Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Czarnina - Polish Duck Blood Soup

Witamy!  Over the past few weeks we’ve been signing our book at several Polish church festivals up and down the East Coast.  Quite a few folks have asked if our book contains a recipe for Czarnina (Duck Blood Soup) which holds a legendary spot in old traditional Polish cuisine.  Poles remember it from their childhoods and having tasted it at their Babcia’s table.  Today, I submit that this dish is one of those legends that gets bigger with age, but it also fades with age when trying to remember how this soup actually tasted.   Duck blood??  For real?? 
Even though I can’t get my head wrapped around the idea of sipping the blood of a duck, even cooked, we would have included it in our book – if the ingredients were easier to find.  I called our favorite butcher and was told that fresh ducks were readily available, but only cleaned and dressed.  With all the regulations on commercial food handling, I’m guessing that no one will guarantee the freshness and safety of the blood.  I suppose one could get fresh blood directly from a farmer...if one knew a farmer.  Do you know how to get fresh duck blood soup in the U.S.?
While researching this post, I found a no-blood version, called Blind Duck Blood Soup. It still has a lot of flavor, but avoiding the blood is a better way to go, as far as I’m concerned.  It’s an imitation version that gets a lot of flavor from fresh or smoked neck bones, either pork or some variety of fowl – whatever you can get.  Try it and let us know how it worked. 

 Ślepo Czarnina - Blind (or Bloodless) Duck Blood SoupServes 8
• 3 pounds fresh or smoked neck bones: pork, turkey, duck, etc.
• 1 pound dried prunes, pitted
• 1 stalk celery
• 1 sprig parsley
• 1 bay leaf
• 5 whole allspice
• 2 whole cloves
• ¼ cup raisins
• 1 small tart apple, chopped
• 1/4 cup vinegar or lemon juice
• ½ to 1 tablespoon sugar
• 2 cups light cream
• 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
• Salt and pepper to taste

1. If using fresh neck bones, blanch, drain and rinse them.  Place blanched or smoked neck bones in a large pot or Dutch oven. Cover with water. Bring to a boil, skimming off any foam that rises to the top.
2. While the bones are coming to a boil, make a small bag from cheese cloth (or a clean cotton hankie) and place in it the celery, parsley, allspice and cloves.  Add it to the soup pot, reduce heat, add vinegar and bay leaf and simmer, partially covered, for 1 hour.
3. Add prunes, apple, and season slowly with sugar, salt and pepper (watch the salt if using smoked neck bones).  Bring back to a boil, reduce heat and simmer slowly, partially covered, for 1 hour or until meat falls off the bone.
4. Taste again and adjust the seasonings, including the vinegar or lemon juice, to your own palate.  Add the seasonings slowly, and keep tasting.  The broth should have a slightly sweet tone from the plums and sugar, but with a light and soft contrasting tartness from the vinegar or lemon juice.  Remove meat from bones and return to pot.
5. Turn off the heat, cool soup and then refrigerate until fat is congealed on top for easy skimming and removal. 
6. Just before serving, in a medium bowl, “cream” the cold soup by adding a few ladles of cold soup and slowly whisking in the flour and cream; and whisking (or blending) until very smooth and all the flour lumps are gone.  Pour this mixture back into the soup pot and heat gently until soup is thickened and any raw flour taste is cooked out.
Serve over noodles, if desired.

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