German-Russian Cooking Recipes: A Culinary Heritage - German-Russian Recipes

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Could you share your favorite recipe with our readers?

Let me suggest several:


The Volga Germans make Bierock (pronounced bee-ROCK, their version of pirog, a Russian “pie”).  Other names for these turnovers are Runza (meaning “paunch”) and Krautbrot (cabbage bread).  Indeed, in lean times Bierock were made without meat.  Whatever the name, they’re good.  They also freeze well if any are left over.  This recipe is from the Sei Unser Gast (Be Our Guest) cookbook published by the Germans from Russia North Star Chapter.

1 tsp. oil
2 lb. ground beef
6 c. shredded cabbage
2 c. chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced (optional)
1 tsp. salt
ground black pepper to taste
2 loaves frozen bread dough, thawed, or 1 recipe Yeast Roll Dough

If you are not using frozen bread dough, first prepare the Yeast Roll Dough (recipe below).

To make the filling, heat the oil in a deep, heavy skillet.  Crumble the ground beef into the skillet, and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until browned.  Add the onion, cabbage, garlic, salt, and pepper.  Cook on low heat about 30 min. more, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat and let meat mixture cool to room temperature.  Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper, if needed.

Roll out the dough about 3/8-inch thick and cut into 4-inch squares.  Place about 3 Tbsp. of filling in center of each square.  Bring the four corners of the dough over the filling and pinch together.  Then pinch all the edges together tightly to seal.  Place on a baking sheet, brush lightly with oil, and let rise 20-30 minutes.  Bake at 350° F. for 25-30 min.  Serve hot, warm or even at room temperature.

Yeast Roll Dough
1 pkg. active dry yeast
1/4 cup sugar
1 c. warm water
1 tsp. salt
1 egg, beaten
3 Tbsp. butter, melted
3 to 3-1/2 c. all-purpose flour

In a bowl, mix the yeast and 1 tsp. of the sugar into 1/4 c. of the water.  When foamy, add the salt, egg, butter (that's been allowed to cool to lukewarm), and the rest of the water and sugar.  Stir in 3 c. flour.  Turn onto a floured surface and knead several minutes until smooth, working in a little more flour, if needed.  Put dough into a large greased bowl, turn over, and set in a warm place until dough is double in bulk.  Prepare the filling while the dough is rising.


Volga German Roast Beef Dinner (Broda)

When I was growing up in Kansas in the 1950s, roast beef seasoned with pickling spices and onion was served at Volga German wedding and funeral dinners and at the all-you-can-eat suppers at parish bazaars.  Beef roasted in this manner fills the house with a mouth-watering aroma.
3-lb. chuck roast
salt and pepper
2 tsp. (rounded) mixed pickling spices
1 bay leaf
1 onion, thickly sliced
3 c. water
6 potatoes, peeled and quartered
6 carrots, scraped and cut into chunks
cornstarch and water for thickening
Rub meat with salt and pepper and place in a roaster.  Tie a teaspoonful of pickling spice in each of two squares of cheesecloth.  Tuck the spice bags, the bay leaf and the sliced onion next to the roast.  Add the water to the roaster.  Bake, covered, at 350° F for 1 hr. and 45 min.
Remove roaster from oven.  Rub the potatoes and carrots with drippings and place around and atop the meat.  Bake, uncovered, about 45 min. more, until the vegetables and meat are tender and browned.
Serve the meat and vegetables on a platter, accompanied by a gravy made from the liquid in which the roast was cooked, thickened with cornstarch mixed with a little water.

Cucumber and Onion Salad
My mother served sliced tomatoes and cucumbers prepared in one of several ways at dinner and supper every day through the summer.  And if that weren’t enough, a salt shaker sat at the ready at the garden gate for anyone who couldn’t wait until mealtime.

Although mom used homegrown slicing or pickling cucumbers in this salad, the greenhouse or “English” cucumbers that one now finds in supermarkets work admirably for it, as do the burpless cucumbers that many people now grow.

1 greenhouse cucumber or 3 immature slicing cucumbers or an equivalent amount of young pickling cucumbers
1 onion
2 tsp. salt
5 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 cup white or cider vinegar
freshly ground black pepper
2 or 3 ice cubes
chopped fresh dillweed (optional)

You need not peel the cucumbers if you are using greenhouse or burpless cukes.  But if you’re using slicers or picklers from the garden, it’s best to peel them because the skins are tough and often bitter.

Slice the cucumbers and onion, crosswise, 1/8 inch thick.  Layer the slices in a bowl, sprinkling each layer with some of the salt.  Let stand 30 min. or longer.

Drain the sliced cucumbers and onion thoroughly in a sieve, then put into a serving bowl.  Sprinkle sugar over the cucumber and onion, then pour the vinegar over all.  Season to taste with pepper.  Top with the ice cubes.  Let stand 10-15 min., tossing a couple of times.  Garnish with the chopped dillweed if desired.

Black Sea German Kuchen

This recipe is from Carol Just, a former North Dakotan farm girl.  Germans from Russia are the largest ethnic group in North Dakota.  The ancestors of these German Russians emigrated to the Dakotas in the late 1800s and early 1900s from South Russia (now Ukraine, the Crimea, and Moldova).

The following recipe makes 8 pie-size Kuchen, a dessert so loved by Germans from Russia that they have succeeded in getting it named the official dessert of South Dakota.  Once cooled, Kuchen can be slipped into a plastic bag and frozen.

2 packages active dry yeast
1/4 c. lukewarm water
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 c. solid shortening, melted
1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 c. warm water
2 tsp. salt
all-purpose flour (about 7 c.
Sliced fresh peaches or apricots or pitted prunes or dried apricots
Custard Topping (recipe follows)
Ground cinnamon
Additional sugar

Stir the yeast and 1 tsp. sugar into 1/4 c. warm water; set aside until bubbly.  Mix the proofed yeast with the shortening (which has been allowed to cool to lukewarm), 1/2 c. sugar, the eggs, 2 cups warm water, and the salt, with enough flour to make a soft dough (about 7 c.).  Knead the dough until it is smooth and pliable

Divide the dough into 8 pieces.  Roll out each piece of dough to fit a pie pan.  Place each round of dough in a greased pie pan and with the fingers, pat the dough up the side of the pan to form a rim. 

Let the dough rise about 30 minutes.  Place slices of fruit over the dough in each pan.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Prepare the Custard Topping and spread the topping over the fruit in each pan.  Sprinkle the custard topping liberally with sugar and dust with cinnamon.

Bake the Kuchen for about 30 minutes, or until brown.  Cool on a wire rack, then slip out of the pie plate and serve, cut into wedges.

Custard Topping: Mix 2 c. sugar, 5 Tbsp. flour, 5 eggs (beaten), 4 c. sour cream, and 2 tsp. vanilla extract.

German-Russian “Ravioli”

This cottage cheese-filled pasta can be either savory or sweet; served as a main dish or even for dessert.  The Volga Germans called them Käsemaultasche’ or Käsenudel’; the Germans from South Russia know them as Käseknöpfle; and to the Mennonites, they are a kind of vareniki.

Prepare the dough at least 30 minutes before you want to use it.  Mix 2 c. flour, 2 slightly beaten eggs, 1/2 tsp. salt and 4 Tbsp. milk or water.  Knead until the dough is smooth and moist, but no longer sticky.  Cover with plastic wrap or a clean dish towel and let rest.

Next, prepare the filling:  On a plate, mash 12 oz. of dry-curd cottage cheese with a fork.  For a savory filling, mix the cottage cheese with 1 beaten egg, a little minced onion or chopped green onion, 3/4 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out 1/8" thick, and then cut it into 4" squares.  Place a heaping tablespoon of the filling in the center of each square, being careful to not get any at the edges.  Bring the corners of each square together over the filling and pinch the edges together tightly, making a pyramid-shaped pocket.  Or, you can simply put a spoonful of filling in the center of each square, fold the dough over the filling and pinch the edges together.

Add to 2 tsp. of salt to a large (6-8 qt.) pot of boiling water.  Add a few of the “ravioli” and cook them at a gentle boil for about 10 minutes.  When done they’ll have floated to the top.  As each is cooked, remove it with a slotted spoon and drain well in a colander.  Keep the cooked “raviolis” warm.

When all have been cooked, melt ½ c. of butter in a skillet, add some freshly torn bread and brown the crumbs.  Pour the butter and browned crumbs over the “ravioli” and serve.

Or, if you want to make the savory German-Russian Mennonite version, fry some ham or sausage in a skillet until done.  Remove the meat from the skillet and add 1 c. of cream to the drippings, and cook over low heat until thickened.  Pour this over the vareniki and serve with the fried meat.

To prepare the sweet version, mash 12 oz. of dry-curd cottage cheese on a plate.  Mix this with 1 slightly beaten egg, 1/4 c. sugar, and 1/2 tsp. of ground cinnamon or 1/4 tsp. of ground allspice.  Make the “ravioli” as above.  When they have been cooked, garnish with a Schmeltz, made by boiling ¼ c. butter with 1/2 c. sweet or sour cream in a heavy skillet until thickened.


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