The winters are long and hard in Poland and the traditional dishes use ingredients which will survive through these winter months: smoked meats, picked herrings, potatoes, cabbage, pickled or fermented cabbage and gherkins, dried mushrooms, buckwheat, rye, dried fruits, poppy and caraway seeds and honey.
The summers are usually warm and there are lots of red berries, apples, fresh dill, flat leaved parsley, tomatoes, carrots and spring onions. Soured milk, soured cream and curd cheese feature in many dishes as this was the way to extend the life of dairy products before refrigeration. Much of the summer produce that was not eaten would be preserved for the winter by drying, bottling, pickling, fermenting or made into jams.
Both my parents had grown up in the country side on small farms and their families had grown crops, kept animals and knew how to cure meats and preserve fruit and vegetables.
My father’s family’s land had some woodland and bordered onto a small river, and he used to say that with this they were very rich as they could hunt for small animals and birds, catch fish and find mushrooms, nuts and berries.
The Poles are very hospitable and passionate about good food, no guest invited or unexpected is ever sent away hungry. My childhood memories are filled with every occasion possible celebrated with tables filled with delicious food and people of all ages together.
The Polish kitchen seems to rely on one cook who spends a great deal of time preparing food for the extended family and “fast food” is not a description one would use of many of the dishes. However although many take a while to prepare they can then be left to cook slowly and are ideal to be reheated so there is no last minute panic and what is made can serve for several meals.
So when you try out my recipes may I wish you, as they do in Poland before eating, – smacznego! – (may it taste delicious).