The other night I was goofing off on the internet and came across an article about hidden treasures in different Chicago neighborhoods. I immediately looked up the one for my neighborhood, Logan Square, and read about a Polish grocery store called Wally’s Market. I love going to ethnic grocery stores to stock up on ingredients that would be 5x the price at Whole Foods, but haven’t done so at a Polish grocery store considering most of their food is not exactly vegetarian-friendly. But, after reading that it contains “two dozen types of mustard and a 20-foot-long pickle aisle” I had to check it out. So, the next day, I hopped on the bus in the rain and rode off to Wally’s. That’s what normal people do in their free time, right?
I sort of expected Wally’s to be full of people like me that had read about it and needed to see for themselves, but when I got there I quickly noticed that other than the two middle-aged women gabbing in Polish, I was the only customer in the place. That ended up being wonderful because I tend to spend way too much time at the grocery store strolling through the aisles and imagining all the different creations I could make with every ingredient I see, which tends to get in the way of the other customers who are trying to get their weekly shopping done in a timely fashion.
The first place I ran to was the bakery. I picked out a lovely loaf of flax bread and then moved on to the cheese section where I realized that pretty much everything was in Polish. At first, the price tags would say what the item was in English, but the further I got into the store, the less English I could find. I didn’t mind though, as I imagined whatever I got would bring on some sort of adventure. I ended up buying some chive cream cheese that is actually much closer to butter, stopping me from slathering it all over two pieces of toast and calling it a sandwich as I had planned to do. That’s probably for the best anyway. I did indeed find the incredible pickle aisle which was far more overwhelming than I imagined. I eventually just picked one whose label I thought looked nice and seemed to be nice and crispy. I haven’t been able to keep my hand out of the jar since.
As I was about to leave I took a quick stroll through the produce area, even though I had just stocked up and didn’t need anything. Good thing I did though, because that’s where I found red currants. I don’t think I’ve ever seen red currants at the grocery store before, especially not in February. I doubt that they had the most eco-friendly trip to arrive at Wally’s, but they were just so plump and crimson that passing them up was just not an option.
When I got home I immediately started looking up different recipes as I’ve never cooked with them before, and came across David Lebovitz’s Red Currant Jam. I also had come across several red currant jam’s with sage, so I decided to follow his recipe, but just add sage with the sugar. I also made much less than he did as I only bought 1/2 pint of currants, but since the currant/sugar ratio is 1:1 you can do it with however much you have. I ended up with 4.5 oz of puree so I matched that with sugar and added two sage leaves. I think next time I’d add 3 sage leaves, but other than that it turned out great.
So the moral of the story is be adventurous and try something new. Even though it didn’t work out 100% perfectly as I would have liked, I now have a slab of Polish chive butter in my fridge. Things could be worse.