Thursday, January 26, 2017

Schi and Krovyanaya Kolbasa

     Russian Cabbage Soup with Blood Sausage!
     Schi has been cooked in Russia for more than a thousand years.  As one can imagine, this simple meal has been part of many historic events and it has saved many people from freezing in the cold Russian winter.
     Schi is one of the most popular traditional recipes in Russia because it is so versatile.  The main ingredient is cabbage.  A wide variety of broths and meats can be adapted to this old fashioned cabbage soup.  Schi can be made vegan style too.
     Originally, Schi was cooked in very large batches till most of the liquid evaporated and the cabbage mixture was very dense.  The batch of Schi was placed in a container and allowed to freeze outdoors in the cold Russian winter.  The large block of frozen Schi was sawed into portions.  The frozen Schi portions were easy for soldiers or workers to carry.  Schi portions were also stored for home use.  When the frozen Schi was reheated, it provided an instant nutritious meal.
     Schi is a great cold weather soup that has a very nice flavor.  Women who cook a good Schi are highly regarded in Russia.  As the old Russian saying goes, "A woman that cooks good Schi, is the one to marry!"
     Schi is very easy to make and it is even better after being reheated.  In fact, to achieve the full traditional texture effect, the Schi should be cooked, then frozen before reheating.  Freezing does add a classic touch!  Today's Schi recipe is a very basic and it has no root vegetables added.  Adding root vegetables is traditional, so if there is some rutabaga, turnips or parsley root handy, then feel free to toss them in the pot.  Adding herbs and spices is a matter of personal choice.  In many regions of Russia, complex spice mixtures flavor the Schi.  
     How thick the Schi should be is also a matter of personal preference.  Many years ago, Schi was considered to be great if it was thick enough for a spoon to stand up in the soup.  In modern times, most Schi recipes have a little bit more broth.
     The most popular meats to add to Schi are beef brisket, wild game trimmings, sausage or pork shoulder.  Many kinds offal taste good in Schi too.  Since most traditional food in Russia has to be durable enough to last through a long winter, smoked or dry cure sausages are the top choice for adding to Schi.
     In the Ukraine, Krovyanaya Kolbasa is often used to flavor soups like Schi.  Krovyanaya Kolbasa is Blood Sausage (Blood Pudding).  Blood Sausage adds a unique blood Iron flavor and only a small amount is needed.
     Ukraine Krovyanaya Kolbasa is usually made by housewives and it can be difficult to find in American food markets.  Polish Kiszka is nearly identical to Krovyanaya Kolbasa, so it is a good substitute.  Chicago has a large Polish community, so Kiszka can be found in regular grocery stores in this area.  The next best bet is to shop at an Eastern European food market.  Places like the Jones Eastern European Food Market in Las Vegas stock a wide variety of old world sausages and regional Blood Sausage varieties are quite popular.

     Schi and Krovyanaya Kolbasa:
     This recipe yields 2 large portions.  (About 4 1/2 cups)  
     After cooking, the Schi must be refrigerated or frozen overnight, so it takes on a traditional look and texture.
     A rich homemade meat stock is best for this recipe.  Only stir the schi minimally, so the vegetables do not break apart.
     Step 1:  Heat a wide sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add 2 cups of finely chopped onions.
     Sauté the onions till they are tender, but not browned.
     Step 2:  Add 7 cups of coarsely chopped cabbage.
     Sauté and stir till the cabbage wilts.
     Step 3:  Add enough meat broth to barely cover the cabbage mixture.  (About 3 or 4 cups.)
     *I used a home made meat broth that was made with pork and beef scraps and bones.  Any broth (including vegetable broth) can be used.
     Bring the broth to a gentle boil.
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 8 to 10 ounces of Blood Sausage that has the casing removed.
     *Krovyanaya Kolbasa, Polish Kiszka or any rich tasting Eastern European style Blood Sausage is good.
     Simmer the soup till the cabbage starts to become tender.
     Step 5:  Add 3/4 cup of seeded chopped fresh tomato.
     Add 1 large bay leaf.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Gently simmer till the tomato becomes very tender.
     Step 6:  Add 2 cups of large diced potato.  (3/4" cube shapes)
     Simmer till the potatoes are fully cooked.
     *If too much liquid evaporates, then only add enough water to barely cover the vegetables.
     Step 7:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Remove the bay leaf.
     Allow the Schi to cool to room temperature.
     Place the Schi in a container.
     Freeze the Schi overnight or freeze it for later use.  (Schi can just be refrigerated overnight, but freezing is best!)
     Step 8:  Place the 2 portion batch of frozen Schi in a wide sauce pot.
     Reheat the Schi over low heat before serving.
     Allow any excess liquid to evaporate.
     *The finished Schi should have a higher proportion of vegetables than broth!

     Dill Sour Cream Garnish:
     This recipe yields 2 portions.
     Step 1:  Place 3/4 cup of sour cream in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of dill weed.
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Step 2:  Place the Dill Sour Cream in a container.
     Chill till it is needed.
     This recipe describes 1 hearty portion.
     Step 1:  Ladle 2 1/2 cups of the Schi into a large soup bowl.
     Try to expose some of the bits of Blood Sausage on the surface.  (The Blood Sausage should look like minced grain and bits of meaty fat at this point.)
     Step 2:  Place a large dollop of the Dill Sour Cream on the Schi.
     Serve with sliced rye bread or an Eastern European style bread of your choice.

     This is a very rich tasting Schi that is perfect for a very cold day!

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