Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Historic Food Images 4: From L'viv

My last trip to L'viv was also my last chance, this visit, to look for historic photos related to food.  The craft market in L'viv, near the opera house, yielded some fascinating images.   Above, some proud (and well-dressed) workers at a flour mill.  Below, a stylish sip of something.

I can't quite tell what's going on in the image below.  A bride?  The slat basket over the one man's shoulder is a really familiar, well-used form even today.  Just last week I saw many people coming in on the trains to Kyiv with this over their shoulder, filled with berries or cherries and covered with a cloth.   Anyone able to tell us what's happening here or where the image might be from?

And just because it's a beautiful image, this color postcard of apples.  Enjoy!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Red and Green: Market Report, June 27

Some photos from a quiet Sunday at the market in Podil, in Kyiv.  I was struck by all the red and green, of tomatoes, salad greens and herbs,  pickles (of course),  green onions, currants, and green walnuts.

I've had pickled walnuts with tea--and they're great!  I couldn't find a specifically Ukrainian recipe but here's one recipe from  I don't remember the taste of cinnamon and other spices in the ones I had here.  I'd love to have a recipe from Ukraine--anyone have one to share?

Pickled Walnuts

  • 4 pounds fresh young black walnuts
  • 3/4 cup salt
  • 4 cups malt vinegar
  • 2 1/8 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger root   
  1. Use rubber gloves to handle the young walnuts and pierce each one a few times with the tines of a fork. Watch out for the clear juice this produces. It stains a dark, espresso brown and is a natural dye. Place the walnuts into a bucket and fill with enough water to cover. Stir in 3/4 cup of salt to make a brine. Soak walnuts for 1 week, then drain and make the brine again. Soak for 1 more week.
  2. After the second week, drain the walnuts and lay them out on trays to dry in an airy place. In a couple of days they will turn black. Once they have all turned black, they are ready to pickle.
  3. In a large pot, stir together the malt vinegar, brown sugar, allspice, cloves, cinnamon and ginger. Bring to a boil and then add the walnuts. Simmer over medium heat for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  4. Spoon the walnuts into sterile jars and fill with the syrup to within 1/2 inch of the top. Seal with lids and rings. Store in the refrigerator or process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. Cool to room temperature and store in a cool dark place.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Berries, Berries, Berries and Cherries

This week appears to be the height of berry and cherry season.   At the market today there were sweet and sour cherries, strawberries, wild strawberries, blackberries and blueberries, all in great abundance.  Many of them were displayed in handmade splint or willow baskets.  Ukrainians enjoy the berries fresh but also turn them into preserves--a compote, or even into cherry. blueberry or strawberry varenyky.  The Gourmanderie blogger tried making blueberry ones--you can find their recipe and photos of the result. here.

Enjoy the look of summer while I enjoy the taste of sun-warmed berries.


Above, my wild strawberries gently wrapped for me to carry home.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Granny Wrinkles shares her Reed Recipes

Peace Corps volunteer Barbara Trecker, living in a village in the Danube River Delta, is working with a non-profit environmental organization, Zhavoronok.  After a conversation about The Pickle Project she generously sent me a copy of their newsletter which included this article about the many benefits of reeds.  The article is narrated by "Grandmother Wrinkles,"  a Danube Delta marsh turtle.  Here's Grandmother's take on reeds and their culinary uses (and that's Grandmother Wrinkles at the end of the post)
Today I will introduce you to one of the most numerous inhabitants of our wetlands - reeds. Meet the reed, find its many uses,  and try to prepare a meal from my recipes. Believe me, reeds are very, very helpful and very, very tasty.

If you only knew how wonderful the reeds are that grow in our marshes! They cast a high solid wall, but when the wind blows, the cane leaves turn their edge and the stem bends easily, but does not break. Reeds are flexible and very durable! They can be used to build houses and shelters.

For many animals, the reeds are home. How many spiders, bees and insects are found in the crooks of the cane stalks! They like reed thickets, as do muskrats and pelicans, herons and ibis. Also, wild cats, wild boar, and raccoon dogs.  Birds hide in the reeds, and fish. The “White Cupid”, for example, loves the sweet tender tip of the cane. Since she cannot reach the tip, she grabs the lower branches of the stem with her mouth and pulls it up so the top will not fall into the water.

I must say this one is no fool. Reeds are not only tasty, but also useful. In the reed leaf and shoots is contained up to 500 mg. of ascorbic acid which is four times the vitamin C in lemons!  Reeds are rich in carotene, cane sugar, and starch. The rhizome (root bulb) is especially high in nutrient value, containing up to 15% sugar and 50% starch. That is why long young shoots and rhizomes of reeds are used as food. They can be boiled, pickled, included in soups, salads, vinaigrettes, purees, and stewed with butter. Autumn and spring rhizomes that are dried, milled and made into flour can be cooked for coffee, baked as bread, and used as a seasoning for various dishes. I think it is high time to introduce reed dishes in your diet! Try to cook the recipes in the next column.

Rhizomes are not difficult to collect in the spring or early summer before the reeds flower, and in late autumn from the bottom of reservoirs with rakes or special hooks. But before you start cooking dishes from the reeds, you must perform important rule of survival school:    Remember! Collect reed rhizomes and young shoots only far away from towns, factories and plants!   
And some recipes from the same newsletter.

Reed Root Salad
300g. reed roots, 60g. grated horseradish, 60g. chopped sorrel,
40g. sour cream, salt to taste

Wash the roots and boil in salted water. With a knife, chop into 2 cm. pieces,
stir in horseradish, sorrel and salt,
then add the sour cream.

Reed Root Puree
 200g. reed roots;  60g. nettle;
60g.onion (10-20); vegetable oil; 
salt and vinegar to taste

Boil the reed roots and finely chop in a meat grinder. Fry the onions and nettles in oil, then add the chopped reeds.
Flavor with vinegar and salt.

Reed Root Coffee
Wash the reed roots and air dry, then  roast in oven until brown. Grind the toasted pieces in a coffee grinder and use like regular ground coffee.

These recipes provide just a glimpse of a way of life that involves making do, with whatever the landscape provides.  I'll never just take a casual look at reeds again, without thinking of Granny Wrinkles and the ingenious ways of finding sustenance in this diverse country.