From David Wronski . . .

It's Springtime in Polonia.
The Sap is Flowing.

 Drink Birch Blood!
Na Zdrowie!

For centuries after Winter broke and during the few weeks beginning around mid-March my Polish ancestors traipsed into the birch forest to tap trees for collecting its magical sap. Birch Water. Birch Juice. Birch Blood. The lore is endless, as are the many claimed healthful properties. Think, purifying and rejuvinating.

And, let's just say . . . It's the kind of stuff that made my ancestors want to ride buck naked, bareback on wild horses galloping at full tilt through the dense forests of Old Polonia on a Springtime full moon night.

A search on the subject yields quite a lot of information. Evidently, collecting and consuming Birch Water goes back quite a bit. In pre-Christian times the Birch Tree "The Tree of Life" was one of the most sacred trees and its sap was only to be used in ritual settings. After Christianity arrived the restriction eased over time, and now the slightly sweet/sour woody nectar is an everyday drink.

Health-wise, think of it as a tonic. There are enough claims made for its health benefits to turn into a doctoral thesis; which I am not about to do. Here's a paper you can read for the ethnobotanical skinny. And this one on Birch Folkways.

We found Birch Water at our local Polish store. Supposedly they sell it year round. $3.70 USD for a 750 ml bottle. Interestingly, word is that in Japan it can go as high as $70 for a liter!
Anyhow, it's good, and good for you. Get some yourself.

PS The inimitable Baron Ambrosia has, once again, raised the bar. In more ways than one (See below). He now produces a sparkling birch sap wine. If you dare . . .

Here's a nice link to the full story.


Photo Credit: Cooking Weekends
Polish Filled Dumplings

David Wronski writes:

I grew up in a Polish Catholic home when Friday's were meatless and Pierogi were often on the menu that day. All I knew were the meatless variety, so it came as a surprise to see that there are versions with meat fillings too. But, the world as presented in one's youth is the world we tend to harken back to, so meatless Pierogi for me are definitive. (My grandchildren only know smart phones, and can't appreciate the joys of having a "party line".)

Pronunciation note: Roll the "r" softly, don't step on the "ie", but say . . . "Pye-rro-gee". Now to the recipe.

I recently searched and found this recipe for the dough. It is the best. Even better than my dear mother's leaden sinkers. And, very much certainly more better by a Polish mile than any store bought versions.

Pierogi Dough: Adapted from Cooking Weekends

(The deal with this dough recipe is that the result is tender and soul satisfying. Until I came across this approach I had largely given up on Pierogi because too many times at restaurants and from the store the dough was just too heavy and dense. Not these.)

2 cups sifted flour
1 large egg

½ cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons melted butter
2-4 Tablespoons water 

Mix all ingredients in a food processor until a soft sticky ball is formed. Rest dough covered for one-half hour. 


Again, going based on my childhood recollection, there were three basic versions (and one other really special*):

1. Farmers Cheese and chives. Add a fresh egg to the cheese and mix together with lots of cut pieces of fresh chives.

2. Sauerkraut. Rinse sauerkraut and drain. Saute in butter with finely chopped onion. Reconstituted bits of dried mushrooms and/or browned bacon bits as optionals.

3. Potato-Cheese. Mix together a good amount of sharp cheddar into buttered mashed potatoes. Do this whilst potatoes are warm to fully melt and incorporate the cheese.

*4. Plum. Poach fresh sweet plums or get a jar of stewed plums from a Polish store. Drain the plums and remove pits. Use half or whole.

Season fillings to taste. But, this is simple food, so keep down the urge to add other things.

(There is no end to the options for fillings. I've just given you the traditional basic meatless kind. Instead of plums, try stewed prunes. Seasonal fruits such as blueberries or raspberries are sensational.)


The recipe above also includes assembly instructions on the source website. I recommend instead of smallish 2 1/2 to 3 inch dough circles which call for a teaspoon of filling, go for 4 inch with a generous tablespoon of filling. Your choice, just that the larger to my taste gives a better ratio of filling/dough. With the smaller ones, you're eating a lot of dough.

You can roll out the dough and cut circles with a coffee can or a cookie cutter. I went commando and rolled each circle out individually. My mom used to make dough squares and fold corner to corner for a triangle instead of the crescent you get from a dough circle. Wet the edges with water and fold over nicely, or press down with the tines of a fork.

Now, to the Stove:

Poach the dumplings in salted water until done. Set aside. Meanwhile, in a small amount of butter saute finely sliced or diced onion until browned. Add the poached Pierogi with some more butter and saute to a slight browning. Golden brown and the dough gets leathery. See for yourself.


Sour Cream, but of course. Lots.

Oh yes, on those plum Pierogi, the counterpoint of the sweetness of the fruit, the tartness of the sour cream, and the simplicity of the delicate dumpling dough is magic.

Here is another great recollection and recipe.