Even though Polish supermarkets carry produce from all over the globe, it seems to me that Poles tend to eat what’s in season locally, at least to a greater extent than we do here in the US. At a lunch meeting with Polish friends in the fall, one of the ladies remarked, “this will be my last salad until next spring.” The restaurant will likely still be offering a salad on the menu, she just didn’t plan to order it. That line of thinking makes spring and summer the perfect time of year for Mizeria (Polish Cucumber Salad).
Mizeria is the Polish word for misery. The taste is wonderful, but it was said to make Queen Bona Sforza, an Italian princess who married Polish King Sigismund I in the 16th century homesick for Italy. The queen is credited with bringing a great variety of vegetables to Poland. The popularity of her Italian imports soon spread beyond the confines of garden at Wawel Castle in Kraków. I’ve been told that the Polish word for vegetables means “things from Italy” because of the new plants she brought to Poland.
This salad of cucumbers in sour cream is a cool and refreshing side dish. Even in their somewhat wilted state (from the salt and vinegar), they still provide some crunch.
I ended up making two batches of Mizeria before this post. The first vinegar I grabbed from my pantry was a fig balsamic vinegar. The color of the balsamic vinegar was so dark that it turned the sour cream brown, not exactly what I was hoping to photograph. So I whipped up a second batch with an apple cider vinegar. Fortunately, we really like this salad, so having two bowls of it is not a problem.
I have to say that for flavor, I preferred the fig balsamic vinegar. It went so nicely with the other tastes and the hint of fig added an interesting note. It sounds a little too Mediterranean for a Polish dish, but it does seem to be in keeping with the trend set by Queen Bona Sforza. Whatever vinegar you chose, I think you’ll enjoy Mizeria (Polish Cucumber Salad).
A refreshing salad of cucumbers in sour cream
- 2 cucumbers
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 2 tablespoons vinegar
- 1 tablespoon finely cut chives or green onions
- 1 tables finely cut fresh dill
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- For ordinary cucumbers, peel, slice lengthwise and remove the seeds
- Slice as thin as possible, no more than 1/8 inch
- If you’re using the thin skinned hot house cucumbers, just slice
- Spread out the slices and sprinkle with salt
- After 20 minutes pat and press with a paper towel
- Combine the sour cream, vinegar, chives, dill, sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt , and pepper