Pickled Apples

The short Summer growing season and loooonnnggg winter meant preserving foods was truly a matter of life or death in pre-Industrial Russia. It is a tradition that is still largely upheld today, even among urban Russians. A dacha or country house is a surprisingly common amenity for even middle class Russians. According to “Housing Studies: The Russain Dacha phenomenon” by Raymond J. Struyk and Karen Angelici About one in four big city families have dachas. While the “second homes” first came about as gifts to loyal vassals to Peter the Great, the Soviet Era saw a moderate boom in dacha-living, as many of the properties were nationalized and made into vacation homes for the working class. Spring and Summer are called “Dacha Season” and stores advertise sales for gardening equipment and other outdoor amenities. While they have become leisure retreats for many of the more affluent Russians, the memory of the Soviet Era food shortages coupled with a long standing cultural tradition of growing and preserving their own food means many people still invest in rigorous gardening at their dachas.

So when your dacha apple trees need harvesting or you have just finished plundering your neighbor’s apple tree, you will want to preserve some of the bounty for the barren months ahead.

This recipe is more of the immediate gratification solution. You can bring in the apple harvest from your dacha plot and have pickled apples in the same day!

I found this receipt at Portland Monthly Magazine courtesy of Gregory Goudet of Saucebox

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4 red apples
4 shallots, peeled, sliced thin
2 tbsp spice mix*
2 cups rice wine vinegar
2 cups sugar

(1) Wash and medium-dice apples.
(2) Place shallots in a container and cover with apples.
(3) Add spice mix to vinegar and sugar and bring to a boil.
(4) Pour mixture over apples and shallots.
(5) Cover with plastic wrap to keep everything submerged under liquid.
(6) Let cool at room temperature.

* Spice Mix

INGREDIENTS

8 cinnamon sticks
8 pieces star anise
12 cloves
1 tbsp cardamom
1 tbsp 
fennel seed
1 tbsp allspice

(1) Place all spices in a sauté pan and toast in a 375-degree oven until fragrant (about 10–15 minutes).
(2) Once cool enough to handle, grind in a spice grinder until fine.

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Fresh Cabbage Salad with Apples and Sour Cream Dressing

This recipe is from “A Year of Russian Feasts” by Catherine Chermeteff Jones.

Russia produced over 4 million tons of cabbage per year, and the Ukraine produces 1.3 million tons. They are 3rd and 7th on the list of top ten producers in the world. It is a hearty vegetable that thrives in the colder climate  and short growing season. It is a tremendous source of  Vitamin C and is easy to preserve as an important nutrient source over an extremely long and harsh winter.

Of course in the brief Russian Summer it is wonderful to savor fresh, raw vegetable as much as possible. And this recipe is so quick, easy and the result so refreshing, it is a natural for a summer party… no hot stove, out of the kitchen in a flash.

Sour cream is another staple of Russian cuisine. Dairy products in general have traditionally been in strong supply in Russian, and as a culture (I’m sorry I couldn’t resist it!) they seem to have a real penchant for fermentation, so a proliferation of “soured” cream makes sense.

8 oz. white cabbage, tough outer leaves and core removed, quartered and very thinly sliced.
Salt
1 small apple, peeled and coarsely grated
3 tablespoons sour cream, creme fraiche or mayo
Freshly Ground pepper
 
Place the Cabbage in a medium Bowl, Add 1/2 tsp salt and mix well by hand, crushing the cabbage to release the juices, about 1 minute. Add the apples, sour cream and salt and pepper to taste and mix well. Adjust the seasoning if necessary and serve immediately.
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Fresh Fruit

Pennsylvania Senator William Maclay described an August 1789 meal with the President and First Lady to include “…iced creams Jellies &ca, then Water Melons Musk Melons apples peaches nuts”

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Fresh fruit still has popular today at a summer party, especially with kids. A cool, juicy slice of melon is the perfect compliment to a hot burger or rich ice cream. I have a generous neighbor with a gorgeous, blooming apple tree. So, just like at Mount Vernon, I got to serve apples straight from the orchard!

Cornbread Dressing with Roasted Fall Vegetables

From Bon Appétit, November 2007

Serves 10

We all learned in school how Squanto, the English speaking Indian taught the Pilgrims how to plant and cultivate corn and saved them from starvation. Corn was the cornerstone of Native American cuisine, and the colonists soon learned to copy the Indian’s uses as well as adapting it to replace wheat flour in many of their bread recipes.

Root vegetables were an important part of this first harvest and would have provided a great deal of the taste, variety and nutrition in this celebratory and restorative festival.

1 10-ounce bag pearl onions
2 1/2 cups 1/2-inch-thick diagonal slices peeled carrots (about 3/4 pound)
2 1/2 cups 1/2-inch-thick diagonal slices peeled parsnips (about 3/4 pound)
2 cups 1/2-inch cubes peeled rutabagas (about 3/4 pound)
2/3 cup olive oil, divided
1 pound crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, stemmed, caps halved (optional)
6 large garlic cloves, peeled
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons dried crushed rosemary
1 1/2 teaspoons dried rubbed sage
6 cups 1/2-inch cubes Cornbread for Dressing
3 large eggs, beaten to blend
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (butter supplies would probably have been low)
1 1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth

Position 1 rack in top third and 1 rack in bottom third of oven; preheat to 425°F. Cook onions in small saucepan of boiling water 2 minutes; drain. Cool slightly; trim and peel. Place onions, carrots, parsnips, and rutabagas in single layer on large rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle 1/3 cup oil over and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper; toss to coat. Place mushrooms and garlic on another rimmed baking sheet; drizzle with remaining 1/3 cup oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Roast root vegetables until tender and brown around edges, stirring every 15 minutes, about 1 hour. Roast mushrooms and garlic until tender, stirring once, about 30 minutes. Place root vegetables and mushrooms in large bowl. Place garlic in small bowl; mash with fork until pureed. Add pureed garlic, thyme, rosemary, and sage to vegetables; toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD: Vegetable mixture can be made 1 day ahead. Cool vegetables, cover, and chill. Bring mixture to room temperature before continuing.
Place cornbread cubes on large rimmed baking sheet. Let bread cubes stand at room temperature to dry slightly, about 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter 13x9x2- inch oval baking dish. Add cornbread cubes to vegetables; toss to distribute evenly. Add eggs; toss to coat. Drizzle with melted butter; toss to coat. Add broth and stir to combine (mixture will be very moist). Transfer mixture to prepared dish.
Bake dressing uncovered until lightly browned and crisp around edges, about 45 minutes.

Mushy Peas

Peas were grown in the kitchen gardens of the Pilgrims. This recipe, from allrecipes is a very British dish. They probably did not have any dairy animals at this time, so the butter and cream are not authentic, but there are just some sacrifices we do not need to make.

Servings: 4

1 (10 ounce) package frozen green peas
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Bring a shallow pot of lightly salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add frozen peas, and cook for 3 minutes, or until tender.
Drain peas, and transfer to a blender or large food processor. Add cream, butter, salt and pepper to peas, and process until blended, but still thick with small pieces of peas. Adjust seasonings to taste, and serve immediately.

Tomato Salad

When I think of Scandinavian Design, I think of clean, simple lines, and beautiful bold colors. I think with the long dark winters, there is a need to bring brightness into life in as many ways as possible, and to celebrate the long, bright days of summer when they seem far away. For this reason, I used multi-colored heirloom tomatoes in this salad. Not only are heirlooms the most flavorful tomatoes in my opinion, but this simple, colorful salad looks like a bright, Norwegian kitchen to me.
4-8 tomatoes

1 yellow onion sliced

chopped parsley, chives or tarragon
vinaigrette (1 tablespoon vinegar, 3 tablespoons olive oil, salt, pepper, paprika – in a covered jar, shake)

Cut the Tomatoes into slices or wedges. Pour viniagrette over tomatoes and onions and sprinkle with herbs.

Open Sandwiches

With your left over bread you can make some small, open faced sandwiches. Your only limit is your imagination and the ingredients you can locate. But here are few ideas:

Dill Havarti and Gravlax Sandwich
Dill is considered the Scandinavian Herb. The old Norse word “dilla” meant to lull or soothe, and it was used a remedy for colic and upset stomachs. Dill is the essential ingredient that distinguished Scandinavian Gravlax from other culture’s smoked salmon.

Havarti is a Danish, semi-soft cheese. It was created by Hanne Nielsen on a farm north of Copenhgen in the mid-19th Century.

Or celebrate Vinland’s salmon streams with a Salmon and Cream Cheese Sandwich with a little sprig of dill.

Cream Cheese and Lingonberry Jam Sandwich
Lingonberry Jam in Sweden and other Nordic countries is like grape jelly in the U.S., a staple item. But they are also a popular wild picked fruit in the Canadian Provinces of Newfoundland adn Labrador, which must have made Lief and his companions feel right at home.