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(Polish Duck Soup...with some German annotations)

This profoundly traditional soup is not easy on ingredients, unless you have access to freshly slaughtered ducks. But it is well beloved and should not be lost from the soupmaking canon. A German recipe was promised to me by Emilie Quast of Minneapolis, Minnesota, on the heels of my story about Swedish svartsoppa, or "black soup," made of goose parts--and boy, has she ever delivered:

"Long, long ago," she says, "I promised you a copy of my mother's duck soup. Unfortunately, my mother wrote her recipes on odd slips of paper and you know the rest. I'll give my brother credit, he really tried hard to find her notes. But I happened to mention it to an acquaintance at our library and (Wonderful Surprise!) she knew exactly what I was talking about. It's her family recipe that follows. I've made notes at the end of Beth's recipe to let you know how her very upscale Polish version got handled in a German kitchen. I suspect the Polish version is closer to the traditional presentation. My family probably is a lot farther removed from Germany than Beth's is from Poland, plus my mother didn't have a whole lot of patience in the kitchen. She was a good cook but very much cooked 'Make do or do without.' Plus, she'd never give up a whole bird for soup. Her version would be roast for the first day and leftovers for soup. With duck, we had no leftovers, not ever!"

Garnish: raw potato dumplings (Make a stiff dough of 2 cups grated (and drained) raw potatoes, 1 teaspoon salt, 2 beaten eggs, 1½ cups flour, and ½ cup dry bread crumbs)

Kill the duck; chop off its head. Catch the blood in a glass or pottery bowl. Stir in the vinegar to keep it from clotting; set aside in fridge to cool. In the meantime, pluck and dress the duck.

Place the duck carcass, including the neck, heart, liver, and gizzards into a large stockpot. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Skim the stock, reduce heat to a simmer. Add the celery, parsley, onion, and the small spice bag to the stock. Cook slowly until the duck meat is done - about 2 hours. Remove the spice bag from the soup and discard. Lift the duck carcass from the soup and pull the meat off the bones; put the meat back into the soup. Add the dried fruit and cook about another half hour.

Blend the flour into the sour cream, then slowly mix into the blood-vinegar mixture. Slowly (or it will curdle) add about 1 cup of the hot soup stock to the blood-vinegar-flour-sour cream mixture, stir well, and add it all to the stock pot. Add the sugar, add salt to taste, and if necessary add a bit more vinegar. It should have a slight sweet/sour 'nip' to it.

When ready to serve, drop the still potato dumpling dough by small spoonfuls into the boiling soup stock or salted water. They are done as soon as they float to the top.

Emilie's guess work:

Mom got her ducks from a woman who raised them. The woman would show up a couple of days before soup day with a package of feet, necks, gizzards, livers, hearts, plus my mother's order of butchered duck for the freezer. There would also be a quart+ of blood in the delivery. This was easy to do since the woman did her own butchering. The simmering time was all morning to get every smidge of flavor out of that meat. There was no chopped breast in the broth, but there may have been a couple of backs, occasionally. I recall lots of neck bones. Some of the farmer's customers only wanted the breasts. Annie always ate with us on duck soup day. She lived alone and didn't like to make big pots of anything, so never made soup.

Mom usually used prunes alone or prunes and apricots; it depended on what was in the cupboard that day. She never used the cherries or dried apples.

I don't remember the sour cream, but it may have been there.

We called the soup "chocolate" soup for its color: chocolate-y brown with lovely white dumplings floating like clouds over the soup.

Looking at Beth's name for the soup, I can just see it in a lovely silver or pewter tureen with the fluffy white dumpling clouds floating in triumph.


* From Rita in Pittsburgh on behalf of Our Lady of the Angels church: Just wanted to let you know that I have been making czarnina for my church festival for years. Each year I usually sell all of it within an hour. I use 1/2 duck and 1/2 rack of pork spareribs for each pot. It makes a> > richer broth and not as greasy. I make at least 10 pots of czarnina each year for the festival it is a big hit.

* From Wendy in Illinois: "I just wanted to say that I have not had Czarnina as good as my grandfather's and that was before August of 1989...I am a 27 year old polish/italian female with my grandfathers cooking skills. No one else in my family can cook it like my grandfather. All I remember is my poppa getting up at 5:00 o'clock in the morning and start making his soup...I really just want to make it like he did. It is a memory I will cherish, and that may seem crazy but my poppa was like my father, and he meant the world to me. I just want to carry on his legacy."

* From Barbara Mann: "This was the way my great-grandmother made it, she used prunes and potato balls, strained to the mix. I've never had it again as good as when she made it for holidays."