The first association that most of us have when we hear about the culinary arts of Belarus is a huge number of potato dishes. However, in reality, Belarusian cuisine is centuries-old traditions, original tastes and peculiar processes of heat treatment that make Belarusian dishes recognizable in almost any corner of the globe.
At the same time, potatoes are really present as one of the ingredients in a huge number of recipes. However, Belarusians have so many ways of preparing it that it is often impossible to “identify” the main national product.
Scientists have not been able to establish the exact age of the Belarusian cuisine. Experts agree that it gained relative independence in the nineteenth century. After that, Belarusians began to more actively defend their culinary traditions.
At the same time, according to the data obtained by researchers, the very process of the origin of these traditions began in the days of paganism. The formation of Belarusian cuisine was influenced by Slavic tribes, who at that time constituted the population of the present territory of Belarus.
Their main occupations were animal husbandry, hunting, fishing, farming, beekeeping and gathering - and this is what determined the main components that became the ingredients of the national Belarusian dishes. A variety of crops (rye, oats, barley, peas, millet), vegetables, fruits and berries, meat, fish and mushrooms are the basis of the diet of the local population.
In the future, the culinary traditions of Belarusians were influenced by the cuisines of other nations: primarily Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, Lithuanian, Jewish, German and many others. However, Belarusian cuisine did not just adopt the recipe of foreign dishes, but adapted them “for itself”.
At the initial stage, the cuisines of eastern and western Belarus developed separately. At the same time, the cuisine of the eastern region was more in demand by Orthodox peasants, and the western - by the nobility, who predominantly professed Catholicism. In the diet of the representatives of the first social group, mainly cereals, fruits and vegetables were present, and the dishes of the nobles were dominated by meat dishes.
At the beginning of the seventeenth century, the formation of a new social stratum — philistines — began on the territory of the country. Representatives of this group, mainly artisans and small officials, combined the traditions of both regional cuisines in their culinary preferences.
All these factors have led to the fact that until today in the different regions of the country the same dishes are often prepared in completely different ways.
To understand the specifics of Belarusian cuisine, its main features should be highlighted.
Belarusian cuisine is surprisingly traditional. Today it uses the same recipes as centuries ago. At the same time, the range of products has expanded significantly.
Seasoning is not an honor. According to Belarusian culinary experts, they simply spoil the natural taste of dishes. Therefore, spices are used in very limited quantities, and their assortment is more than modest: black pepper, coriander, cloves, cumin and cinnamon.
One of the "chips" of local cuisine, which many foreigners can cause bewilderment, is mushroom powder. It is prepared from dried mushrooms, which are crushed, in the literal sense of the word, into dust. The powder is then used to make soups and sauces, and is added to potato dishes. It is believed that in this strange form, mushrooms are best absorbed. In their “natural” form, the gifts of the forest are also used by Belarusian culinary specialists, but much less often.
They don’t like fried fish in Belarus. Usually it is either baked whole, or minced meat is prepared from it, which is then added to other dishes as an ingredient.
In the culinary traditions of Belarusians, the so-called "dark" varieties of flour (oat, rye) are used more often than ordinary wheat. Sometimes when preparing dishes they are mixed with pea or pearl barley flour.
In Belarusian cuisine sweets are almost completely absent. They are replaced by drinks based on oatmeal and a variety of pastries.
As already noted, despite the significantly expanded range of food products over the past century, the basis of Belarusian cuisine is made up of dishes whose recipes have remained virtually unchanged for centuries.
The widespread use of potatoes is the main distinguishing feature of the national Belarusian cuisine. Experts say that this product is so popular because it appeared in Belarus almost a century earlier than in Russia. In addition, climatic conditions contributed to the cultivation of new varieties of potatoes by local breeders.
It is noteworthy that in Belarusian cuisine potatoes are used mainly in grated, and not in their entirety. There are several ways to prepare potato mass at local culinary specialists. So, there are "tarkovanny" (grated and not wrung out) and "clinked" (grated and carefully wrung) potatoes, as well as boiled-crushed. When cooking, potato mass is usually combined with flour and soda.
One of the “signature” Belarusian dishes is “pancakes”, potato pancakes, which are served to the table with cracklings, mushrooms, sour cream and various sauces. In addition, Belarusians prepare potato cakes. One of the local delicacies is the large intestine of pork stuffed with grated potatoes and fried in oil. Whole potato tubers are either boiled in their skins (this dish is known as salt marshes, because they eat it, very generously sprinkled with salt), or stewed (the so-called "greens").
To prepare the first dishes in Belarus, meat or vegetable broths are used. All Belarusian soups are characterized by the fact that they are very thick and more likely resemble mashed soups. Many of them can be consumed both hot and cold.
One of the national dishes is the "watermelon" - pumpkin soup with pork and lard, with onions and whey. Also popular is the “hernia” - rutabaga soup puree, in which they add the so-called “vyandlin” - smoked loin or ham. They also prepare "groats" - soup with mushrooms and barley. Among cold summer soups, beetroot “hladnik” and “mushroom kvass” are popular - soup with porcini mushrooms.
Belarusians love meat, especially pork. Also in the diet are beef, veal and poultry.
Pork is mainly used as a raw material for making home-made sausages and the “vyandlina”, which is very smoked ham and the “polendvitsa”, dried meat with spices, which is very popular among the local population. Among other traditional meat dishes - "pechisty". These are boiled, stewed or fried carcasses of piglets, rabbits, poultry, or a very large piece of beef or pork.
One of the “tricks” of the Belarusian cuisine is the “Machanka” or “Vereshchak” - pieces of ribs stewed in kvass with the addition of flour, sour cream and onion. This dish is usually eaten with pancakes. "Vantrobianka" - another local delicacy, which is a finely chopped pork kidney, liver, heart and other offal. They are stuffed into the pork colon and fried or stewed. The meat is also used as a filling for "sorcerers" - baked potatoes.
Poultry meat in Belarus is often salted. Salted goose is especially popular. Also, the meat of geese is baked in the oven.
In Belarusian cuisine, as in Ukrainian, lard is used. In its “natural” form it is usually consumed in winter, with unchanged potatoes, slightly salted, always with skin. Fried lard is used as a seasoning for flour dishes.
As noted above, for the preparation of flour dishes in Belarus, usually "dark" flour is used. From it, for example, they bake "sachni" - very thick pancakes that are stuffed with minced meat or vegetables.
Grouting is also popular in Belarus - these are lumps of dough boiled in water, into which milk and lard are then added. Their variety - well-known and outside the country "dumplings" - boiled pieces of dough, served with fried onions and cracklings.
Vegetables and salads
Among the most popular vegetables in Belarus are cabbage, carrots, legumes, radish and rutabaga. For the preparation of salads, these and other vegetables are used both fresh and boiled.
In the Belarusian cuisine, sour cream and vegetable oil are used as salad dressing. Mayonnaise is not very popular here.
Among desserts in Belarus, flour is most popular. Most often these are pancakes, pancakes stuffed with fruits and berries, pies, including “jad” - a huge pie in which raisins and dates are added, and apple jam is used as the filling. Also, apples filled with cottage cheese, which add nuts, raisins and honey, are served at the festive table.
The most typical drinks for Belarusian cuisine are kvass (including “birch” made from birch sap, and “maple” made from maple) and mead (a drink made using fermentation technology from honey, herbs and berries), as well as fruit compotes. In winter, on the table there is often a “sbiten” - a warming drink from honey with the addition of spices. Local housewives also prepare "kulag" - kissel based on flour, honey, sugar and berries.
Experts note that the most remarkable thing in Belarusian cooking is not the composition of the dishes, but the methods of processing them. In local cooking two completely opposite methods are combined: the use of products in large pieces (for example, baking carcasses of poultry, fish, piglets) and their maximum grinding, turning into minced meat, mashed potatoes, powder. Moreover, as historians note, the first of these areas is a purely Belarusian "chip", and the second is borrowed from Polish cuisine. It is on the basis of minced raw materials that the majority of potato and meat dishes are prepared in Belarus.
Another interesting characteristic of the Belarusian cuisine is the idea that the dish is ideal for a long time as something boiled, shapeless. Therefore, local culinary specialists widely use multi-stage heat treatment: long steaming, long cooking, long hours of languishing. As a result, the dish takes on a mushy appearance.
In addition, Belarusian culinary specialists have a very specific division of products into five groups, based on what role they play in dishes.
So, "welds" are those products that form the basis of the dish and play a major role in it. These are usually vegetables or cereals.
"Shades" are those products that are designed to give the dish a pleasant taste and make it more nutritious. This is usually meat, including the notorious “vandlin”, which is added both to soups, and to vegetable and flour dishes.
"Stab" is a product that is used to make the dish thicker. Usually used flour (for liquid dishes), starch or potatoes.
"Vologa" is fat, which is designed to increase the calorie content of a dish and make it more juicy. Most often, this role is played by sour cream, ghee, milk, vegetable oil.
Finally, “pysmaki” - products that are added to the dish in a small amount to give it a flavor, to tone out the taste and make it more peculiar. These are onions, dill and coriander, black pepper, caraway seeds and bay leaves.
Cooking Potato Dumplings
To prepare this dish, you will need the following ingredients: one and a half glasses of mashed potatoes, half a glass of rye flour, 50-75 g of melted lard or butter, a couple of eggs, a teaspoon of salt, the same amount of caraway seeds and one onion.
Make mashed potatoes. Finely chop the onion and fry in oil. Add it in mashed potatoes. Rub the yolks and add them to this mixture. After that, in small portions, stirring, enter the flour and whipped proteins. Add cumin, salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.
From the resulting dough, form half a teaspoon dumpling. They should be boiled in pre-salted (two teaspoons per liter) water, over very low heat, covered with a lid. Estimated cooking time is five minutes. When the dumplings are ready, they will float to the surface. Serve the dish with greaves and fried onions.
Cooking Carrot Grandma
To prepare a carrot grandmother, you will need the following ingredients: a kilogram of carrots, three eggs, two tablespoons of sugar, three tablespoons of butter, 20 g of yeast, three tablespoons of wheat flour.
Grate the carrots. Dissolve the yeast in a quarter cup of warm water. Add the same tablespoon of flour. Pour the dough into the carrots and let it stand for about an hour in a warm place.
When the dough is suitable, add the eggs into it, previously grated with sugar, the remaining flour and butter. Stir well and leave to infuse again.
Grandma should be baked in an oven preheated to 190 degrees, after having pre-lubricated the mold with oil.