If you’ve had enough pierogi, zapiekanka and pork schnitzel, it’s high time to try Greater Poland regional cuisine! Famous for potato dishes, this part of Poland is called a Potatoland and we, Poznanians, are often called the Potatoes of Poland. There is of course a historical reason behind it. When as a result of three partitions of Poland we got into the Prussian hands, they wanted to create here an agricultural region – cultivate vegetables and later export them. But of course they couldn’t export every single potato and they wanted Polish people to eat them. Unfortunately, we were very suspicious about potatoes and we didn’t want them. Then, the Prussians came up with a genius idea. On every field of potatoes they put a guardian. And Polish people started to think potatoes are something precious and valuable. And only then we started to eat lots of them! 😉
St. Martin croissant
However, the ranking starts not with potatoes but with our greatest dessert, St. Martin croissant (rogal świętomarciński). It’s not like a French croissant, you can really fill yourself with that. Filled with white poppy seeds, nuts, raisins, orange peel, on the top it has sugar icing and is sprinkled with peanuts. St. Martin croissant is a regional product so according to European Union standards it means it can be produced only in Poznań and its surroundings. To bake it, you need to have a special certificate confirming that the place follows the tradition of preparing the croissant. We consume them at least since the 19th century thanks to a baker who participated on a certain mass. During the ceremony, the priest encouraged the believers to help pour people. The baker decided to do what he knew best and baked croissants. They were bought by the rich and given for free to the pour. It all happened in November. This period was really important since the pagan time – people were finishing autumn works in fields and celebrating that with eating goose, dancing and drinking. Later, on 11 November people started to commemorate day of burial of a popular catholic saint, St. Martin. It resulted in an explanation of the shape of the croissant – it is to resemble horseshoe of Saint Martin’s horse, although others think it a reminder of the battle against the Turks won by Polish king Jan III Sobieski. Now we eat the biggest amount of them during the Saint Martin Day, which is celebrated on 11 November. It is estimated that the whole population of Poland consumes some 1,25 million croissants around that time. Worth to mention that couple of years ago, restaurants and bakeries revealed that the original St. Martin croissant is produced on the basis of margarine and started to produce “better” St. Martin croissant with butter. The price is of course higher and such croissants don’t have the European Union certificate. Since you’re on holidays, don’t count the calories and try them both to choose which one you prefer.
Definitely pyra z gzikiem is the most famous dish from the region. In the past it was eaten mostly on Fridays, as a fasting dish. Consisting of boiled unpeeled potatoes, topped with gzik – mix of quark, onions or fresh onions, herbs and cream, sometimes with butter for a better taste. The name pyra comes from the regional dialect of Greater Poland. Since the potatoes came from South America, e.g. from Peru, people started to call them perka (Peru-pera-perka) that within the lapse of time evolved to pyrka-pyra. Easy to prepare and nutritious, no wonder why pyra z gzikiem was a popular dish during the Greater Poland Uprising.
Another traditional plate made from potatoes is called szare kluchy - grey dumplings. To prepare it, you need grated raw potatoes that give the grey colour to the dish, flour, eggs and salt. We usually eat it with bacon, onion and sauerkraut. Since 2007 they are on the list of traditional products from our region.
Typical Greater Poland festive dish is a duck baked with apples and marjoram, served with steam yeast dumplings called parowce (in other regions of Poland you can find them in the menu under the name pampuchy or pyzy) and red cabbage. The latter is boiled with apples, onions, raisins, cloves and a bit of butter or lard, spiced first with sugar and salt and when it’s already cooked – with vinegar.
Much more popular in Greater Poland than in other regions of the country, won’t be the first choice for everybody. Prepared on the basis of broth and duck’s (or pig’s) blood, it is sweetened by sugar, plum syrup or pears in vinegar and cooked with fresh or dry fruits such as apples, plums, pears, raisins or cherries and pickled with vinegar. If you get it at your intended, be careful, in the past families used to serve it to those candidates for the young lady’s hand that were about to be rejected.
This soup, in spite of confusing name – blind fish (in some parts of Greater Poland called rzadkie pyrki, sparse potatoes), is a perfect option for all those tired with filling meat and flour dishes. It consists of boiled mirepoix and a huge amount of boiled grated potatoes. Sometimes milk, cream or buttermilk is added. Traditionally prepared by the poor that couldn’t afford meat, was a perfect vegetarian dish but if you are vegetarian you should always ask since nowadays it can appear with a bit of fatback or some meat added. It should be served with a fried roll or piece of bread.
You can find them in every shop in every Polish city but you should know that they were first produced in Poznań, in a factory of Feliks Pomorski. Toffee caramels, fudges, probably originally come from the East (Turkey maybe, what we know for sure is that Feliks learned how to make them during an internship in Żytomierz, in the territory of nowadays Ukraine), here are called krówki – in the literal translation “little cows” or mordoklejki (“mouth-gluers”). When you try them, the latter nickname will become obvious. And little cows? In the past they were packed in the paper with a cow drawing. After the outbreak of the II World War Pomorski needed to move to Milanówek and he didn’t manage to register the trademark. None the less, whenever you eat them, remember they are related to Poznań!
No matter if it’s lemonade, tea or wated with hyćka, you need to try it while in Poznań. The name is considered to come from the German name of black elder – Hitschelbeeren. This plant is a great source of vitamin C and as such a perfect remedy for cold, cough, asthma and many other diseases. It has diaphoretic and diuretic properties and sometimes is used to cure stomach and intestine inflammations. If you like the taste, you can also take it home – some places sell the black elder syrup that can be added to the beverages or dishes.
Usually sold during Feast of Corpus Christi or All Saint’s Day, called “Poznan pipes” or “tiles” can be found on the stalls on the Old Market Square or… in cemeteries. It is said that once during the Corpus Christi procession the orchestra was too loud and tiles from the roofs of the tenement houses close to the Old Market Square started to fall down on the crowd. Thankfully, nobody suffered. To commemorate this event, nuns from a nearby convent started to bake cakes resembling gingerbread in the shape of the tiles. They contain flour and honey and are made without any eggs and milk.
Popular in old-fashioned bakeries, “Poznań tot” is a typical cake for a name day party, perfect to accompany coffee or tea. Two layers of sponge cake are divided with a chocolate cream that is also on the top of it, usually decorated in “waves” made with a fork. No jams, fruits or nuts should be added. As you probably notice, desserts are really important in Greater Poland and a lot of people can’t imagine having lunch without something sweet at the end! 😉
Written for you by Zuza Michalska
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