Cuisine as a guarantee of Ukrainian identity

The kitchen as a guarantor of Ukrainian identity

Coincidentally, before the conflict broke out between Russia and Ukraine, the editions of La Martinière had scheduled the publication of a dedicated cookbook on a journey of flavors and the culinary history of the country that is now battered. In the absence of being able to contact the chefs and historians who participated in the writing of this work since they unfortunately no longer give any news, we have identified all these specialties that we have a duty to discover and know in order to maintain the culinary transmission of Ukraine. 

Bacon, bastion of the meat repertoire of Ukrainian cuisine

There is not one, but Ukrainian bacon. This cold cut does not offer the same taste depending on its thickness, since consumers can choose to cook it thin, “not more than 3 cm”, or very thick, that is to say more than 10 cm. It is the marbled bacon containing a large number of thin fillets of meat that is appreciated. The preparation of this type of cut follows very specific rules, consisting in grilling the pork carcass, “before removing the thin layer of charred skin […] then we surround it with straw and roast it slightly again. We then debit it by separating the bacon which we leave to mature for a few hours or a few days, at the end of which we salt the pieces”. Considered as a basic food, it is put aside and in fact, it is aged, which has the effect of giving it new flavors. 

The pickle, an emblematic ingredient

And to accompany a slice of bacon, it is customary to bite into a pickle. The cultivation of the herbaceous plant whose slender fruits are eaten dates back to the 17th century. The pickle from the city of Nijyn contributed to the fame of this production in the 19th century. South of Kharkiv, the village of Dobropassové is one of the most famous production sites in the country. According to the book, nearly one in two families grows pickles there. 

Watermelon, the fruit with all the sauces

Against all odds, we learn that Ukraine is a producer of watermelons. Since ancient times, the cucurbit has been cultivated on the shores of the Sea of ​​Azov, sadly famous today since it embodies one of the strategic axes of the current conflict; the Russian river Don flowing into it. We eat watermelon on bread accompanied by cucumber, onion or cheese, all washed down with a rye beer. The fruit can also be pickled or fermented. A tradition in southern Ukraine is to reduce watermelon juice to a thick, gooey paste. You can also dry its slices to make sweets, called retchel.  

Priajéné or sparéné milk, for longer preservation

< p>This is an intriguing culinary habit that will tickle the taste buds of foodies: Ukrainians have long consumed little fresh milk. Instead, we learn that the dairy product was baked for a few hours. A preservation technique to keep the milk longer and which gives it a characteristic golden yellow color. 

Honey, the essential ingredient in Ukrainian sweet recipes

Did you know that Ukraine is a big producer of honey? It “is among the top five honey-exporting countries,” the book writes. And to tell “each honey is linked to a particular season or landscape, which gives it an original taste. Among the cultivated varieties, we note buckwheat honey but also sunflower honey. It is used in desserts – from pancakes to cottage cheese, but also as a seasoning for salads or else to compose a sauce for meat. 

Bread, the emblematic recipe for a coveted cereal

Oats, corn, with or without yeast, kneaded without yeast but with butter… There are a multitude of bakery specialties which are maintained by a significant production of wheat. It is not for nothing that Ukraine was nicknamed the former breadbasket of the Soviet Union. The country indeed enjoys a land conducive to this culture thanks to soils, called “chernozems” rich in potash and phosphorus, benefiting from high humus levels and depths of up to two meters. Agricultural land represents more than 70% of Ukraine, or 42 million hectares. This is almost twice the area of ​​arable land in France. In a tweet dated February 22, researcher at Iris (Institute of International and Strategic Relations) Sébastien Abis submitted the idea that Ukrainian wheat production could also arouse the greed of Russian power. The country accounts for 12% of the world grain export. 

Ukraine, Cuisine and History – Olena Braichenko, Maryna Hrymych, Ihor Lylo  and Vitaly Reznichenko – Head Chefs: Yaroslav Artyukh, Vitaliy Guralevych, Denys Komarenko, V’Yacheslav Popkov, Oksana Zadorozhna and Olena Zhabotynska – 45 euros – editions of La martinière – released April 8, 2022

Previous Article
Next Article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *