Nana's Pickled Beets has been revised and the bread machine version of the Poppy Seed Roll has been added.
Honey cake is traditionally served at Ukrainian Christmas. Buckwheat honey gives this cake a distinct flavour. There are many honey cake recipes worth trying, but I have persevered with this one: it is tasty, light and airy. The challenge is to get it not to fall while baking.
Gedo would go into the bush and come back with bags of field mushrooms (pecherytsi). These would be dried in the oven of the old wood stove we had in the basement. In the winter, Baba would use them to make various dishes, one being pidpenky (dried mushroom) sour cream gravy. The flavour was unique. I do not have Baba’s recipe, only the memory of the taste. This recipe comes close. It was delicious served alone as a vegetable or with pedaheh or holopchi.
Served not only at Ukrainian Christmas and special occasions, but anytime there was a craving. They can be baked or fried in butter. The cheese filling can be savory or sweet.
Quite often I make the crepes only and serve them in place of pancakes for breakfast.
This recipe calls for cider vinegar, brown sugar and beet water. White vinegar, regular sugar and plain water are more commonly used, but I have yet to try it this way.
Spices are a personal preference. Whole mixed pickling spices are used here but, some recipes call for cinnamon sticks and whole cloves which produces a stronger flavour.
Quite often when Baba was making a pot of Chicken Soup, the cooked chicken would be removed, placed in a roaster and covered with a sour cream sauce, then placed in the oven for a while to enhance the flavours. If we were lucky, Baba would also make Kulesha (like cornbread) for dipping into the sauce.
This dish is traditionally known in Western Ukraine, especially the Carpathian Mountains as “Kulesha”, in Romania and Moldova as “Mamaliga” and in Italy as “Polenta”.
Kulesha is similar in texture to cornbread, but is cooked in a saucepan on the stove. As it cooks, it gets very thick and difficult to stir. Baba had a wooden dowel she used mainly for stirring the Kulesha.
Baba and Gedo made it frequently, usually eating it with cottage cheese (or brinza, a cheese made from sheep’s milk) and sour cream. I liked it best sliced in slabs and served with borscht or chicken in sour cream sauce. Give it a try. Get adventurous with the recipe e.g. add fried chopped bacon, onions, peppers, etc.
The bread machine version of this recipe is now posted. If you are feeling more adventurous or do not have a bread machine try the scratch version.
The KOLACH is the traditional Ukrainian Christmas Eve supper centerpiece. Three braided loaves, which commemorate the Trinity, are stacked one on top of the other. A candle is set in the middle of the top loaf to symbolize Christ, the “Light of the World”. Its round shape gives it its name - “kolo”, a circle - symbolizing eternity. An old custom was the communal sharing of bread, honey and salt. Starting with the oldest member of the family, small pieces of kolach dipped in honey and salt were offered with the greeting “Chrestos rezdayetsia” (“Christ is born”); they would response, “Slavitey Yeho” (“Glorify Him”).
Baba would make these and sometimes solicit my help to grate the potatoes. It took a few tries to learn not to get my fingers in the way of the grater. Today, the food processor makes the grating so much easier and faster. I still, however, prefer using the fine side of a box grater. The processor just does not produce the same texture. You can always do half with the box grater and half with the food processor. It depends on how pressed you are for time.
Patricia Caine (nee Rusnak) is originally from Thunder Bay, ON. Both her parents came to Canada from the Ukraine. She has put these recipes together as a tribute to her parents, for her family and Canada's 150th.