Ari’s Pick: Chernushka Rye Bread

Special Bake for this weekend

This weekend we’re doing a Special Bake of one my favorite breads of all time—we only make it a few times a year, so I would be seriously remiss if I failed to fill you in about its imminent arrival. If you’ve had Chernushka Rye before, you’re likely one of the small but mighty cadre of men and women who love it dearly. If you’ve never had it, and if you’re inclined towards slightly exotic, but not over-the-edge flavors, I’m gonna bet that you’ll love it too. 

two loaves of Chernushka Rye bread on a wooden cutting board, one with cut slices tipping forward

Where does the name come from?

Chernushki (the Russian plural for Chernushka) are the tiny black seeds that you might see more formally written about as Nigella. While they have a bit of a peppery flavor, they aren’t related to peppercorns. The word chernuyi in Russian means “black,” which is what they are—very deep, dense, black in color. Chernushka seeds (also known as kalonji) are native to the Middle East and India. They’re used a lot in bread, but also in other recipes as well. Their flavor is intriguing, almost intoxicating—hinting of thyme, licorice, and onion. You can sprinkle them on salads and pasta dishes. They’re good on roasted potatoes and they partner well with other spices for curries or the classic Bengalese masala, Panch Phoran (which also includes cumin, fenugreek, mustard seed, and fennel).

a close up view of a slice of Chernushka Rye bread

Amy Emberling, co-managing partner at the Bakehouse and co-author of Zingerman’s Bakehouse (where you can find the Bakehouse Rye recipe!) says, 

The floral and spicy aroma of this bread is distinctive, foreign, and exotic. To many, it’s completely unidentifiable. For me the aroma transports me back 40 years or so to my 10-year-old self, doing errands with my beloved mother during our Saturday afternoon routine. I’m the youngest of four and this weekly tradition was my way to have some personal time with my mother. One regular stop on our weekly route was the childhood Deli of my youth, Ike’s. While our Montreal Smoked Meat was being sliced and the adults had adult conversation, I happily explored the shelves full of foreign, unfamiliar foods and took in the unusual smells of the store. Unbeknownst to me, until I started baking this bread here in the ’90s, one of these aromas was Chernushka. It brings me joy just to breathe the scent of this bread.

How to Enjoy Chernushka Rye

The health benefits of Chernushka seeds are legendary. Muhammad once stated, “The black seed can heal every disease, except death.” They’re also said to act as a natural insect repellent. The most important part of this equation, though, is the eating. I think the Chernushka Rye is really good with corned beef or pastrami, or, as Amy alluded, with Montreal smoked meat. I like it with chopped liver, smoked whitefish salad, or mackerel salad. Toast it and spread it with the Creamery’s Cream Cheese or Goat Cream Cheese. Cut a thick slice from a fresh loaf and spread it with really good, cultured butter. 

Chernushka Rye freezes well, so buy a bunch while you can.


Ari headshot
Ari Weinzweig
Co-Founding Partner at Zingerman's

In 1982, Ari Weinzweig, along with his partner Paul Saginaw, founded Zingerman’s Delicatessen with a $20,000 bank loan, a Russian History degree from the University of Michigan, 4 years of experience washing dishes, cooking and managing in restaurant kitchens and chutzpah from his hometown of Chicago. They opened the doors with 2 employees and a small selection of specialty foods and exceptional sandwiches.

Today, Zingerman’s Delicatessen is a nationally renowned food icon and the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses has grown to 10 businesses with over 750 employees and over $55 million in annual revenue. Aside from the Delicatessen, these businesses include Zingerman’s Bakehouse, Coffee Company, Creamery, Roadhouse, Mail Order, ZingTrain, Candy Manufactory, Cornman Farms and a Korean restaurant that is scheduled to open in 2016. No two businesses in the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses are alike but they all share the same Vision and Guiding Principles and deliver “The Zingerman’s Experience” with passion and commitment.

Besides being the Co-Founding Partner and being actively engaged in some aspect of the day-to-day operations and governance of nearly every business in the Zingerman’s Community, Ari Weinzweig is also a prolific writer. His most recent publications are the first 4 of his 6 book series Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading Series: A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Building a Great Business (Part 1), Being a Better Leader (Part 2), Managing Ourselves (Part 3) and the newly-released Part 4, The Power of Beliefs in Business. Earlier books include the Zingerman’s Guides to Giving Great Service, Better Bacon, Good Eating, Good Olive Oil, Good Vinegar and Good Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Ari regularly travels across the country (and world) on behalf of ZingTrain, teaching organizations and businesses about Zingerman’s approach to business. He is a sought-after Keynote speaker, having delivered keynotes for Inc. 500, Microsoft Expo Spring Conference, Great Game of Business Gathering of Games, Positive Business Conference at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, American Society for Quality (ASQ), and the American Cheese Society. Most recently, Ari and Paul Saginaw were invited to address an audience of 50,000 for the University of Michigan 2015 Spring Commencement.

One of Zingerman’s Guiding Principles is being an active part of the community and in 1988, Zingerman’s was instrumental in the founding of Food Gatherers, a food rescue program that delivers over 5 million pounds of food each year to the hungry residents of Washtenaw county. Every year Zingerman’s donates 10% of its previous years profits to local community organizations and non-profits. Ari has served on the board of The Ark, the longest continuously operating folk music venue in America.

Over the decades, the Zingerman’s founding partners have consistently been the recipients of public recognition from a variety of diverse organizations. In April 1995, Ari and Paul were awarded the Jewish Federation of Washtenaw County’s first Humanitarian Award. In 2006, Ari was recognized as one of the “Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America” by the James Beard Foundation. In 2007, Ari and Paul were presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award from Bon Appetit magazine for their work in the food industry. Ari was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Cheese Society in 2014. And Ari’s book, Building a Great Business was on Inc. magazine’s list of Best Books for Business Leaders.

Notwithstanding the awards, being engaged on a daily basis in the work of 10 businesses and 21 partners, writing books on business and in-depth articles on food for the Zingerman’s newsletter, Ari finds time to be a voracious reader. He acquires and reads more books than he can find room for. Ari might soon find himself the owner of the largest collection of Anarchist books in Ann Arbor outside the Labadie collection at the University of Michigan library!

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