For centuries, the traditional cuisine of the Sącz Lachs has been based almost exclusively on what they managed to produce on their farms or draw from nature. These were mainly vegetable products: mostly flour and cereal groats, potatoes (their old-fashioned name was ‘carpets’) and cabbage. They also ate broad beans, round peas and beans (also called peas), carrots, parsley, and, more rarely, beetroot and cucumber. In autumn, the table was full of mushrooms, especially saffron milk cups, browned in butter. Dishes were seasoned with onions, garlic, wild horseradish, dill, lovage and peppermint. Local fruit – from home-grown orchards and forests – provided a variety. The diet was supplemented with dairy products and animal fats. Meat was on the table only on special occasions (mainly lamb from black sheep bred in the Poprad Valley, and game). Similarly, bread used to be less common than it is today. Its baking was approached as a mystical ritual – all because it was regarded as a gift from God. Flat scones, pancakes or, particularly well-known in the eastern part of the region, proziaks – soda-flavoured fritters – were baked on a daily basis.
The old table culture is still alive in the local dishes, the recipes of which are preserved in the memory of the housewives. During your culinary journey, it is worth trying, for example, the traditional Lomnica dumplings made from potatoes and cottage cheese, bryjka – a soup made from wholemeal flour cooked in water with milk and pork crackling, Rytro fritters that used to replace bread and are now served as a dinner dish with goulash, cabbage soup (kapuściorek) with mushrooms – a delicacy from the Łącko Region, traditional pickled sour soup from the Tęgoborze Region, and many other delicious dishes.
Real international showpieces of the local cuisine are the Łącko apples, included on the EU list of regional products, and honeydew honey from the Island Beskids. Anyone who cycles, walks or canoes through the Dunajec Valley owes it to themselves to taste the juicy and delicious apples. The growing of this fruit has been a tradition since the 12th century. In the past, dried apples from Łącko were sent as an exquisite delicacy to many European countries, where they were known and valued for their outstanding taste. Today, they are a real delicacy from the Małopolska Region with a distinctive and very characteristic taste and smell. They owe their juiciness to the specific microclimate and rather harsh conditions. The smooth skin has a characteristic 'blush', which is much more pronounced than on fruit ripened in the lowlands. Apples from Łącko are ideal for eating raw as well as for juices and preserves. Moreover, Łącko is famous for a completely different fruit 'preserve' – the acclaimed plum brandy (śliwowica) known for its strength and flavour. Other types of fruit spirits are also produced in the area. They are all as tasty and as potent as the well-known plum brandy – or even better!
Other distinguished Sącz beverages include jałowcówka and miódka ryterska. The former is made by distilling potatoes with juniper, the latter from the best honeydew together with multi-flower and lime honey.
When travelling across the Island Beskids or Myślenice, it is worth savouring the local honeydew honey. It undeniably differs from its floral cousins. It is green with possible dark brown colouration. It is delicate and sweet, and its aroma is reminiscent of resin. It is made from fir honeydew excreted by the green fir honey locust, which lives on the silver fir. The bees collect the honeydew and produce honey in their hives, which has many health benefits. Honeydew occurs only in specific places – most often in mountain basins and valleys at 200–700 m altitude, with a specific microclimate. This honey is excellent for promoting relaxation and for detoxifying the body and improving immunity. Honey must be produced in ecologically clean areas and the Nowy Sącz Region fulfils this condition perfectly. That is why such exceptional honeydew honey and other nectar kinds of honey have unique properties here. It is interesting to note that beekeeping traditions have been characteristic of the area since the 13th century.
Cheese has become one of the culinary showcases of the Nowy Sącz Region. They are a legacy of the Wallachian pastoral culture. The matured cheeses from Łoś near Krynica are true standouts. They are aged in special conditions during production for up to two years! Lovers of cured meats can find a variety of delicious meats and smoked meats in local butcher shops.
Do you know that apart from the Piękny Jaś beans, you will also find 'patriotic beans' in the Nowy Sącz Region? The small white beans with a characteristic reddish spot in the shape of an eagle straight out of the Polish emblem, have become a local symbol of freedom. During the Partitions of Poland, farmers were persecuted if they were discovered cultivating it. Nevertheless, despite the risk, it was added to Christmas Eve dishes in almost all homes.
Time for dessert – ice cream! Everyone who visits Nowy Sącz should try the unique taste of its ice cream, sold by weight and made since 1937. To do so, visit one of the two competing ice cream parlours in the centre of Nowy Sącz. They have become a kind of showpiece of the city. Ice cream desserts made from fresh ingredients and prepared by hand with great care taste delicious and have been enjoyed for generations.
Finally, a natural refreshment – mineral waters – are an authentic regional treasure! They gush straight from natural springs from the depths of the earth in Głębokie, Łomnica-Zdrój, Wierchomla, Stary Sącz, Tylicz, Muszyna, Piwniczna-Zdrój, Krynica-Zdrój, Żegiestów-Zdrój, Wysowa-Zdrój, and Wapienne (a description of the Wapienne spa). The popular Muszynianka, Piwniczanka, Kryniczanka, Wysowianka and other waters perfectly hydrate and supplement the body with microelements. Therapeutic waters, szczawy, thanks to their high content of minerals, help to cure many diseases and have long been the foundational element in treatments at spas. It is worth taking the local waters straight from the spring and looking for them on the shelf at the grocery store when doing your everyday shopping.
It has to be said that the unique culture, tradition, landscapes and nature of the Beskids are the great wealth of the region, and the cuisine is an extremely valuable jewel in this regional crown. The only thing to do now is to plan your spring or summer journey through the flavours of the Nowy Sącz Region today!