Carolyn’s Online Magazine
SALTIBARSCIAI: Lithuanian cold beet soup
Through the years I’ve been familiarizing myself with my cultural background—Swedish, French, Irish, German, English—and Lithuanian.
This Easter I hope to introduce one or more Lithuanian dishes to our Easter menu. Below are three recipes I’d like to try, although I may be lucky to try one.
As I write this, and I’m certain as I try these recipes, I will be thinking of my Lithuanian ancestors who settled in Minersville, Pennsylvania, and worked in the coal mines. My grandfather escaped the mining community by joining the Navy, and becoming an expert submarine repairman.
My research informed me that zeppelins (cepelinai) are a traditional favorite Lithuanian dish. Zeppelins are large dumplings made of potato dough, stuffed with (usually) meat and generously drowned in rich creamy bacon gravy.
- 7 lbs / 3 kg Russet potatoes
- 1 pill of vitamin C (its acidity prevents grated potatoes from discoloring)
- 2 tsps salt
1. Peel the potatoes. Set aside 5/6 of all potatoes. Place the remaining 1/6 of the potatoes into a pot, cover with water, add a pinch of salt and boil until soft (about 30 minutes). Drain, mash with a potato masher, and set aside to cool.
2. Crush the vitamin C pill on a chopping board with a blade of a chef’s knife and place in a large mixing bowl. It will prevent the potatoes from turning dark after being grated.
3. Grate the remaining 5/6 raw potatoes with an electric or manual potato grater (the fine, prickly side of the box grater) into the bowl containing the vitamin C. Mix from time to time while grating, so that the potatoes do not turn dark.
4. Place part of the grated potatoes into a cheesecloth and squeeze well until the potatoes are barely moist. Reserve the potato juice in a bowl. Repeat with the rest of the grated potatoes.
5. Once all potatoes are juiced, and the juice has set for a short time, slowly pour away the potato juice from the bowl. There will be a layer of potato starch settled on the bottom of the bowl.
6. Knead the potato starch, the grated potatoes and the mashed boiled potatoes until well combined. Add 2 tsps of salt while kneading.’
- 6 oz / 200 g ground pork
- 6 oz / 200 g ground beef
- 1 medium (3 oz / 100 g) onion, chopped
- 2 tsps salt
- Pepper to taste
1. Combine the ground beef, pork, chopped onions, pepper and salt. Mix well. 2. Fill a large 10 quart / 8 litre stockpot with water up to 2/3 of volume. Add 1 tbsp of salt. Set to high heat and bring to boil. 9. While the water is coming to boil, take a lump (the size of a tennis ball) of the potato dough and flatten in your hands. Take a small lump (the size of a ping-pong ball) of the prepared meat filling and put on top. Fold the potato dough on top and press the edges to seal the dumpling into a smooth shape of a zeppelin. Make sure it is well sealed; otherwise zeppelins may open up during boiling. Repeat with the remaining dough and meat. 3. Once the water comes to boil, reduce the heat to medium and carefully lower the zeppelins into the boiling water. 4. Boil for 15-20 minutes until the meat inside is cooked through. Carefully remove the zeppelins from the pot with a slotted spoon.
- 6 oz / 200 g country bacon, diced
- 2 large (1 lb / 450 g) onions, chopped
- Oil for frying
- 1 cup / 250 ml sour cream
- Salt and pepper to taste
- While the zeppelins are boiling, prepare the gravy. Add the diced bacon and chopped onions into a large frying pan and sauté on medium heat for 5-10 minutes until grease is released from the bacon and onions are translucent and soft. If the bacon is lean, you may need to add a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil or lard.
- Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the sour cream, mix well and turn the heat off. Thin the gravy with hot water or chicken stock if needed.
When all is completed, serve the zeppelins generously topped with the gravy. Serves 4
traditional Lithuanian cold beet soup
You can prepare this in advance and keep it chilled in the refrigerator until ready to use. It goes well with sandwiches, roast pork, barbecue, Lithuanian sausage or just about anything else
- 2-3 medium to large red beets (about 1 pound)
- 2 medium cucumbers
- 2 scallions or chives
- 2 hard-boiled eggs
- 1 cup sour cream
- 4 cups buttermilk
- fresh dill
Clean, trim and peel beets, cover with water and boil until tender.
While the beets are boiling:
- peel cucumbers and chop into small cubes (about 1/2 inch); 2. peel shells from hard-boiled eggs and separate the whites from the yolks. Chop the whites very finely. 3. Chop the scallions and mash with egg yolks and 1/4 teaspoon salt to release the onion flavor.
- When the beets have finished boiling, remove them from the water and reserve the liquid.
- Cool the boiled beets under cold running water (or pop them into the refrigerator to cool for about an hour).
- When beets have cooled, grate them coarsely.
- In large mixing bowl, add buttermilk to the beet water and blend in sour cream; then add beets, cucumbers, egg whites, egg yolks and onions. Stir until well blended.
Place in refrigerator to chill. Serve with chopped dill as garnish.
2,5 cup wheat flour
0,5 cup water
15 g oil or other fat.
Make a stiff dough by mixing flour, salt, water, beaten egg and oil, and roll out thinly.
Make palm sized rounds, place some filling (samples below), fold over and seal edges well. Or put pieces of filling on dough and cover with another sheet of dough, then seal round buns using a cup.
Drop dumplings into boiling, salted water and cook till they rise to surface.
When dumplings are done, remove with slotted spoon into a bowl or put on a special board to drain.
Serve covered with pork scratchings, butter or sour cream.
FILLINGS FOR DUMPLINGS
Cooked potatoes –
1 k cooked potatoes, riced
1 spoon butter or finely chopped bacon, lard or fat
Fry onion in butter and mix with riced potatoes. Blend all ingredients well and fill dumplings. Add fried bacon, chopped meat or herring to the filling.
500 g curd
1 tablespoon sour cream
sugar, salt, mint.
Blend curd with sour cream and eggs, salt to taste, add sugar and finely chopped mint. Mix well and fill dumplings. Curd dumplings are eaten with sour cream and sprinkled with sugar.
1 cup of blueberries.
Use one teaspoon of washed and dried berries for one dumpling. Drop dumplings into boiling water and cook till they rise to surface. Substitute blueberries with black currants or pitted cherries.