Wondering what the Renegades favourite foods are? Well, even if you weren't we're going to share some with you anyway!
When I came across @kiaraantonoviche's latest #homesteadingchallenge visions of beet rolls began dancing through my head. Some of our most favourite homesteading meals are traditional Ukrainian dishes that we fondly remember devouring at family gatherings. Both Matthew and myself (Mrs. Canadian Renegade) are part Ukrainian and both enjoyed holiday classics like perogies, cabbage rolls, corn bread, beet leaf rolls, and borsch growing up.
While I don't claim to be an aspiring chef of any kind, I can sputter my way around the kitchen from time-to-time. I know, what kind of homesteader am I, right? Seriously guys, Matthew feared for the safety of my fingers when we first met; my knife wielding skills left much to be desired. But, I can safely say I've come a long way and with all of my fingers instact to boot.
I admit, I did not have a chance to sputter in the kitchen for this post but I do have some photos from when I first attempted making borch and beet leaf rolls. What's more, is you're going to learn a little bit about my history in addition to getting some recipes.
Since we're at my parents I had full access to the cookbooks from my Dads home town. My grandparents donated a corner of their property to a community hall called Franko Hall and to raise money to maintain the building the Franko Ladies would put together cookbooks and sell them. They would all submit their favourite recipes, which is a tasty way to pass down community traditions.
As I was thumbing through the books, I couldn't seem to find the right recipes which led to me calling my Baba directly. Who better to go to for cooking knowledge than the source of years of yummy goodness! Side note: My Uncle bought my Baba her first cell phone last year so the grandkids could share photos of her great grandchildren with her since we are all so far away. So yeah, I've been texting with her lately which seems kind of surreal.
I digress! Now that you have small slice of history, on to the yumminess!
One of the most traditional dishes in Ukrainian culture is borsch or beet soup. This is an excellent homesteading meal because the ingredients are cheap, and they both store and can well. The recipe my family uses is meatless because it's eaten at Christmas and part of our tradition is to not eat any animals that were in the barn when Jesus was born.
3 beets, size of an orange, cut into thin strips
1 carrot, diced
8 cups water
1 medium potato, diced
2 Tbsp. lemon juice (or vinegar)
1/2 cup green peas or white beans
1 large onion
3 Tbsp. butter
1-1/2 cup shredded cabbage
1 cup cold water
2 Tbsp. chopped dill
Cook beets and carrots in water for 2 minutes. Add potatoes and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Add lemon juice (keeps red colour in beets). Add beans or peas and simmer until tender.
Sauté onion in butter until soft. Add cabbage to onion with 1/4 cup water, then simmer until cabbage is tender. Stir into the beets. Add tomato juice or soup. Blend flour with 1/2 cup cold water and stir into vegetables. (I don't eat wheat so I substitute with cornstarch) Add dill for added flavour. Bring to a boil.
Cream can be added is desired. (And should be, in my humble opinion!)
The year I made beet borsch, we had actually chosen to grow orange beets. I was also using up some left over purple cabbage, where green is the typical choice. While our borsch didn't have the vibrant red hue you would normally expect, it's rainbow of colour was quite beautiful. Even with a slight variation of ingredients, this soup hit the taste pallet just right.
The beautiful thing about beets, is while you're waiting for the root to mature in the ground you can still harvest the leaves for other recipes; enter holubsti!
As I was writing this, I asked Matt which he preferred, holubsti (beet leaf rolls) or sour cabbage rolls. He wrestled with the cream covered beet leaves, or the sourness of the cabbage. He tried really hard to make a decision and finally said, It's too hard. Don't make me choose! I prefer the sweeter tomato cabbage rolls over the sour myself, but give me a beet leaf roll and I'm done!
Beet Leaf Holubsti
4 cups rice (not converted)
8 cups water
2 tsp. salt
1 onion, mince
3/4 cup butter
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup finely shopped dill
1 cup water or cream
Rinse the rice, then cook the rice in water with 2 teaspoons salt in a Dutch oven.
Meanwhile, sauté the onion in the butter until it is cooked but not browned, seasoning with some salt and pepper. Stir in the dill. Combine the onion and rice. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
Prepare leaves while rice is cooking. Wash leaves, then scald in hot water for easier rolling, Drain well on paper towel. Alternatively, you can also wilt the leaves by laying them flat on a cookie sheet and freezing them. This method store well if you want to roll at a later date. Or for a quick wilt you can pop them in the oven at a low temperature and watch closely.
Place a spoonful of rice on the back of the leaf, then roll. Place side by side in baking pan. Sprinkle rice and melted butter between layers. Holubsti can be cooled and frozen, or baked.
To bake, pour the water or cream over the holunsti. More may be needed during baking. Bake, covered, for 1 to 1-1/2 hours at 350°F (325°F for glass dish). Serve hot with cream-dill sauce or sour cream.
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
2 Tbsp. butter
1/4 cup finely chopped dill
2 cups whipping cream
salt and pepper
Lightly sauté the onion in the butter. Add the cream. When it comes to a boil, add the dill and simmer for about 10 minutes. Season to taste.
I think there is a Ukrainian prank about making beet leaf rolls. Everyone I talked to kept telling me to use the young leaves which I interpreted to be the smaller newer leaves. I ended up struggling to roll anything because the leaves were so tiny! Matt ended up harvesting larger leaves for me part way through which essentially saved me! Apparently, young leaves just means pick them early in the season when they are softer and more pliable! Rookie mistake!
All photos in this post are courtesy by Mrs. Canadian Renegade's high-tech cellphone.