Czarnina (char-NEE-nah), czernina, and czarna polewka) is a classic Polish Duck Blood Soup. Many Coal Region folks will recognize it from childhood, either having had it, turned away from it, or remember their grandparents or parents eating it. It is a Polish favorite that originated as a way to use up every part of a slaughtered duck or goose.
However, these days, most folks don’t face the issue of having to use up their own slaughtered animals… In addition, difficulty obtaining duck’s blood and/or the general squeamishness factor or flat-out distaste for the very thought of a blood soup leaves people looking for an alternative that still invokes memories they enjoy of the soup. Enter Mock Czarnina!
But first, a little history and trivia…
Czarnina gets its name from the Polish word czarny for “black”, referring to the soup’s dark color. It is typically made with duck or goose blood, dried fruits, and vinegar, giving it a sweet-sour flavor, much loved by Eastern Europeans. And it is most often served with kluski noodles or potato dumplings.
Until the 19th century czernina was also a symbol in Polish culture. It was served to young men applying for the hand of their beloved. If the suitor was accepted he would be served black czernina along with the rest of the family. If not, he would be served a bowl of golden czernina, made without the duck’s blood, as a symbolic rejection of their proposal.
Among the hundreds (thousands?) of family recipes for czarnina throughout different parts of Poland, Belarus and Lithuania, one trait follows through – a sweet and sour taste obtained from using a balance of sugar and vinegar among other ingredients like dried pears, plums or cherries, apple vinegar and honey. Like most Polish soups, czernina is usually served with kluski, fine noodles, boiled potatoes, or dumplings.
This mock czarnina (aka “blind duck blood soup”…hmmm, not sure that is a much friendlier name…) takes traditional flavors and modern-izes them for today’s cooks, tastes, and ingredients. You can add different fruits to your liking, this recipe starts with the basics.
Mock Czarnina (Duck Blood Soup – Mock Version)Course: SoupsCuisine: Eastern European, Coal RegionDifficulty: Intermediate
This mock czarnina takes traditional flavors and modern-izes them for today’s cooks, tastes, and ingredients.
3 pounds meaty fresh or smoked neck bones, pork, turkey, duck, etc.
1 pound dried prunes, pitted
1 large rib celery, chopped
1 large sprig fresh parsley
1 bay leaf
5 whole allspice
2 whole cloves
1/4 cup raisins
1 small tart apple, chopped
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
1/2 to 1 tablespoon sugar
2 cups light cream
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Salt and pepper to taste
- 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.
- Meanwhile, place celery, parsley, allspice and cloves in a cheesecloth bag tied with kitchen twine. Add to the soup pot, then add vinegar and bay leaf and bring to boil, reduce to simmer and cook partially covered about an hour.
- Add prunes and seasoning, adjusting sugar, salt and pepper to taste. Return to boiling, reduce heat to a simmer and cook partially covered for another hour or until meat is falling off the bone. Remove meat from pot, clean off the bones and return the meat to the pot.
- Adjust the seasonings again if needed, add the vinegar or lemon juice slowly, adjusting to your taste.. Add the seasonings slowly, and keep tasting. Soup should be slightly sweet and tart.
- Remove pot from heat. Cool then refrigerate. Once fully cooled, remove fat from top and discard.
- When ready to serve, thicken the soup: Place a few cups of cold soup in a bowl. Slowly whisk the flour into the cream until very smooth. Add the cream mix to the cold soup in the separate bowl mixing until blended. Pour this mixture back into the soup pot and heat gently until soup is thickened and bubbles. Make any final seasoning adjustments to taste.
- Serve over noodles or with dumplings, if desired.