Russian Recipes: Cooking Russian Peasant Food

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PHOTO: FOTOLIA/HELLEN SERGEYEVA
The whole cabbage should be cooked until soft in salted water. The leaves should then be separated and flattened, and the thick stalks cut away.

The USSR covers one-sixth of the world’s surface, embraces
13 republics, and is home to scores of ethnic groups. Among
these are many strains of sturdy peasant stock who have
developed their own frugal yet satisfying lifestyles . . .
lifestyles that include some superb traditional Russian cookery. A
number of Russian recipes rely heavily on milk by-products
and may interest MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers who own bountiful dairy
animals.

Peasant Food: Russian Recipes

Tvorg Recipe

Tvorog, the Russian cream cheese, is eaten
extensively — either by itself or in a variety of
dishes — and is a good use for sour milk.

To make this specialty, put at least two quarts of
solidified sour milk into a muslin bag and hang it over a
basin to strain off the whey. Leave the curd until it
becomes firm but not too dry, and mash it until it’s smooth
and creamy. The cheese is especially good mixed with
chopped chives and a pinch of salt and eaten on buttered
rye bread.

Smetana Recipe

Smetana — sour cream is easy to make:
Just leave heavy cream in a warm place until it becomes
tart in flavor . . . a matter of two or three days, unless
you accelerate the process by the addition of a teaspoon of
sour milk or a few drops of lemon juice. Be careful not to
let the product go cheesy.

Varenetz Recipe

The following ingredients are needed for this old Russian
dish:

8 cups creamy milk
1 cup smetana
Cinnamon
Sugar
Rye breadcrumbs

Pour the milk into a wide earthenware dish and cook it in
the oven at very low heat. When a skin forms and the milk
assumes a faint golden color, push the film to the bottom
of the pan. Repeat this step five or six times. Then remove
the dish from the oven and let it stand until the milk is
tepid. Add the smetana, mix the pudding well, and
let it sit in a warm place for 24 hours. Refrigerate the
dish until it’s wanted, and serve it sprinkled with sugar,
cinnamon, and rye breadcrumbs.

Drachona Recipe

Drachona — a baked batter — can
be eaten with roasted meat as a pleasant change from
Yorkshire pudding, or sprinkled with sugar and served hot
with melted butter as a dessert. You’ll need the following
ingredients:

1 cup flour
3 eggs
2/3 cup smetana
Salt
2-1/2 cups milk

Place the flour in a bowl, make a hollow in the mound,
break the eggs into the depression, and mix well. Blend in
the smetana, add a pinch of salt, and beat the
combination until it’s smooth and light. Warm the milk and
add it gradually to the mixture. Continue beating for a few
minutes.. Then pass the batter through a sieve, pour it
into a buttered dish, and bake it in a moderate oven for 30
minutes. If the dish is to be served as a dessert, pour 6
tablespoons of melted butter over it and sprinkle with 2
tablespoons of sugar.

Cucumber with Smetana Recipe

1 large cucumber
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup smetana
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons lemon juice

Peel the cucumber, slice it thin, sprinkle with salt, and
leave it for about an hour. Strain off the liquid. Combine
the smetana, pepper, and lemon juice, pour the
mixture over the cucumber slices, and serve the dish
chilled.

Golubtsy Recipe (Stuffed Cabbage Leaves)

2 onions, chopped
3 tablespoons butter
1 pound ground beef
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup cooked rice
1 cup stock
1 medium-sized white cabbage
1 tablespoon flour
1-1/4 cup smetana
2 tablespoons tomato puree
(or 1 cup tomatoes)
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons vinegar
(or the juice of 1/2 lemon)

Fry the chopped onions lightly in 1 tablespoon of the
butter. Add the ground beef with salt and pepper to taste
and continue the frying for a few minutes. Then remove the
pan from the heat and mix in the cooked rice and a little
of the stock.

The whole cabbage should be cooked until soft in salted
water. The leaves should then be separated and flattened,
and the thick stalks cut away. Put about 1 tablespoon of
the meat filling on each leaf, roll up the little package,
and turn in the ends. Fry the rolls in 1 tablespoon of
butter until they’re browned lightly on all sides, and pack
them closely in a casserole.

Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter, blend in the
flour, and dilute the sauce with the rest of the stock. Add
the smetana, the tomatoes or puree, and the sugar.
Salt to taste. Boil the mixture and stir it well. Remove
the liquid from the heat, add the lemon juice or vinegar,
and pour the sauce over the cabbage rolls. Cook the dish in
a slow oven for 1 hour. This is a firm favorite with my
family.