Czarnina: Traditional Polish Duck Blood Soup

Czarnina: Traditional Polish Duck Blood Soup #nourishedkitchen

This recipe and charming story come to you from my close friend, Becca.  She visited me recently, and shared her Great-Grandmother’s Czarnina, or traditional Polish Duck Blood Soup.  I asked her to share it with you below.  It’s a lovely soup, faintly sweet and sour, and dotted with dried fruit.  You can learn more about traditional Polish cooking in one of Becca’s favorite cookbooks, Treasured Polish Recipes for Americans. I hope you love it as much as we did.  - Jenny

This is an adaptation of my grandmother’s recipe for duck blood soup or czarnina (pronounced cha-NEE-na or char-NEE-na, the R is very soft). My grandmother’s parents on my dad’s side of the family emigrated from Poland in the early 1900’s, but my grandmother did not teach her children to speak Polish and served them American food as children. Fortunately, she did not abandon every tradition from the old country, and so I grew up with stories of Busia’s (Polish for grandmother, her mother, my great-grandmother) duck blood soup that was served during the holidays. It sounded exotic and delicious, if a little bit strange.

Several years ago I became interested in traditional Polish cooking and asked my grandmother to share her recipe. She not only shared her recipe with me, but she also sent me a cookbook full of traditional Polish recipes. The adaptation that follows is traditional, nourishing, energizing, and thoroughly delicious. If your dinner guests are dubious about blood, just tell them it’s gravy soup. This meal is often served on Christmas Eve. It also makes a wonderful Sunday dinner in the fall.

Duck blood is an essential ingredient in this soup. It imparts a unique rich flavor and is loaded with vitamins and iron. I decided to raise my own Muscovy ducks in order to be able to prepare this recipe. If you can’t get your hands on a live duck, you can sometimes get fresh blood from a local butcher or farmer, or you can special order it. I know some of my relatives have duck blood express shipped from Milwaukee, where there is a large population of Polish-Americans. Trust me, it is worth the trouble.

The blood and vinegar mixture described below can be frozen until needed. Try to use plastic or glass when handling or storing the mixture and wash any kitchen implements in cold water. If hot water is used, blood will coagulate on your utensils (particularly strainers) and will become impossible to clean off. Once the blood is in the soup, this precaution is no longer necessary.

Czarnina: Traditional Polish Duck Blood Soup #nourishedkitchen
A Pitcher of Duck Blood for Czarnina

Therese’s Czarnina

Buy a live duck. We got the ducks at a shop about a mile from our home.  At about age 9, it was my duty to go on Saturday morning and get a duck for Busia. The butcher would tie the beak, and wrap the duck with brown paper and a string.  I always feared that the duck would get loose, and hurried that long mile home. To obtain the blood for soup, you must tuck the bill toward the chest, and pluck the feathers off the top of its head.  Using a very sharp knife, cut through the top of the head, and drain the blood into a bowl with about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of vinegar. This will prevent clotting. Strain and chill. Dress the duck and allow the bird to rest in the fridge overnight to 4 days (depending on the age of the bird). This will make the meat less chewy.

Make sure to save the gizzard, liver, heart, feet, and neck for making stock. Peel the feet and remove the talons before adding to the stock. Save excess fat from the carcass for later processing. It is not necessary to leave the skin on the bird. Prepare a stock and use to make the soup. My Dad always wanted potato dumplings in his czarnina. I also liked it instead of noodles. As early as 8 years of age, I learned how to make the dumplings right after the church service on Sundays so I could have them with my Dad. Everyone else got noodles.

Czarnina: Traditional Polish Duck Blood Soup #nourishedkitchen
Czarnina: Traditional Polish Duck Blood Soup #nourishedkitchen

Czarnina

Total Time: 5 hours

Yield: serves 8

Czarnina is a rich soup dotted with dried fruit. Its flavor is faintly sweet and sour with light, and delicate mineral-rich notes.

Ingredients

    For the Stock
  • One whole duck (available here), including gizzard, liver, neck and feet
  • Ends and base from chopped celery, or 2-3 stalks of celery
  • 1 medium yellow onion (ends removed, and any dirt brushed off)
  • 6 allspice berries
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 1/2 bunch of parsley
  • For the Soup
  • 2 tablespoons reserved duck fat
  • Reserved duck breasts
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon unrefined sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram or 1 tablespoon fresh
  • 10 prunes
  • 20 dried cherries
  • 1 cup dried apple rings
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • Blood from 1 duck in vinegar (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar or other sweetener
  • 1 cup of cream
  • 1/2 bunch parsley, minced
  • To Serve
  • Homemade Egg Noodles
  • Potato Dumplings
  • Additional Parsley
  • Sour Cream or Milk Kefir

Instructions

    To Prepare the Stock
  1. Carefully remove the breasts from the duck, and place them in an airtight container in the refrigerator while you prepare the stock. Prepare the stock by covering the carcass in water and simmering for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the meat is tender.
  2. Lift the carcass from the broth, allow it to cool until comfortable to handle and then remove meat from bones, and chop it finely. Reserve cooked meat to add to soup. Return bones to broth, and add gizzard, liver, heart, feet, neck, celery ends, onion, allspice berries, whole cloves, and the parsley. Simmer gently until stock has desired consistency and flavor, 2-6 hours. When stock is finished, strain, and skim off excess fat and reserve it. Note that if you’ve prepared the stock from a Muscovy duck, it will not produce significant amounts of fat and may not need to be skimmed.
  3. To Prepare the Czarnina
  4. When your stock is ready, cut the reserved duck breasts into bite-sized cubes, season with salt and pepper. Melt the reserved duck fat in a heavy stock pot over medium heat. Brown the duck breasts in the hot fat, about 3 minutes.
  5. After the meat is brown, add duck stock, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium low, and simmer gently until breast meat is tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Add ground allspice, cloves, marjoram, chopped peppers, and dried fruit and cook gently for another 20 minutes. After fruit has softened, chop remaining cooked duck meat and add it to the soup.
  6. Blend flour and sugar with 1/2 cup of the duck blood in vinegar. Stir in 3 tablespoons of broth from the hot soup into the mix of flour, sugar and duck blood to temper it. Pout the mixture slowly into soup, stirring continuously in a thin stream. Pouring too quickly results in lumps. Stir in the cream, and season with additional salt and pepper, to taste. Just prior to serving, stir in some minced parsley. Serve with homemade egg noodles or potato dumplings.

Notes

Recipe variations: For a more substantial meal, you can add more dried fruit. For an appetizer, you can reduce the fruit slightly and add less cream. If you prefer, you can save the liver to add to the soup instead of cooking it in the stock. You may substitute raisins in place of the cherries for a slightly sweeter soup. If you are lucky enough to have a goose for roasting, you can substitute goose blood and leftover meat from your roast and make the stock from the cleaned bones.

http://nourishedkitchen.com/czarnina-traditional-polish-duck-blood-soup/

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What people are saying

  1. Theresa L. Talarek King says

    I’m Polish on my father’s side and grew up with Polish food, but never tasted Czarnina, though I was very familiar with it. The story from my Talarek grandparents was that they would serve it to my father, his brother and sister when they were children, but told them it was “Chocolate Soup”. So, they loved it! It was years before they knew what it really was, and by then it didn’t matter.
    I have a very obscure, very traditional Polish cookbook that I found at a library book sale (it must have been waiting there for me) – a little soft-back with a blue cover and with wonderful line drawings of traditional Poles (my Grandma told me, “This is how they looked!”) There’s not even an indication of where and when it was published. It contains a recipe for Czarnina that starts with killing the duck – the first time I’d seen the whole thing. Your recipe is even more explicit, which is necessary since most people these days, myself included, would not have a clue as to how to kill a duck!

  2. SoCalGT says

    My father’s dad came over from Poland along with a bunch of his relatives. We lived near an area in Wisconsin called, “Poland.” We occasionally had Czarnina. We also called it blood soup so I knew it was made from blood but never realized it was made from duck blood. We also had blood sausage. I’m not sure if that was Polish too or more from my mom’s Belgian/Bohemian side of the family. Interesting post, thank you!

  3. varkenmom says

    of COURSE it’s a wisconsin girl who submits czarnina! brava! although our family recipe is significantly different than yours, it is one that has been passed down several generations. my parents still argue about how the soup is “supposed” to taste. my father insists upon his ugly dumplings, which are good, but invariably grey-up after a day or two of leftovers. sugar and vinegar are still always served table side.
    fwiw, i was always told that czarnina should only be served in “month’s w/ an R in it” meaning the colder months. and never on xmas eve – that is a meatless, white meal (check your red cookbook!).
    oh. btw, Treasured Polish Recipes for Americans is also treasured in our house!

  4. Becca says

    @ varkenmom. That’s an important clarification point. Czarnina in Poland is not served on Christmas Eve, especially if you are Catholic. However, since I am not particularly fond of sauerkraut with peas and anchovies (I gave that one a try, and ended up with way too many leftovers), we have made it a household tradition to serve this special soup and take the time to remember our family origins.
    I think the most interesting thing about this recipe is that if are a citizen of the United States and you are familiar with this dish, your recent ancestors probably emigrated from Poland. As I explore my own cultural heritage, I only wish that we had more culinary family traditions that I could claim.

    • varkenmom says

      hey @becca,

      you’ve GOT to try tweaking the saurkraut and yellow splits a bit. the secret to this dish? bacon fat. oh. and leave out the anchovies. sure, it’s cheating, but since i’m forcing the xmas-eve tradition on my decidedly non-polish husband and offspring, one gotsta do what one gotsta do!

      now that we’re close to easter, there’s a whole bunch of fun polish recipes and traditions to explore. my grandfather used to make an easter babka that called for “shifts” of flour. i STILL don’t know exactly how much a shift is. so, of course, it never turns out quite like grandpa’s…

      • Becca says

        I will have to give that a try. The recipe I use also calls for whole dried peas, which I didn’t have around, so I used split peas and I think I overcooked them.
        My dad always talks about the butter lambs on the table at Easter. I’d like to get my hands on a lamb-shaped butter mold.

  5. Amy says

    I have my Grandmother’s recipe, and hers is very different! No duck at all, but pork & beef shortribs, a whole apple, and apple butter was used in place of the duck-blood. She would tell me stories of hanging the duck on one of the 2 large oak trees in the backyard with a bucket underneath to catch the blood for the soup – until she was no longer able to get the live duck (she used to live in Baltimore).

    I do agree the dumplings were MUCH better than noodles!

  6. Karen says

    I was so excited to see this recipe. My father’s family also left Poland in the early 1900s. My father was born in the US, some of his siblings were born in Poland. My Aunties tell a story about making Czarnina using pork rather than duck. It was my father’s responsibility to stir the blood in a bowl as it came from the pig which was hanging in the basement. He tripped on the steps from the basement to the kitchen, spilling the blood all over himself! Needless to say, his parents weren’t too pleased with him.

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