Babci Mary’s Polish Soup

Happy Mother’s day!

Okay; Mary is not my grandmother. In fact, we’re only related by marriage. Since I came across the existence of Babci Mary from a cousin I’ve never met in person, I decided that this would be a great opportunity to get to know my cousin. By proxy, I’ve gotten to know my own family better.

1917 Kwiatkowski Joannes Mary children and possibly Michael
“Babci” Mary is the beautiful woman seated to the far right. Bernie’s mother is the little blonde seated next to her; his grandfather Joannes “John” is seated on the left. We have speculated that the man standing on the right is my great-grandfather Michael. Michael and Joannes were brothers.

Babci is a Polish word meaning grandmother. It is pronounced bob-chee with the emphasis on the last syllable, making the last consonant in the first syllable sound more like p. 

I met my cousin Bernie on Facebook when I started this blog. Hoping to connect with other family researchers, I created a companion Stories From the Past Facebook group. Many researchers have joined the group, along with friends and childhood classmates. Thanks to my father’s familial connections on Facebook, I was further connected to many cousins from Southwestern New York and Northwestern Pennsylvania. Bernie is one of those cousins.

Bernie is a retired program developer/supervisor for the Department of Developmental Disabilities in Massachusetts.  His significant other worked as a caseworker/supervisor. Bernie is quite well-spoken, and since Babci Mary’s recipe comes directly from his Facebook post, I’ve decided to leave it in his own words:

Kvas (Mary Kwiatkowski’s Prune and Ham Soup)

One large ham bone with meat on it or 2 to 4 smoked ham hocks
Three to four quarts water
Six or eight whole carrots
Large onion
Three or four bay leaves
One or two teaspoons of allspice berries
One half or one teaspoon whole peppercorns
Small package (10 ounces) of prunes (now referred to as dried plums)
White vinegar – one or two tablespoons

Put the ham bone or ham hocks into the pot cover with water. Add the onion, peeled whole, and two or three of the carrots whole, the bay leaves, allspice and peppercorns. Cover the pot and simmer two hours, more or less, to make the broth.

To finish the soup, take out the ham, onion and carrots. Take the meat off the ham bone, cut to spoon size pieces and return it to the pot. Slice the remaining carrots and put them in the pot along with the prunes. Simmer until the carrots are tender and the soup has taken on a dark color from the prunes. Taste and adjust pepper, add salt if necessary. Add a tablespoon of vinegar, stir it in and taste. Add more vinegar to take some of the sweetness off if desired.

While the soup’s finishing, cook up some broad egg noodles or kluski to put in it. You can cheat on potato kluski by using frozen gnocchi.

One might wrap the allspice, peppercorns and bay leaves in cheesecloth (bouquet garni) but part of the fun for me as a kid was avoiding biting into the allspice!

Once I decided to share the recipe, I realized I would need to figure out exactly how Bernie and I are related. Given the small-sized communities in the region where my father was born, It be1917 approx Conkle Michael and Krystofiak Marycomes pretty obvious that anyone with a common surname is going to be related. Bernie was very obliging when I asked for more information, and even provided this lovely photo of Mary’s parents, Michael Conkle and Katherine Krystofiak Conkle. As far as I know, there is absolutely no relationship of the Conkles to myself.

Using the information provided by Bernie, I looked up Mary Kwiatkowski in FamilySearch, where I found John Kwiatkowski and his wife Mary in a 1930 census matching all of the information Bernie had given me:

1930 Kwiatkowski Joannes Mary and children Olean New York Census.jpg
“United States Census, 1930,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 14 May 2017), John Kwiatkowski, Olean, Cattaraugus, New York, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 51, sheet 10B, line 61, family 192, NARA microfilm publication T626 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002), roll 1410; FHL microfilm 2,341,145.

From there it was easy. Comparing information from Bernie and the census record to my family tree, I was able to discover our common ancestor, Joannes (Jan) Kwiatkowski, who is father to my great-grandfather, Michael Kwiatkowski, and Bernie’s grandfather Joannes (John). Bernie and my father are second Kubiak and Kwiatkowski relationship tablecousins, and since I am in the generation following Bernie, we are second cousins once removed.

Thanks so much Bernie for sharing your family recipe. It was awesome getting to know you, and my family, better. I can’t wait to try this.

8 thoughts on “Babci Mary’s Polish Soup

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