. Add the juice gradually, tasting as you go. 

How long can you keep this Barszcz Biały in the fridge?

Once Borscht is served, don’t keep it on the table for longer than 2-3 hours.

To refrigerate any leftovers, allow them to cool first. Keep them in a closed container – this could be a smaller cooking pot covered with a lid. 

Barszcz Biały can be kept in the fridge for up to 2 days. To keep it fresh for a day longer, skip the sour cream from the recipe and add it just before serving. 

Can I freeze this White Borscht?

Yes, Barszcz Biały can be frozen, but remember to:

  • skip the (boiled) eggs, they’re not happy in the freezer
  • if you kept kiełbasa as a whole link, slice it into rounds before freezing.

Once the soup has cooled completely, move it into a container with a lid. Label the box with the description and today’s date. Eat within 2-3 months.

How do I reheat this soup?

From chilled: Pour Barszcz Biały into a cooking pan and reheat slowly on low heat, until hot. Depending on the soup’s volume, this can take anywhere from 8 to 15 minutes.  

Don’t reheat this soup in a microwave, the healthy probiotics won’t survive it.

From frozen: Allow the soup to thaw, ideally overnight. Reheat on the stove, cooking on a low heat until Barszcz Biały becomes hot throughout.

Smacznego!

Two plates of White Borscht Soup (Polish Easter Soup) served with boiled egg (halved) and white  kiełbasa sausage
White Borscht

Polish White Borscht on Pork Ribs and Fermented Wheat Starter

Yield: 6-8
Prep Time: 5 days
Cook Time: 2 hours 10 minutes
Total Time: 5 days 2 hours 10 minutes

This Polish White Borscht delivers everything you want in a warm Easter soup. It’s a velvety, meaty stock laced with root veggies, horseradish, marjoram, and chunks of tender white kiełbasa sausage. 

Ingredients

  • 1.1 lb (500 g) pork rib
  • 2 medium carrots (roughly 4.2 oz, 120g)
  • 2 parsley roots (roughly 4.2 oz, 120g) - can be substituted for a celery root
  • 1 piece (roughly 4.2 oz, 120g) celery root
  • 1 leek (5 oz, 140 g) - just the white part
  • 5 black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 all-spice berries
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 tbsp grated horseradish
  • 5 oz (140 g) uncut smoked bacon
  • 4 links (500g, 1.1 lb) white kiełbasa sausage (fresh, raw, uncooked)
  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 2 ¼ cups (500ml) Sour Wheat Flour Starter (link to a recipe in the notes)
  • 2 tsp dried marjoram
  • 8 oz (225 ml) thick sour cream 18%
  • 2-3 hard boiled eggs
  • A few twigs of fresh marjoram, to garnish

Instructions

[Before you start] 

Making Sour Wheat Flour Starter at home is very easy, but it takes 5 days to ferment. You’ll have to do that in advance.

The recipe for a Wheat Flour Starter is exactly the same as the Rye Starter outlined here. Just replace rye flour with whole wheat flour - everything else remains the same.

Once you have your Wheat Starter ready, continue with the recipe:

  1. Grab a large cooking pot, 4-5 quart / litres should be enough. Place just over a pound (around 500 grams) of pork ribs inside. 
  2. Pour in just over 2 quarts (2 litres) of cold water. Bring to boil, then reduce the heat to low-medium. Cover with a lid and cook for 30 minutes. 
  3. While that’s cooking, peel the vegetables: 2 carrots, 2 parsley roots, a piece of celery root. Chop into chunky pieces. 
  4. Grab a leek, remove the dirty outer leaves. 
  5. Wash all the veggies under the running water and set them aside.
  6. Once the 30 minutes are up, add chopped vegetables to the pot. Add the spices: 3 all-spice berries, 2 bay leaves, 5 black peppercorns.
  7. Bring the pot to boil, reduce the heat to low and cook undercover for another hour. 
  8. After that time, peel a garlic clove and smash it with a side of a knife. Add to the pot.
  9. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and 2 tablespoons of grated horseradish. This can be from a jar or freshly grated - whatever you have available.
  10. Cook for another 5 minutes or so. Grab another pot and place a strainer over it. Pour our soup through it. Don’t throw the veggies and meat away! Keep them on the side for now.
  11. Grab a piece of smoked bacon. If it has a tough skin, cut it off. Cut the meat into cubes, roughly quarter of an inch (5-6 mm) in size. 
  12. Heat up 1 teaspoon of canola oil and 1 teaspoon of butter. Add chopped bacon. Fry for 5-7 minutes, until the meat cubes turn lightly golden. Add it to the soup.
  13. Grab 4 white kiełbasa links, poke them with a toothpick in a few places. Add them to the pot and cook on low heat for 20 minutes.
  14. Add 1⅓ cup (300ml) of sour wheat starter for a milder Barszcz, up to 2 cups (or more; roughly 500ml) for a sharper result. If you’re not sure how much to add, pour it over gradually, tasting along the way.

    There are two ways to do it:
    • Mix the contents of the jar/bottle, so that the liquid part blends with the floury part,
    • Or start by adding the liquid only, topping with the muddy floury part later on - spoonful by spoonful, until you reach the desired thickness. That’s how I do it.
  15. Add 2 teaspoons of dried marjoram and bring to a boil. Cook for a few minutes, stirring continuously. Have a taste - does it need some seasoning? If so, add a pinch of salt and pepper.
  16. Pour the sour cream into a cup. Gradually add some hot soup in (around 8 tablespoons in total), spoonful by spoonful, stirring as you go. Pour over this creamy mixture into the soup, mix it in with a spoon. 
  17. Do you want to serve your soup with vegetables and meat? Chop some veggies into pieces. Remove the meat from the bone. Add them to the soup. Cook for another 2-3 minutes on a low heat.
  18. Peel the boiled eggs, slice them in half. 
  19. To serve, pour the soup over into bowls or soup plates. Distribute the pieces of meat and vegetables evenly. Add a portion of sausage to each plate - whole links or slices, up to you.
  20. Decorate with halved boiled eggs and fresh marjoram. 

Notes

The recipe for a Wheat Flour Starter is exactly the same as the Rye Starter here. Just replace rye flour with whole wheat flour - everything else remains the same.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 522Total Fat: 26gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 13gCholesterol: 148mgSodium: 1021mgCarbohydrates: 52gFiber: 6gSugar: 7gProtein: 20g

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Kasia Kronenberger

Kasia is the founder of Polonist, where she celebrates Poland’s very best food.
She’s a self-taught home cook, who – through her own culinary attempts – wants to show you how to recreate Polish flavours at home, wherever that is.
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