Did You Know That Pickles Don’t Just Go Well With Vodka?

Did You Know That Pickles Don’t Just Go Well With Vodka?
02 March 2015

Even if you have never been to Russia, you probably have heard that Russians have a thing for Соления – pickles. And if you have been to Russia, you know how serious they are about them.

Соление (Pickling) – also known as brining or salting – is a preservation technique practiced for over 4000 years, not just to preserve food items for out-of-season use and for long journeys, but also because of its health benefits. Turns out, pickles can actually be good for you. But not just any pickles. Food can be pickled in just water and salt, or water, salt and vinegar. By preserving food in a solution of water and salt, it allows for lactic acid bacteria to develop. These will improve the digestion tract by accelerating the break down of meat and fatty foods, promote the growth of healthful intestinal flora and produce vitamins like B1, B2 and B12. By adding vinegar to the solution, however, will kill the bacteria.

In Russia the most popular preservation method does not include vinegar, though it includes many flavorful ingredients, which you can learn about in the recipe below.

Besides “Соление”, Russians, Belorussians and Ukrainians have introduced other methods of preservation into their cuisine. In order to be Соление (like Солёные огурцы – salted cucumbers), the solution must contain between 6% and 30% of salt. If it contains only 2.5-6% salt and vegetable juices (like Квашеная капуста – sauerkraut) – then it’s called Квашение (fermentation). If the solution contains a small amount of salt (1.5-2%) and is 6-8% sugar, then it’s called Мочение  (steeping), like Моченая брусника.

After living in Russia for a little over 2 months now, I have realized that the pickle aisle includes a whole lot more than just tomatoes and cucumbers. In fact, I live just 5 minutes away from an open market, where I often go to buy vegetables and fruits, and there you will find marinated mushrooms, eggplant, beets, whole cabbage, garlic, ginger, carrots, grape leaves, to name a few. Check out the pictures I took at that market below.

Солёные огурцы (salted cucumbers) are a staple at any traditional Russian party, and they normally follow a shot of vodka, in order to prevent hangovers. In fact, ask any Russian what is the best cure for a hangover, and the majority will answer – often jokingly – “drink Рассол”. “Рассол” is the solution in which you pickled your food (a.k.a pickle juice). The solution in which the cucumbers are pickled is rich in sodium, potassium and magnesium electrolytes, which are all things we need to replenish our bodies with after drinking alcohol. But does it work? Some say it does, others have heard about this folk remedy, but never tried it. Have you?

More surprising than drinking pickle juice to cure a hangover is that you can also use it as a base for a soup called “Рассольник”. Although not as popular as Борщ or Щи, this soup is also part of Russia’s cuisine repertoire.

Anyway, I hope I got your appetite going! Check out the recipe below.

Солёные огурцы (Pickled/Salted Cucumbers)

– 8 cucumbers

– 2 blackcurrant leaves  – 2 pieces

– 1 horseradish leaf

– Horseradish root

– 2 garlic cloves

– 2 whole dill heads

– Salt (pickling or kosher, not iodized)


Clean a one-liter jar with baking soda. Place the following into the jar:

1 black currant leaf

1 cherry leaf

Half a horseradish leaf

3-4 centimeter slice of horseradish root

1 garlic clove

1 dill head (flowers and seeds included)

Put the cucumbers in the jar and add all the remaining ingredients over them.

Add 1 tablespoon of salt to the jar, and fill it with cold water.

Seal it with a plastic lid that has already been boiled*.

Keep it at room temperature for one day during the beginning of fermentation.

Then move it to a cool place or the refrigerator.

*Although this recipe is simpler, you can also boil the solution a few days after the cucumbers have been in it, throw away the remaining ingredients, and put the hot liquid back in the jar together with the cucumbers. You should then seal the jar and store it in the refrigerator.

Recipe taken from: http://www.sras.org/russian_pickles

This post was brought to you by Ana, currently studying Russian at Liden & Denz

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