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Schav - a taste of old Poland

I remember eating schav soup from a jar years ago - do they even sell it anymore?

I understand that this soup was used as a kind of spring tonic, a specialty of spring
because the leaves involved, sorrel, are among the first edible greens to
appear. And that meant a lot when the winter vegetable diet was confined to
storage turnips and the like.

This morning they have sorrel at the farmer's market. So I bought a big bagfull
and will make soup tonight.

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  1. eating schav, drinking three glasses of tea before bed and gefilte fish without sugar are three litvish customs of my father I let go of. ;-)

    4 Replies
    1. re: berel

      So, I shouldn't send you a bowl tonight at dinnertime?

      Seriously, I am doing this out of pure curiosity. But there must be some chance it will taste good. I like sweet/sour flavors, after all.

      1. re: AdinaA

        I remember my mom telling me the reason my Dad ate schav in Poland is because they had nothing else to eat

        1. re: berel

          Well, you can slander scahv all you want, and I'm still curious enough to make a pot and try it.

          There is probably truth in what your mother said. Late winter and early spring were times of dearth. The cows weren't giving milk, grain stocks might get so low that hens stopped laying. And the stocks of vegetables in the root cellars would have been very low. I suspect, however, that the real problem was vitamins. Scurvy was actually a serious problem at this time of year in earlier centuries across northern Europe. The English term for foods like scahv is spring tonic, because eating soups made form sorrel, dandelions and other very early spring greens was genuinely healthful.

          1. re: berel

            My aunt would frequently enjoy a bowl of schav with a good dollop of sour cream stirred in. No one else ever ate it, though. And, believe it or not, we can get the jarred version in NC. Can't get kosher meat, but schav we can get. I'm sure that fresh is bettter, though.

            And, for the record, my family is Polish.

      2. Here's the recipe I found. http://www.recipesource.com/ethnic/no... Virtually identical to the one in Gil Troy. Troy, however, throws light on the topic. Turns out Litvish folk like Berer's Dad were too, er..., Litvish to use sugar in their schav. It was Galitzianers who made it sweet/sour.

        3 Replies
        1. re: AdinaA

          I grew up eating Schav. We used to bring my gradmother and my great aunt to the beach with us and they'd make a big pot of it. I think they usually used spinach as sorrell was sometimes hard to come by. It was great coming off the beach after a long hot day and since the beach houses we rented didn't have AC, it was refreshing to have something cold. She never added lemon though, as in this recipe. It's not the first time I've seen lemon as an ingredient in an Eastern European recipe. Where would they gotten lemons?

          1. re: southernitalian

            Same place they got oranges. My mother's father would "travel to the city" for business and bring back "exotic" delicacies (in season, of course).

            1. re: southernitalian

              They wouldn't, alhtough they might have used vinegar. I suspect that it crept in to put the sourness into a spinach-based version. It is useful even with sorrel because it lets you adjust the sourness to taste.

          2. http://goldshorseradish.com/new/glute...

            Yes they still make it in the jar. My late father used to eat this, no one else in the house would.

            1. It was delicious. I followed Gil Troy's recipe, using an immersion blender to insure authenticity and absolute fidelity to the cooking methods used in the shtetl.

              It was lovely. The row sorrel leaves have a distinct sourness that dominates the soup. I added sugar with a very light hand, and whisked in egs which thickened it only slightly. We all sampled it both plain and with sour cream, and enjoyed it both ways but thought it was wonderful with a dollop of sour cream swirled into the bowl.

              1. My Bubbie would serve schav cold for Shabbat lunch with buttered black bread and a raw scallion to chomp on.

                7 Replies
                1. re: mamaleh

                  Hungarians eat a sorrel soup/porridge, so it's not JUST Polish.

                  1. re: DeisCane

                    Good point. My grandmother grew up outside of Minsk.

                    1. re: southernitalian

                      BTW, it looks like it's still available in Shop-Rites: http://www.shoprite.com/pd/Manischewi...

                      Some background on Hungarian versions: http://www.chew.hu/soska.html

                      1. re: DeisCane

                        The Gold's brand I wrote about upthread is stocked at Shop-Rite, saw it last night

                        1. re: bagelman01

                          Well, I liked it very much fresh. I'd be interested to hear from anyone who could compare fresh and bottled.

                          1. re: AdinaA

                            FRESH. Even better the next day :)

                            1. re: AdinaA

                              Fresh/Bottled comparison

                              My grandmother's fresh delicious
                              Gold's bottled, good, better if doctored
                              My ex-mother in law's fresh-inedible

                              BTW>My grandmother would often make this fleishige with bits of flanken in it. She also made borscht fleischige. Neither were ever served with sour cream in it.

                  2. I think I am the only schav eater in northern Virginia. I can drink that stuff by the jar. I add a big dollop of sour cream and I am good to go. The last few jars I bought all had a thick coating of dust on the lid, which tells you all you need to know about the demand.

                    I'm sure the kosher supermarkets in the MD suburbs sell it, but I don't get up there much. But now that I'm craving it since I couldn't find any for passover, I might have to make a trip.

                    My great-aunt Pearl also used to make a borscht out of green beans back in the day.

                    My heritage is 100-percent Polish (eastern on my father's side, western on my mom's).

                    BTW, I also drink gefilte fish jelly from the jar. LOL

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Bob W

                      You and my late father-in-law could have had a wonderful time drinking shav and eating gefilta fish jelly together form dusty jars, but only if you went on to eat the jelly from an intensely garlicky p'tcha.

                      1. re: AdinaA

                        My late father was a huge p'cha fan. That was part of Aunt Pearl's repertoire and he was the only one who eat that stuff.

                    2. I think Schav is delicious, but then again I was served it at a very young age and so it became sort of a tribal memory as opposed to a taste I had to acquire. I say go for it.

                      1. My mother ate 2 cold soups when I was young: borscht and schav. While we had family and history in and from Russia and Germany, among other places, the matriarchal base was in Poland and in an area that changed 'allegiance' (more like occupancy by different military forces) from Germany to Poland to Russian and so forth.

                        Here's the thing: She always told me schav was cold cabbage soup. I never heard anything about sorrel and don't recall ever using it in my life. It has an acid in it that, in large doses (very large) is fatally poisonous... but it is very much a Polish and Jewish traditional meal.

                        I cannot find any recipe out there that includes, let alone gives a star role, to cabbage. Does anyone else have any experience, memories, references of a cold green cabbage soup from Poland/Eastern Europe?

                        Mom liked borscht with a raw egg and sour cream mixed in at serving time. I abhorred it and schav as a kid but have a warm and comforting recipe of my own now. I miss her a lot and this SO takes me back to bonding time with her, sharing those rare glimpses into her life as a child of immigrants.

                        One other memory that's hard to extract from my brain: coming home and finding, literally, a whole tongue unwrapped (on newspaper) on the kitchen table. I became a vegetarian that day and have been so the rest of my life. I'll eat dairy, but I will not eat a raw egg. Nuh uh.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: gabrielrafael

                          My Bubbie's family was from Belarus. She made a very simple schav in the new world with spinach and cabbage. Ingredients and proportions depended on what was on sale that week at the market. No raw egg, but always sour cream. She boiled sliced onions, carrots, and cubed potatoes in water then added chopped spinach and/or cabbage. Added to taste vinegar (or lemon juice if lemons were a real metziah), salt and pepper, dill. Refrigerated overnight and served with sour cream, buttered black bread and a scallion. I don't know if the original recipe included sugar or not - Zaidie was diabetic, so there wasn't any sugar in anything.

                          I share your tongue trauma. To this day, I will not eat anything that once could have licked me back.

                          1. re: mamaleh

                            Too funny. I hope my daughter isn't telling a similar story in another 30 years. The Spouse loves tongue. I can take it or leave it. He's gotten into curing his own, though, and does a pretty good job of it. The last tongue he made he cut off a small unrecognizable bit and gave it to the kid. She eats it, rhapsodizes about how delicious it is, then says,"Wait, is that a tastebud? Ewwwwwwww!" and that's the last of her eating tongue. More for him, I guess.

                            1. re: rockycat

                              I also remember Bubbie packing my school lunch one day when I was about 12. She knew I liked tuna fish sandwiches, but something got lost in translation. Black bread, butter, salt, whole tinned sardines, and raw onions. Half way through the sandwich, I made the mistake of taking the bread off the top of the sandwich and seeing a sardine staring back at me. I was worried for the rest of the day that there could be a fish eye stuck in my teeth. Oy.