The Old Polish cuisine – the oldest and most traditional one – specializes in mealy and cereal dishes (dumplings, kasha, pierogi), products of sylvan fleece (mushrooms, fruits, herbs), pork (including cold cooked meats and sausages), freshwater fishes, game, baking (bread, cakes), desserts, vodka and fruit liqueurs. Many kinds of soup and stock made from local vegetables, fruits, cereal crops and meat products are typical of the Polish cuisine.
Spices typical for polish food are horseradish, dill, juniper, pepper, sour cream, curd cheese. Among vegetables and fruits: beetroots, cucumbers, cabbage, apples, cherries, blueberries, gooseberry and other Central–European are typical, and in history also wild plants like the sorrel, young beet green, dandelions or stinging nettles.
Vegetables with high nutritional value, which can be stored during winter, play the great role (pea, the broad bean, kohlrabi, or the turnip). Sometimes in the winter period food was enriched with nuts, while forage for farm animals with acorns. Typical fruits in the Polish cuisine these are apples and fruits of the forest, as well as plums, pears, morello cherries, unknown in the Northern Europe cherries, gooseberry and currants. Poles use these fruits up till today in dishes, desserts, baking, fruit liqueurs as well as compotes, specific plum jam and preserves.
Relating to the kitchen of other countries - cereal dishes - groats, breads and diverse mealy dishes – pierogi, dumplings, soup and sauces – are typical of the Polish cuisine and other West Slavonic nations. Poland is not an exclusively agricultural country but also profusely forested (even today about 25% of Polish territory is a forest). Hence Old as well as modern Polish cuisine offers a lot of delicious meals made of sylvan fleece (mushrooms, wild fruits, nuts and herbs).
In history choice of the meat in the polish cuisine also depended on the forestation. In contrast with other countries like France or Hungary, in medieval Poland forests were not being cut down to convert the land into pastures. Neither Poles grazed cattle on a great scale. Farm animals has been rather kept in corrals as a source of dairy products above all valued.
Pork was peculiary popular meat in Poland. Pigs were grazed in forests and people willingly took advantage of the wild sylvan game, as a source of meat too. Therefore the meats typical of the Old Polish cuisine are dishes of the pork, the poultry and the various game – from rabbit or birds to roe deer or wild boars.
Little requiring poultry was bred in corrals for nutritious and nourishing eggs, as well as for the readily available meat in the case of any fowl population surplus. Poles come economically up to the cattle earmarked for slaughter. Whole animal was used, including giblets and blood, from which the black pudding (kaszanka) and bloody soup (czernina) were made, what as the culinary curiosum was known in the whole Europe. To this day the black pudding remains popular, however czernina is not being eaten already.
Since always rivers provided freshwater fishes. Poland in history lost and again regained the access to the sea few times. Therefore freshwater fishes, caught alive from lakes, creeks, ponds and rivers, as well as crayfish (unknown in the west and comparable to foreign lobsters) dominate in the Polish cuisine. However also saltwater fishes were known, from which for years herring was the most popular. Herring is simple to preserve with salt and therefore could be transported to places far from the seaside. A perishable seafood, as oysters or shrimp, wasn't used in the Polish cuisine, nor a caviar was eaten (contrary to Russian cuisine which has access to sturgeon).
Typical tastes of Old Polish cuisine it salty, lightly fermented or marinated (e.g. dill pickles, cabbage, sour milk, kvass), as well as moderately pungent (the horseradish, the mustard, chives, onion, garlic and the overseas pepper), spicy and herbal (juniper, overseas nutmeg, anise, caraway), slightly tart (the sour cream, the cabbage and dill pickles) and sour–sweet (got typically with apples, cranberries or other fruits added to food). Widely applied and typical spices in Polish and Slavic kitchen are a dill and a poppy, and once also a flaxseed.
Pungent and spicy tastes are usually relieved and supplemented with the cream. In Polish cuisine reducing or emulsifying sauces and fats with vinegar, wine or other alcohol is relatively little–known. Reduction of fats and reviving tastes of fatty dishes is usually received through the addition of the sour cream, slightly tart fruits or marinated vegetables whether moderately pungent onion, horseradish, garlic or the mustard. The popularity of vinegar is lower than in other countries, although it is most important and universally used element of all pickles. Vinegars aren't produced on the basis of the sour wine like in kitchens of countries knowing the grape harvest. The beer in the Polish cuisine was in past used as the nourishing base of soups (so-called 'polewki'), while vodka and fruit liqueurs were always drank independently as alcoholic beverages.