A FEW WORDS ABOUT BORSCHT MADE WITH SOURDOUGH
The name of our traditional Easter borscht comes from a plant that was commonly used in Old Polish cuisine. However the dish made from it did not resemble borscht, as we know it today.
Usually it was made from chopped stalks and leaves of borscht, which were thrown into barrels and flooded with water. After some time, the whole thing fermented and thus “silage” contained a small amount of alcohol. However, the way of serving the dish was similar to the current one, because, as one of the Polish herbalists, Szymon Syreński called Syreniusz wrote in his work: „[…] brewed alone, or with a capon or other spices, as with yayca (eggs), with cream [… ]”. Undoubtedly, the taste and health values of such a soup have also been preserved. Those are mentioned by both Syreniusz: „[…] as a medicine and with a meal […]”, as well as another well-known herbalist Marcin from Urzędów in his work “Polish Herbalist” from 1595: „The second thing they attribute to borscht is true, because it probably doesn’t hurt anyone, but attributing borscht that it is not helpful is unfair, because it helps a lot […]”.
Of course, the best borscht is made with sourdough. It can be made from beetroots (red borscht) and flour leaven (white borscht). Due to the upcoming holidays a few words about the preparation of the white one.
For sourdough to form, fermentation must occur. It is one of the oldest biotechnological processes occurring in nature, over time it has been developed as a technology and used, among others, for food production. It occurs with the participation of microorganisms: bacteria and yeast. Fermented products are more easily absorbed by the digestive system, protected against mold and enriched with live bacterial cultures.
When preparing sourdough for borscht we are dealing with lactic fermentation. Its microflora is dominated by lactic bacteria, living in symbiosis with wild yeast, which multiply during sourdough maturation and decompose starch in the process of hydrolysis (together with water) into yeast fermented sugars. The formation of bubbles in the sourdough is the evidence of a good bacterial performance, i.e. carbon dioxide releasing. This process is also particularly desirable when preparing the leaven for baking (the dough is then chubby), and this role is also taken by yeast, which exhales CO2 and then produces ethanol anaerobically (alcoholic fermentation). From the physico-chemical reaction point of view, the action of yeast is a similar process that occurs in the distillery industry, except that in the case of baking dough, the resulting alcohol evaporates during baking (ethanol evaporates at 78 degrees Celsius), while the one formed in the distillation process remains liquefied and becomes a subject to rectification process.
Article by Sebastian Gaik tour guide in the Polish Vodka Museum.