If you happen to live in a place like Ireland, UK or the US you can enjoy an abundance of Eastern European food stores. If you are a Fermented Food Freak or Fan, you should definitely venture a trip.
If you go there, do not rush. Take your time, even if you have the impression that you block the precious (usually very limited) space between shelves. You will see kilometres of jars, which will appear all the same to you, but look closely and do not be deceived.
First of all, look for sauerkraut, which will be labelled as kapusta kiszona or kapusta kwaszona or raugintų kopūstų. I wrote a separate post on how to buy it. The main point is: never ever buy sauerkraut in a sealed plastic bag or a can.
You will also see jarred cucumbers called by some gherkins. If you see it labelled ogórki konserwowe, it means they are simply pickled in vinegar. Although they are delicious, they do not qualify as Fermented Food, according to me. So, go and find ogórki kwaszone or ogórki kiszone. There are lots of different brands imported to Ireland at the moment. Just look if there is plenty of garlic in a jar. Those would be the best.
You can use them in the same way as any other pickles, i.e. as a sandwich filling or side for meat etc. However, I will try to encourage you to make an amazing soup in one of my future posts.
Another product from the category ‘absolute life necessities’ available in Eeastern European shops is milk kefir. However, because Irish milk is excellent for making kefir at home, I recommend buying kefir just once, as a starter.
Then, there are bottles and jars with sour flour which we use to make żur or żurek or barszcz biały and that is what the label will say. There is an ongoing discussion about the difference between those kinds of soups, but it is not relevant for beginners (no offense). They taste more or less the same and all of them are really good. Again, expect a recipe soon.
You can also spot barszcz czerwony, but I do not recommend buying it as it is so easy to ferment beetroots at home. See my recipe here.
Do not overlook kwas chlebowy or kvass or gira, which is a non-alcoholic drink made by fermenting bread and thus sometimes holding the fancy name ‘bread juice’. It tastes almost like coke, only much better.
Most Eastern European shops and stores in Ireland are run by and for Polish and Lithuanian. If you come across a Russian store, you call yourself lucky. You will find stuff which is exotic even for Polish people (like me). I mean: fermented tomatoes, watermelon, pumpkin, summer squash and more. Paradise, if you don’t mind listening to loud and cheerful disco tunes.
Enjoy the trip and share your impressions with me!