Wednesday, November 07, 2007

What's cooking Wednesday

I lived at a Mennonite college when I went to university. Conrad Grebel College, one of the church colleges at the University of Waterloo, was my first exposure (I'm not sure that's the right word exactly) to Mennonites and Mennonite culture beyond what you see in the coffee table books. Of course, the Mennonites I lived with were all modern Mennonites but the food culture was just as strong among the modern Mennonites as it was and is among their Old Order cousins.

In my second year at Grebel, I started to date a guy whose family was Russian Mennonite. That was my real entry into Mennonite food because Russian Mennonite food is the food culture people refer to when talking about Mennonite food - serious Mennonite food. Since then I've been making tonight's entry for WCW: borscht. Mennonite borscht has some very specific characteristics: first, no beets; second, lots of cabbage, tomatoes and dill; and third, it is all built around a smoked pork hock. And that friends will be one of the finest soups you've ever tasted. Add a bit of sour cream and you've got a little bit of heaven. Mennonite heaven.

Mennonite Borscht

Cover a smoked pork hock with cold water in a large pot and I mean large. The hock can be bought pretty much anywhere in Kitchener-Waterloo or, if not in that locale, at a European deli. If you can't find one, don't make this soup because this soup only exists with a smoked pork hock. Add some peppercorns, 2 or so bay leaves, an onion chopped up, a carrot chopped up and some celery. You can also add a star anise and a couple of cloves if you want but you don't have to. The hock gives unbelievable flavour and doesn't really require anything else. Simmer for about 2 hours partially covered.

Strain out the vegetables and pork hock. Remove all the meat from the hock, chop and add back to stock. Add some water to the stock if it has boiled down a lot. Add some sliced carrots, two diced potatoes, a small head of cabbage sliced and chopped, lots of dill, and one can of diced tomatoes. Simmer until the vegetables are all cooked. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add more water if there seems to be too much "stuff" and not enough stock. Adjust seasoning again.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream in the middle of your bowl (a must) and some fresh bread. The bowl pictured above already has the sour cream stirred in. I adapted this recipe from one I pulled out of the infamous Mennonite Treasury of Recipes (the Bible of Canadian Mennonite food).

Trust me when I say that you'll thank me again and again for this recipe.

1 comment:

Shan said...

Looks yummy Karen!