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May 9, 2011 05:09 AM

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. 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.


            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:

                      Some background on Hungarian versions:

                      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.