Russian Shchi Cabbage Soup

In the old days it was hard to find a house in Russia that would not smell of shchi (Russian cabbage soup) and bread. “The smell of shchi” has long been the epitome of comfort in Russia. How long ago was shchi soup invented? There is no exact date, but researchers agree that more than a thousand years ago.

First Course in Every Sense

Hot shchi was the main dish on a Russian table. To prepare it, you needed cabbage, meat (or mushrooms), root vegetables (carrots and parsley), sour dressing (sour cream or pickle) and spices (chopped onion, garlic, celery, pepper, bay leaf and dill). The main signature of shchi is its sour taste. Most importantly – shshi was always cooked in the Russian stove.

How It was Cooked

A historian and chef William Pohlebkin in one of his books describes a traditional cooking technique of making a Russian cabbage soup – shchi. First, you need to boil meat (fat beef) or make mushroom broth with root vegetables and whole onions. In the end the roots should be removed. Next, add chopped potatoes, cabbage and sour dressing. When cabbage is cooked, add salt and spices to your shchi. If sauerkraut was used, it was always cooked separately and then combined with the finished broth. For this dish no ingredients are fried or sautéed. All vegetables are added raw, including onions.

It is important that after shchi is ready, it was left simmering inside a stove for 15 minutes.

Sour cream, a traditional Russian fermented milk product, was added directly when plating shchi at the table.

Shchi Variety

Shchi soup was cooked in noble families as well as the poorest. Its composition varied slightly, but the essence has always remained the same. The version of shchi with the most complete list of ingredients was called “rich”, and the version of shchi with a minimal amount of ingredients was called “empty.”Mushroom shshi was cooked duringfasting days. In the spring time green shchi were popular, made of sorrel and young nettles.

Interestingly, shchi soup was even packed for long journeys in winter, by … freezing. Incidentally, a French writer and foodie Alexandre Dumas loved shchi so much that he even included them in his list of dishes in “Culinary vocabulary.”


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