ESTER ESSENTIALS HORSERADISH

ESTER ESSENTIALS - HORSERADISH

Nowadays, during Easter celebrations in Poland we tend to stick to traditions and food mostly connected to them. One of such important flavours of our Easter is the horseradish – we add it to eggs and Żurek ( known also as the White Borscht, traditional sour soup witch can be described as made out of fermented cereals flour). In Old Poland it was even more popular as an addition to various dishes, there was even a saying that can be loosely translated as Horseradish is the best with company. It has always been praised for being beneficial to our health and for its distinctive taste, which made it often used as a replacement for more expensive spices.

 

The use of horseradish as a remedy for gastric problems can be dated way back. In 1845 Józef Gerald wrote in his Economic and Technical Herbarium that The root of horseradish is used in medicines. The spicy oil that it contains, is responsible for stimulating kidneys and stomach. It also has anti scurvy properties. In his work, the german botanist and apothecary Carl Ludwig Willdenow mentions the benefits of mixing horseradish with alcohol – Mixed with gorzalka (old polish for vodka) and taken as a medicine the root of horseradish is a remedy for stomach ache.
The use of gorzalka and its earlier versions known as okowita ( from latin aqua vitae – the water of life) in this mixture is no accident. Alcohol is known for its ability to macerate – it can isolate different chemical compounds while transferring them to the liquid form thus enhancing their general properties. This process has been used not only to create mixtures with horseradish – it is also known as a base for producing old alchemical recipes and since the XVII century in Poland it has been essential during making of Nalewki – traditional old polish flavoured vodka infusions.

During the XVI century, many botanists wrote about medical uses of horseradish. Marcin from Urzędowo in his “ Polish Herbarium” wrote about the many ways in which the horseradish can improve our health – he points out that the syrup made from it can be used as antiseptic for the respiratory tracts. Stefan Falimirz – the author of the first polish herbarium published in 1534 in Cracow- underlined in his work that horseradish used as an addition to cold dishes such as fish can be very beneficial for the stomach.

 

Article by Sebastian Gaik tour guide in the Polish Vodka Museum.

 

THE USE OF ALCOHOL IN BAKING

THE USE OF ALCOHOL IN BAKING

Adding alcohol to cakes can have several functions. If we want to improve crispness and crunchiness, we can add alcohol especially to shortcakes and biscuits because it will slow down the gluten-forming process in flour. If we apply it to the mass, we will break the bland taste of a butter.

What about a baking with yeast?

A good example of this kind of treat is Pączek – filled doughnuts from Polish cuisine. Initially stuffed with bacon or meat and eaten as a treat during vodka drinking. Then at the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries also served with fruit jam and rose vodka. The alcohol added to the mass evaporated during frying preventing fat absorption from happenig.

The tradition of pastries around Easter is long and complicated, especially when it comes to names 😉

The lexicographer Jan Mączyński wrote about Pączek in the 16th century. He also mentioned pastries such as Kalach ( a traditional Eastern European bread, the name originates from the Old Slavonic word “kolo” meaning “circle”, “wheel”). In the dictionary of another 17th-century linguist Grzegorz Knapski the word Kalach appears as synonyms of bagel and obwarzanek. At the beginning of the 19th-century Samuel Linde described Easter Cake (in polish: “Baba Wielkanocna”) as a kind of cake with the shape of a “Turk’s turban”. Nowadays we believe that the name of Easter Cake is a reference to the shape that the women’s skirts used to have (narrower at top, wider at bottom). As indicated by Polish historian Zygmunt Gloger in “The Book of Polish Things”, Easter Cake was a wheat flour cake, with the addition of saffron (to give a yellow color) baked in copper or clay dishes.

Coming back to the alcohol, there is also a story that Polish King Stanisław Leszczynśki, while staying somewhere in Lorraine, tried a very dry Easter Cake. He didn’t liked it, so he added some rum and probably began the habit of adding alcohol to this cake.

Another kind of Easter snack known as Kalach in eng. is very popular in the Silesia region of Poland. Here its called Kołocz Śląski. In contrast to original rounded version, this one is square and it has been entered in the Register of Protected Geographical Indications.

Article by Sebastian Gaik tour guide in the Polish Vodka Museum.

WHAT IS POLISH VODKA MADE OUT OF?

WHAT IS POLISH VODKA MADE OUT OF?

In other articles we talked about what is Polish Vodka and how it is made. Now it’s time to take a closer look at the ingredients used to make it. These are traditional Polish cereals: rye, wheat, oats, barley, triticale or potatoes. All these resources must be grown in Poland if they are used to produce Polish Vodka.

A variety of raw materials – a variety of flavours

To this day, many people believe in the unfair stereotype that vodka has no taste or smell, but it only has to “work.” Of course this is not true. The type of raw material used in the production has the greatest impact on the taste of vodka. For example, rye vodka will always have a different character than potato vodka. What’s more, the definition of Polish Vodka allows different types of cereals to be mixed together, which makes it possible to create unique compositions. Growing conditions, starch and nutrient content as well as the overall quality of the raw materials are also important.

Regardless of the ingredient used, about 200 different compounds are formed in the fermentation process that shape the distillate’s taste and smell. The trick is to remove those that negatively affect the taste of the spirit during rectification and leave those that give it a characteristic taste.

Rye

Rye is definitely the most popular raw material for the production of Polish Vodka. Thanks to this, when many people in our country think about the taste of vodka, they unconsciously evoke the qualities of rye vodka. Rye is used to produce vodkas with very desirable taste qualities. Vodka from rye is crisp, almost spicy. Perfect for drinking straight (no additives). It is also a great base for infusions and cocktails with intense flavours. In addition, rye “loves” the Polish climate and soil conditions – it does not freeze in the winter. From 100 kg of wholesome rye grain about 33 liters of spirit are obtained.

Potatoes

Potato vodka definitely stands out on the market dominated by grain vodkas. This uniqueness is also protected by the definition of Polish Vodka, which allows combining various cereals, but not potatoes with cereals. Vodka is produced from selected types of potatoes with a high starch content, thanks to which it has a delicate and mild taste. Potato vodka has a velvet texture. Best for drinking on ice and for dessert, sweeter flavour combinations. The production of potato vodka is a slightly more complicated and costly process than the production of grain vodka. Only 12 liters of spirit can be produced from 100 kg of potatoes.

Wheat

Wheat is often processed in Polish distilleries. Vodkas made from it have a soft and mild taste. Wheat vodka is recommended for sophisticated flavour combinations, often using exotic ingredients such as lemongrass. Drunk straight works just as well. Wheat is more demanding to grow than rye. It is more efficient. The high content of carbohydrates allows you to get about 38 liters of spirit from 100 kg of wheat grain.

Oat

Oats are occasionally used for the production of vodka. This is due to the very high fiber content in the grain and the lower carbohydrate content than other cereals. In terms of taste, oat spirit also definitely gives way to rye and wheat spirit.

Barley

Barley is rarely used as a basic raw material for the production of vodka. The specific structure and high fiber content make grain processing very difficult. However, formerly barley malt was added to the mash in the production of each vodka as a natural source of saccharification enzymes.

Triticale

Triticale is a hybrid of rye and wheat, first described at the end of the 19th century. Widely cultivated in Poland only since the 80s of the last century. Nevertheless, it was included in the definition of Polish Vodka as a combination of two traditional cereals for Poland. It has less soil requirements than wheat, and is also more resistant to diseases and frost. As a curiosity it is worth adding that one third of the world’s triticale crops are in Poland.

… and once again – Polish quality

Undoubtedly, the type of raw material used for production has a huge impact on the nature of the obtained drink. Regardless of the ingredient chosen, you always have to remember that the quality of ingredients affects the quality of the final product. This is one of the secrets of the unquestionable success of Polish Vodka. In Poland, we have not only a favourable climate and soil conditions, but also world-class specialists – farmers and distillers who have been perfecting the cultivation and processing of traditional raw materials for generations. French winemakers call such a unique combination of natural factors and human experience terroir. It is the Polish terroir that determines the inexorable character of Polish Vodka.

Article by Sebastian Gaik tour guide in the Polish Vodka Museum.