Boyko Oat Bread

Ark of taste
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Bojkowski chleb owsiany

In the past, the Bieszczady mountains in the southeasternmost corner of Poland, with their harsh climate, did not offer their population a great abundance of food. The two Ruthenic ethnicities, who used to live in this region: the Boyko and Lemko people, created – however – a creative cuisine based on simple ingredients. Oat was considered one of main grains, used both for bread baking and porridge. This is due to its lower summer heat requirement and high tolerance of rain. Oskar Kolberg, Polish ethnographer from the nineteenth century, described the local importance of the grain calling the region “oaten land”. He also wrote about the Boyko workers in the city of Lviv, who missed their homes along with their oaten bread, so different from what they could buy in the city’s bakeries.

In order to prepare the Boyko oaten bread, the cultivated sourdough is mixed with oat flour and spices (e.g., garlic, allspice), optionally also cream and rolled oats, and left for at least 12 hours, preferably even for 2-3 days. During this period, the liquid appearing on the surface should be collected, and might be used later for the dough preparation. Finally water or milk, potatoes and oat flour are added. The potatoes are grated or boiled and mashed, and render the bread more solid and easier to conserve.

Because the dough is pretty liquid bread tins are used, otherwise the bread would assume in the oven a flat form, which some families preferred.

The oaten bread is still baked and eaten in the region, although the majority of the Boyko people were displaced in the end and after the Word War II. Thus, their traditions have almost disappeared in the region and are only partially cultivated by the local Polish people, some of them claiming Boyko ancestry.

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