Kugelis By Krokys

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2014 Kugelis Cook-Off Champion: Jurate Krokys Stirbys

1st Place Winner Jurate Krokys Stirbys With Chef Georges Perrier

1st Place Winner Jurate Krokys Stirbys
With Chef Georges Perrier

To participate in the Kugelis Cook-Off, I undertook a little bit of research: I studied my mom’s recipe, went online to look at YouTube recipes and demonstrations, looked at a few more Lithuanian cookbook recipes and finally settled on a basic recipe in Lithuanian Traditional Foods published by Baltos Lankos (1998) containing recipes compiled by Birute Imbrasiene. I was most motivated to avoid the greatest fear there could be with kugelis: having the potatoes turn dark.

And so my poor family was my guinea pig: I made various versions playing around with types of potatoes, degrees of draining potatoes, amounts of bacon, fried or raw onions, and time in the oven. Here is my final version which I entered in the Kugelis Cook-Off. I hope it works for you. The hardest part of the baking is to step away from the oven. Although Kugelis will look and smell done at 1 hour baking time, it MUST stay in the oven baking for at least 1hr 15 min. (if a thinner version) to 1 hr 30 min. (if the mixture comes close to the rim).

Kugelis By Krokys (1st Place: 2014 Kugelis Cook-Off)

  • 5 lbs. Pennsylvania Butter Potatoes (Yukon Gold will do)
  • 2 cups scalded milk (scalding the milk helps to distribute the potato starch)
  • 3 brown eggs (I like to use cage-free I think it adds color and flavor and I feel less guilty)
  • 1 medium Vidalia onion, finely grated
  • 1 lb. bacon, finely chopped and fried, do not drain fat
  • 1 cup minced ham
  • Salt to taste
  • Butter for the casserole dish
  • Cheesecloth to squeeze out excess moisture from the potatoes

Although I believe that the grated onion quickly applied to the grated potatoes helps to keep the potatoes white, it is important to prepare all of your ingredients in advance and to work quickly so that the potato batter does not darken.

1. Butter the 10” x 16” (thereabouts) casserole dish (I like to use a glass dish) and set aside.

2. Set up your potato grater. I am lucky, I have the electric kind, otherwise, find a couple of people to help you grate, speed is of the essence.

3. Peel your potatoes and submerge them in cold water. Peel your onion, set aside.

4. Measure out the milk into a heavy bottomed saucepan and turn on very low. You will know the milk is scalded when tiny bubbles begin to form along the edges. You can keep an eye on the milk while you are doing other preparation, just don’t forget. Turn off the milk once the bubbles appear. By the way, I used 4% milk.

5. Whisk the eggs and set aside.

6. After you have crisped the bacon, add the ham and mix, and turn off the heat.

7. Set up your cheesecloth so that it sits over a colander which sits over a bowl. You will also need another large bowl in which you will put the squeezed potato mass and into which you will add the other ingredients.

8. Drain the water off of the potatoes. Grate the potatoes. If by hand it must be through the small openings, the potatoes must come out like a fine batter. I suggest that you alternate grating potatoes with grating the raw onion. Same if you are doing it through the electronic grater.

9. Take about ¾ cup of this potato-onion mass and place on the cheesecloth which you then use to squeeze out the excess liquid by hand. I actually squeezed out a lot of the liquid; not all of it but enough to be able to peel off the wet potato-onion mass and place it in the larger bowl. Work quickly.

10. Once you are done with squeezing off the liquid, take the scalded milk and pour over the potatoes and mix with a wooden spoon.

11. Add the whisked eggs, mix.

12. Add the bacon-ham mixture, mix.

13. Add one teaspoon salt, mix.

14. Pour into the buttered casserole dish, and say a prayer as you put it into a preheated 350 degree Fahrenheit oven, the middle of the oven.

15. Plan for 1hr and 30 minutes of baking. If after 1hr. 15min. it looks browned on the top, check with a toothpick in the center. The toothpick should come out completely dry. If not, give it another 10-15 minutes.

We eat Kugelis with sour cream, lots of it. I found that Russet potatoes worked OK but the color was bland. Also, if you don’t have ham that’s ok, but I thought it gave it nice texture. I tried one version with frying the Vidalia onions but I really liked the taste raw onions gave to the kugelis. Good luck!

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Lithuanian Stuffed Chicken Legs Recipe

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Įdarytos Vištienos Blauzdelės: Stuffed Chicken Legs

Stuffed Chicken Legs

See How To Debone Chicken Legs
On Kitchenbounty.com

Ina Radziunas, an active member and contributor on Our Mom’s Lithuanian Recipes shares fond memories of her beloved culinary mentor, Joana Bubulienė and translates her recipe for stuffed chicken legs. We are grateful to both Ina and Joana for this wonderful recipe!

Joana Bubulienė was a very well known Lithuanian cook and caterer in Toronto. Everyone would look forward to her amazing food at weddings and other functions in the Lithuanian community. In 1981 she offered to host a Lithuanian cooking course to teach us her famous traditional recipes and to share some of her culinary tips. She also included recipes for some of her most sought after contemporary dishes. It was held at the Lietuviu Namai (Lithuanian House) – traditionally referred to as the “LN”, in Toronto.

A group of us young, novice cooks took this course with her, held in the LN’s catering kitchen. When we finished, she presented each of us with our own copy of “Lietuviškų Valgių Patiekalai” (Lithuanian Food Dishes). To this day – many of us still have this cherished cookbook and follow her recipes.

Although, sadly, Ponia Bubulienė is no longer with us, her fabulous recipes live on. We still often recall how much fun we had in these classes, remembering this famous culinary tip and wonder how many of us went on to fry our bacon in butter…

Joana Bubulienė's Cookbook

Joana Bubulienė’s Cookbook

Joana Bubulienė‘s Stuffed Chicken Legs

  • 10 large chicken legs (1/2 lb each)

Debone them – but leave the skin ON. I think that skin-on, boneless chicken thighs would work well.

Salt and pepper them and refrigerate overnight or at least two hours.

Stuffing

  • 1/4 lb butter
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 2 lbs ground chicken
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 3 slices white bread that have been soaked in milk, wrung out
  • 2 TBS chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 TBS chopped fresh dill
  • salt and pepper to taste
A Message From Joana Bubulienė (Click For Larger View)

A Message From Joana Bubulienė
(Click For Larger View)

Melt butter and sauté onions. Combine with all the rest of the ingredients, adding salt and pepper to taste. Knead and make sure the ingredients are very well mixed.

Stuff deboned chicken thighs or legs with meat stuffing. Fold skin over to cover and shape nicely.

Place chicken pieces, folded side down, on a greased cooking pan. Brush with oil.

Bake 350° F for 45-60 minutes.

Note: Can bake along with pineapple slices and pitted prunes – that’s how she would serve them. Stuffed chicken legs go well with mixed vegetables and rice.

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Lithuania Rye Bread Recipe

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Ruginė Duona: Lithuanian Dark Rye

Lithuanian Rye Bread (Ruginė Duona)

Lithuanian Rye Bread (Ruginė Duona)

We are pleased to present this traditional Lithuanian rye bread recipe from the kitchen of Rima Kleibaitė who was born in Vilnius, Lithuania and now resides in Toronto, Canada. Rima is an active member and contributor on Our Mom’s Lithuanian Recipes and we are honored to share her recipe!

Raugas (Starter)

  • 5 TBS rye flour
  • water, at room temperature
  • yeast (optional)

Preparation time: 3 days

In a half-liter glass jar, mix the rye flour and some room temperature water and keep it in a warm place. The consistency has to be like sour cream. Mix every 12 hours and keep it like that for three days. It will have a nice yeasty aroma and it will start to bubble. If it is not bubbling, you may add some yeast. Don’t get discouraged – just have patience.

Jar of Bubbling Starter (Raugas)

Jar of Bubbling Starter (Raugas)

After three days, you may either start the process of bread making, or put the starter in the refrigerator. If you refrigerate it, when you take it out you need to “restart” it again by adding a few tablespoons of flour and some water and then keeping it at room temperature (the warmer the better) for 12 hours.

While it is in the refrigerator the starter needs to breathe. A good idea is to punch some holes in the metal lid that goes with the jar in which you have mixed your raugas (starter).

This is the raugas in the morning after three days. The bubbles are a great indicator of how the bread will look and that the starter is working.

Rye Bread (Ruginė Duona) Base

  • 2 kg (about 5 lbs.) stone ground rye flour
  • 1 to 2 cups all purpose flour
  • water
  • 2 TBS caraway seeds, optional
  • 5 TBS sugar
  • 3 TBS honey
  • 4 tsp salt

Preparation time: 30 hours

Step 1: Pour the raugas into a bowl and add 2 TBS of rye flour. Add some lukewarm water and mix. You can use a metal or glass bowl for that since a good raugas may “climb out” of your half-liter jar. This will be the base of your bread.

Start on a Friday morning, before work, and bake it Saturday at about 2 p.m. Also, on Friday evening you must be able to mix the dough and you will need about 20 minutes for that.

Step 2: After your base has rested on the counter for 12 hours, take a very large bowl (would not suggest using plastic) and into it add 2 cups of rye flour and the caraway seeds (if you are using them).

Boil about 3 cups of water and pour over the flour and caraway seeds. Mix well using a whisk or wooden spoon. Mix it quickly and well, so there are no dry spots. Let it cool to room temperature. You can keep on mixing it to cool faster.

Step 4: Rye Flour Was Added To Base

Step 4: Rye Flour Was Added To Base

Step 3: Once this mixture from Step 2 is at room temperature, add your base and mix well. Add another two to three cups of rye flour.

Step 4: In this picture, the additional rye flour has been added to the base. You will have to use wet hands at the end to make the top nice and even.

Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel. A rolling pin can be laid over the bowl to keep the tea towel from falling into the dough.

Leave this mixture rest overnight for 12 hours in the kitchen in a warm place with no drafts.

Half way through the proofing, this is how the bread dough will look (Figure 4A).

Step 5: This is what you should see the next morning (Figure 5).

Figure 4A: Dough Proofed Halfway

Figure 4A: Dough Proofed Halfway

Step 6: IMPORTANT! At this point, before you do anything else, add to a half-liter glass container 2 – 3 TBS of this risen dough! Add 2 – 3 TBS rye flour and some lukewarm water. Mix and let sit in a warm place. This is how to produce the most important ingredient, the raugas/starter for the next time.

After the new starter has had a chance to sit for 12 hours in a warm place, place it in the refrigerator. It can stay there for a long time (up to half a year). The next time you are ready to bake bread, take the starter from the fridge, add 2 TBS of rye flour and some lukewarm water. Mix and keep it on the counter for 12 hours. It should have the consistency of sour cream. This is usually the first step that should be done a day before you plan to bake.

Step 7: In another small bowl mix 5 TBS sugar, 3 TBS honey, and 4 tsp of salt. (If you are allergic to honey, omit it and use more sugar). Add some hot water to help with mixing it. When the mixture is not hot anymore, pour it into the bowl with the risen dough.

Figure 5:  Rye Dough Proofed Overnight

Figure 5: Rye Dough Proofed Overnight

Step 8: Add another 3 cups of rye flour and 1 cup of regular all purpose white flour. Mix it all very well. If it gets too hard to mix with a wooden spoon, ask someone to help you, or wet your hands and mix with your hands. This flour is extremely sticky.

TIP: before putting your hands into the dough, get the baking pan ready. You will need a 9″ by 12″ pan lined with parchment paper.

Mixed all of the ingredients well; wet your hands and place the dough into parchment lined baking pan. Keep wetting your hands and make the top nice and even. You may rub some oil on top of the dough to prevent it from drying. It also gives the crust a glossy look.

Step 9:  Proofed And Ready To Bake

Step 9: Proofed And Ready To Bake

Let bread dough rise for another four hours. In the winter or in an air-conditioned place, it might have to be left to rise overnight.

Step 9: Here the bread has risen nicely and is ready to be baked.

Step 10: Bake for the first 10 minutes at 400° F, then turn down the oven temperature to 350°. Bake time will vary with loaf size — usually 55 minutes to an hour. After 45 to 50 minutes, check the bread with a toothpick and also knock on the bottom of the loaf after lifting it from the pan with the parchment paper just slightly. If the sound is nice and clear, it is ready.

Step 11: SKANAUS – ENJOY!

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Lithuanian Poppy Seed Roll Recipe

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Pyragas Su Aguonomis: Lithuanian Easter Dessert

Lithuanian Poppy Seed Roll

Lithuanian Poppy Seed Roll

This heavenly Lithuanian dessert gets its luscious flavor from poppy seeds and honey. Rolled with strudel-like layers of pastry dough and spiked with raisins, this poppy seed roll is so moist and unusual that you may crave an extra slice.

It overflows with exquisite poppy seeds, so grab a fork to enjoy every sticky morsel.

Lithuanian poppy seed rolls are popular Easter desserts, but can be served for any occasion. If you fancy sweet breakfast pastries, this may be your new favorite — especially with a cup of hot coffee or tea.

From the Kitchen of Christiana Noyalas (Naujalis)

Dough

Stretching The Dough

Stretching The Dough

  • 2 ½ cups flour
  • 1 ⅓ sticks butter, melted
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup water
  • ⅛ tsp salt

Filling

  • 2 ¾ cups poppy seeds
  • ¾ cup raisins
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ cup honey, heated to a thin consistency

Basting

  • 2 TBS melted butter

Preheat oven to 325°.

This Poppy Seed Roll Is Ready To Bake

This Poppy Seed Roll Is Ready To Bake

Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle it with the salt and then form a well in the center of the flour. Pour in the melted butter and water. Mix the ingredients by hand into a smooth pastry dough.

Cover a table with a clean, lint-free table cloth. Work the dough with your hands as you would to stretch strudel or pizza dough in the air. Place the stretched dough on the cloth and continue stretching it by pulling it with your hands from the center and from the edges. Continue stretching the dough until it is very thin and translucent.

Spread the poppy seeds evenly over the dough to within an inch of the edge. Top the poppy seeds with the raisins and then sprinkle with sugar. Top with drizzled honey.

Lift one end of the table cloth so that the dough can be rolled. Carefully continue lifting and rolling until the dough is completely rolled into the shape of a log. Place the poppy seed roll on a well greased baking pan. Bake for 45 minutes.

Remove from the oven. Baste with half of the melted butter. Bake for 15 more minutes until golden. Remove from the oven and baste with the remaining butter.

Allow to cool. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for up to four days. Slice and serve.

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Kisielius (Cranberry Pudding)

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Cranberry Pudding (Kisielius) Dessert

Fresh Cranberries With Cinnamon and Cloves

Fresh Cranberries With
Cinnamon and Cloves

If you haven’t tried kisielius, you are in for a pleasant surprise. You may be expecting just another variation of the fruity homemade cranberry sauces served with turkey and ham for holidays, but this is not that kind of dish. Instead, you’ll discover a complex cranberry pudding intensified with the infusion of cinnamon sticks and whole cloves.

You could serve kisielius as an accompaniment, but after one or two spoons of this luscious cranberry pudding you will understand why Lithuanians reserve kisielius for their dessert tables at Christmas celebrations and other special occasions.


From the Kitchen of Christiana Noyalas (Naujalis)

Straining Cranberries For Kisielius

Straining Cranberries For Kisielius

  • 12 oz bag of fresh cranberries (3 cups)
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons potato flour*
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

Place the cranberries in a saucepan and cover them with three cups of cold water. Add the cinnamon and cloves and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes allowing the cranberries to split and the flavors to blend. Remove from heat. Remove and discard the cinnamon and cloves.

Force the mixture through a food mill or sieve. Discard the cranberry skins. Reserve one cup of cranberry juice and chill it in the refrigerator.

Lithuanian Kisielius (Cranberry Pudding)

Lithuanian Kisielius (Cranberry Pudding)

Return the remaining juice and pulp to the saucepan. Add the sugar to the saucepan.

Stir the potato flour into the chilled cranberry juice until it is completely dissolved. Add it to the cranberry mixture and bring the pudding to a boil stirring constantly. When the pudding is translucent, remove it from the heat.

Stir in the vanilla. Pour the pudding into individual serving bowls and chill until set.

Kisielius is delicious served alone or paired with rice pudding or vanilla ice cream.

*For a thicker pudding consistency, double the amount of potato flour. Two tablespoons sets the pudding to the consistency of fruit pie glaze. Doubling the potato starch sets it to the consistency of gelatin.

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Harvesting Native Pennycress Seeds to Impart Old World Flavor

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Permission to reprint this article provided by Tools for Kitchens.

Lithuanian Skilandis With Kolytos (Pennycress Seeds)

Native Field Pennycress

Native Field Pennycress

Step 1: Preparing the Seeds

Pennycress seeds are about the size of flax seeds, but despite their tiny size, they pack a wallop of flavor. If you haven’t tasted pennycress seeds, imagine the bold garlicky spices in salami and you should get a close concept of this flavor.

My ancestors from rural Lithuania used pennycress seeds to make skilandis, a dried pork sausage. After immigrating to America, they were pleased to discover their beloved “kolytos” growing here, too.

I found my grandmother’s skilandis recipe recently and decided to return to nature to harvest my own seeds for this traditional Lithuanian dried sausage.

Here in southeastern Pennsylvania, pennycress seeds are ripe for harvesting in mid-July. While it may seem a tedious task, it really was not and was actually fun.

Armed with a clean plastic grocery bag, my mother and I explored the borders of corn and hay fields until we found the silvery seed pods of pennycress. We carefully snapped their dried stems and filled our bag with these seed pod laden stems.

First Screening of Pennycress Seed Pods

First Screening of Pennycress Seed Pods

Back in our kitchen, we discovered a simple method for extracting seeds from their pods. Each of us had two bowls — one for collecting seeds and one for debris. We used light-colored bowls in order to see everything clearly. We each placed a fine mesh strainer on our collection bowl and filled it with seed pods that we pulled from the stems in our plastic bag.

We rubbed the seed pods together with our hands to dislodge the seeds. We did this repeatedly until all seeds from the stems in our bag were dislodged and our strainers were full of seeds and empty silvery pods.

Then, we lifted the strainers above our collection bowls and gently agitated them until the seeds fell into our bowls. Each time, we removed the tiny stems and seed pod fragments that collected in our strainers. We repeated this process until the seeds looked fairly clean and contained no large debris fragments.

Next, we poured our seeds into an extra fine strainer and agitated it repeatedly. Our purpose here was to extract dust and debris that was smaller than the seeds. This worked remarkably well since there was quite a bit of dust mixed in with our seeds.

Extra Fine Screening of Pennycress Seeds

Extra Fine Screening of Pennycress Seeds

Finally, when we were sure that our seeds were free of all foreign materials, we placed them in an airtight jar. In one hour’s time, our project yielded a half cup of pennycress seeds — plenty for several batches of skilandis!

Step 2: Preparing the Skilandis

Lithuanian Skilandis
From the Kitchen of
Emilija Gvazdaitytė Naujalienė, 1886 – 1966

  • 2 lbs. ground pork
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • ½ tsp pennycress seed
  • ½ tsp mustard seed
  • ½ tsp marjoram
  • ¼ tsp msg
  • ½ tsp nitrate of potash (saltpeter)
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • pork casings
Air-Drying Skilandis

Air-Drying Skilandis

Combine pork and crushed garlic being careful to distribute the garlic evenly throughout the pork. In a small bowl, mix the dry ingredients together. Sprinkle this dry blend over the pork mixture and combine thoroughly.

Stuff this mixture into casings. Remove any air pockets by forcing them to the open end of the sausage before knotting it shut. Hang the sausage in a warm area (55 to 60°F) with good air circulation to dry for one week. You can drape mesh over the sausage to keep stray insects from reaching it. Drying time will vary with humidity levels and air circulation.

After the sausage feels dry to the touch, it is ready to prepare. Simply bring water to a boil in a stockpot, add the skilandis, and then simmer for one hour.

Gero apetito!

“Harvesting Native Pennycress Seeds to Impart Old World Flavor.” Tools for Kitchens. 28 Sep. 2013. Tools for Kitchens.

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Šaltibarščiai (Beet Soup) Recipe

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Lithuanian Beet Soup Recipe

From the Kitchen of Terese Vekteris

Saltibarsciai (Beet Soup)

Šaltibarščiai (Beet Soup)

8 cups kefir*
½ cup sour cream
1 jar shredded marinated beets**
2 small cucumbers, shredded***
3 tablespoons chopped dill
3 tablespoons chopped scallions
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
boiled potatoes (optional)

In a large bowl, whisk together kefir and sour cream. Add beets, cucumber, scallions, eggs, and dill; mix. Serve saltibarsciai chilled with a dollop of sour cream and a side of warm potatoes.

*Kefir (kefyras) is the traditional way to make šaltibarščiai. Most grocery stores now carry kefir, but just make sure it’s plain, not flavored! You can substitute buttermilk; whole milk buttermilk is better than lowfat buttermilk. If you like your šaltibarščiai thinner, just add water.

**This is the easy way. If you prefer, you can peel and boil your own fresh beets (about 2-3 large beets), and add salt, pepper, sugar and vinegar to taste.

***This refers to pickling cucumbers, which are smaller and have less water content than conventional cucumbers. You can use one large conventional cucumber if you can’t find pickling cucumbers.

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Lithuanian Cheese (Sūris)

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Permission to reprint this article generously provided by My Lithuanian Summer.

Sūris Success, or How I Made Cheese in a Pillowcase

By Terese Vekteris

—Homemade Lithuanian Farmer’s Cheese with Caraway Seeds

—Homemade Lithuanian Farmer’s Cheese with Caraway Seeds

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I could make cheese at home.

I should qualify that to say making cheese easily at home. I know people who make complex things at home all the time, and I admire them, but I am known to run out of patience when the instruction list has more than four steps or I need to construct some specialty apparatus to accomplish the task. Not so with lietuviškas sūris, a soft, mild Lithuanian farmer’s cheese.

It helped a lot that this recipe for making sūris was thoroughly tested by my friend Jana, who teaches Lithuanian cooking in Toronto. She demonstrated her technique to me and a dozen others at the last Women’s Weekend at Camp Neringa. As the most challenging step seemed to be waiting for a pot of liquid to come to a boil, I was emboldened to try at home.

—Curds form as soon as buttermilk is added to the heated milk

—Curds form as soon as buttermilk
is added to the heated milk

The Ingredients:

  • 1 gallon raw milk
  • 1 half gallon buttermilk
  • salt
  • optional: caraway seeds

That’s it. Really. Just a note on the milk: Jana found that the ultra-pasteurized milk available in most groceries doesn’t work, as it doesn’t readily form curds. You can usually get raw milk from your local food co-op or a nearby dairy if you’re lucky enough to live close to one.

The Tools:

100% muslin pillowcase

—The 100% muslin pillowcase, complete with decorative tatting from my grandmother, that I use instead of cheesecloth

  • 2 big pots
  • wooden spoon
  • colander
  • cheesecloth
  • 2 cutting boards
  • heavy weight

The Instructions:

Pour the raw milk into a large pot, and heat it until it just begins to boil, stirring to prevent it from burning. You can judge this by eye, watching for small bubbles forming around the sides of the pot, but I found it easier to take the judgment out of it and use a thermometer after consulting The Joy of Cooking about milk’s boiling point. After the milk reaches 180°F but well before it reaches 212°F, remove it from the heat and pour in the buttermilk.

—Curds and whey after being poured into the pillowcase-lined colander

—Curds and whey after being poured into the pillowcase-lined colander

Curds should form immediately. Stir gently if they need encouragement, but be careful not to break up them up too much. If you’re Little Miss Muffet, I suppose you could stop here to enjoy your curds and whey, but I recommend continuing.

Line your colander with cheesecloth, making sure you have enough overhang to gather it up into a bag and tie it off. I’ll digress here a bit to discuss cheesecloth. The stuff you can buy in the grocery store labeled cheesecloth is a flimsy gauze, and you’ll need about three layers so you don’t lose the curds through the loose weave. Real cheesecloth is thin muslin, which you can buy at a fabric store.

You could also use a flour sack or a 100% muslin pillowcase. The muslin, sack and pillowcase have the bonus of being reusable; all they need are a good washing in hot water with unscented detergent. I was lucky enough to have a perfect pillowcase of my grandmother’s, complete with beautifully tatted edges.

—Pillowcase with curds hanging from faucet to finish draining

—Pillowcase with curds hanging from faucet to finish draining

If you want to save the whey (you can use it in place of milk or buttermilk when making breads, muffins and pancakes, in soups in place of stock, in smoothies, to boil pasta, even to water outdoor plants), place the lined colander in another large pot. Put the colander and empty pot in the sink and carefully pour or ladle in the hot curds and whey. Once most of the liquid whey has drained out, gather up the corners and hang the bag somewhere to continue draining for a bit. I just tie my pillowcase to the kitchen faucet.

Once most of the liquid has dripped out, give a last good wring, tie the bag securely, place it between two clean cutting boards and put a heavy weight on top of it to squeeze out the rest of the liquid. You can use a cheese press if you have one (or you could make one, but what did I say about specialized apparatus?). Just for fun, some illustrations of old Lithuanian cheese-making tools here and here. My personal favorite is the bed leg.

—Curd bag tied and sandwiched between two cutting boards

—Curd bag tied and sandwiched between two cutting boards

You’ll want to press the cheese somewhere it can be undisturbed for 8-10 hours or overnight to set. I use my laundry sink. The longer you press the cheese, the drier it will be.

Once the cheese is set, turn it out of the bag, and salt to taste. You can also sprinkle with caraway seeds if you like. Enjoy on a slice of lietuviška duona (dark Lithuanian bread) drizzled with honey. It makes a great breakfast, light lunch or snack any time!

“Sūris Success, or How I Made Cheese in a Pillowcase.” My Lithuanian Summer. 1 Jul. 2012.
My Lithuanian Summer.

—Our makeshift cheese press weighted down with full cast-iron stockpot

—Our makeshift cheese press weighted down with full cast-iron stockpot

—Our cheese the next morning, just unwrapped

—Our cheese the next morning,
just unwrapped

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Lithuanian Mushrooms (Grybai)

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Lithuanian Creamed Mushrooms (Grybai) Recipe

Lithuanian Creamed Mushrooms (Grybai)

Lithuanian Creamed Mushrooms (Grybai)

This is my Great Grandmom, Anna Belskis’s recipe for Lithuanian mushrooms. She first arrived in Philadelphia in 1920 and was a member of Saint Casimir’s Church as well as the Lithuanian Music Hall Association. She passed this creamed mushrooms recipe down to my Grandmom who was been an active member of the Lithuanian community since the early 1930s and continues to attend the annual Mugė today. My Grandmom passed it down to me and today I continue to make this dish for special occasions.

Lithuanian Grybai

From the kitchen of Anna Belskis;
written by Dan McIntyre

Ingredients:

3 lbs. white mushrooms
1 ½ lbs. bacon
1 yellow onion (smaller than the size of a tennis ball)
2 pints heavy whipping cream

Serves 6 — 8 persons.

White Mushrooms

White Mushrooms

Rinse and clean your mushrooms and drain them. Dice the mushrooms into pieces roughly the size of a nickel. Once all of your mushrooms have been diced, add them to a large pot of boiling water. Cook until they have darkened and shrunk in size — usually about 10 minutes depending on the amount of mushrooms you use and the size that you dice them. Drain the mushrooms thoroughly in a colander and return them to the pot in which you cooked them. Make sure that you have removed as much water as possible. You want your mushrooms to be as dry as possible.

Heat a large pan on medium high heat and place strips of bacon in the pan one at a time. Cook all of the bacon until it is about a third of the way cooked. Cooking the bacon partially will allow you to dice the bacon with a bit more ease. Remove from heat and drain the grease. Do not remove all of the grease, but pour the majority out to allow the bacon and the pan to remain greasy. A small pool of grease in the pan is fine. This will add to the flavor of the mushrooms once everything has been added.

Take the bacon and dice it on a cutting board. Remember that the bacon will continue to shrink as you cook it, so it is not necessary to dice the bacon too small. Smaller than a postage stamp is fine; if all else fails just think you want to be able to gather a spoonful of all the ingredients together. Once the bacon has been diced, return it to the original frying pan and continue to cook on low to moderate heat. Cook the bacon until it is about two thirds fully cooked but still soft. You don’t want the bacon to be hard or crispy.

Dice a yellow onion and set aside. You want your onion to be diced into pieces no larger than a quarter inch in size. Add your diced yellow onion to the frying pan of bacon. Continue to cook the bacon along with the onion until the onion has begun to darken and soften. It is important to add your onion to your bacon at the right time in order to have the bacon and yellow onion finish cooking at the same time.

Sliced Bacon

Sliced Bacon

Slightly before the onion and bacon has completed cooking, add your heavy whipping cream. This will of course cool your mixture down. Continue to cook over a low to moderate flame until the heavy whipping cream has begun to bubble. Turn your heat all the way down, or on an electric range off and continue to stir using low heat.

Once the bacon, onion, and heavy whipping cream have finished cooking, pour the mixture into the large pot of mushrooms. Turn the heat on moderate low to low and mix the entire contents evenly. Allow the mushroom and bacon mixture to continue cooking slowly with a lid on top. Do not allow the cream to boil. After about 10 minutes of simmering, remove from heat and continue to stir off and on until you are ready to serve them. I have found that the longer the mushrooms have an opportunity to simmer on low heat, the more the flavors begin to merge.

In my family, this has always been served at Thanksgiving and Christmas. It goes wonderfully with turkey and chicken and the heavy whipping cream creates a perfect gravy for your dish. When not cooking a large bird, they also go well with pork chops. They also go well by themselves although they are incredibly rich.

I have changed my Great Grandmom’s recipe a bit; feel free to add more or less bacon, more or less onion, and continue to play with this recipe until my Great Grandmom’s creamed mushrooms recipe becomes yours. I hope you enjoy them and I know that Anna would be happy to know she continues to be a part of the community she loved.

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Lithuanian Kugelis and Bulvių Dešros

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Lithuanian Kugelis (Bulvių Plokštainis/Potato Cake) and
Bulvių Dešros (Potato Sausage)

Lithuanian Kugelis With Sour Cream

Lithuanian Kugelis With Sour Cream

Mention comfort food and Lithuanian kugelis immediately pops into my mind. Like baked macaroni and cheese is the ultimate comfort food for so many people, this is my ultimate comfort food. Try it once and you just might feel the same way. In Lithuania, kugelis is widely popular — appearing in home kitchens and on menus everywhere.

My family has been serving kugelis for decades (likely, centuries) and over the years, we experimented with our recipe. My grandmother’s generation and those before her grated the potatoes and onion by hand. We used to grate everything manually, too, but discovered that a blender accomplishes the same results. Purists probably would disagree with us, but we are pleased with our results.

On the other hand, we studied two other elements of our recipe and after experimentation, decided that they should not be compromised. We tried to make a reduced fat version of kugelis by experimenting with the bacon drippings. Kugelis made without bacon drippings or with less than ¼ cup of them simply is not the same, in our opinion.

Similarly, we conducted our own blind taste test for potato varieties and discovered that potato variety also has a significant impact on kugelis. Red skinned potatoes are by far the best in terms of flavor and texture. Yukon gold are also very good. White, russet, and Idaho potatoes are not good choices for kugelis, in our opinion.

Bulvių Dešros (Potato Sausage)

Bulvių Dešros (Potato Sausage)

You may notice that while most kugelis recipes contain several eggs, ours contains only one. I am not sure why our recipe is so different than others in this regard, but guess it relates to how we use the mixture interchangeably for potato sausage (bulvių dešros). Our kugelis is fairly dense and this density probably is better suited for dešros than fluffier varieties.

My father grew up in Pennsylvania’s eastern coal region and always referred to both kugelis and bulvių dešros as “dasheries.” When I began studying Lithuanian, I could not understand why he called them dasheries since no similar word seemed to appear in the dictionaries I had seen. After stumbling upon the translation for sausage, I realized that dasheries was an American adaptation of dešros. However, why he referenced kugelis as a sausage remains a mystery!

Crispy Diced Bacon

Crispy Diced Bacon

Kugelis and Bulvių Dešros

From the Kitchen of
Emilija Gvazdaitytė Naujalienė, 1886 – 1966

  • 5 lbs red potatoes
  • 1 lb bacon, partially frozen
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 TBS flour
  • 1 tsp seasoned salt
  • ½ tsp ground pepper
  • 2 pork casings (if making sausage)
  • Sour cream for garnish
Potatoes And Onions

Potatoes And Onions In Cold Water

Serves 4 – 6 persons as a main course.

Preheat oven to 425°.

Slice the frozen bacon into small ½” pieces. Fry it until very crispy and set this pan of bacon and drippings aside. Do not discard the drippings.

When served, kugelis should be golden brown. To achieve this golden color, work quickly with the potatoes and keep them immersed in cold water. If your raw potatoes are exposed to too much air before baking, your kugelis may turn gray. It will taste fine, but will not look as appealing. Also, processing the onion first and adding the potatoes to the puréed onion helps to prevent the kugelis from graying.

Potato, Bacon, And Onion Mixture

Potato, Bacon, And Onion Mixture

Fill a large bowl halfway with cold water. Peel and rinse the potatoes and then place them in the cold water. Take a few potatoes from the water and roughly dice them. Return them to the cold water. Repeat this process until every potato is diced. Peel and dice the onion.

Remove the bacon from the pan and place it in a large bowl. Reserve the bacon drippings (about ⅜ cup).

Purée the onion in a blender with the milk. Using a slotted spoon or wok skimmer, fill the blender with potatoes and pureé until smooth. Pour this purée over the bacon. Continue puréeing all of the potatoes in the blender using the egg as the liquid for one batch and bacon drippings as the liquid for the other batch.

Stuffing Potato Mixture Into Sausage Casings

Stuffing Potato Mixture
Into Sausage Casings

Stir the mixture in the bowl each time you add purée to it. Sprinkle the seasoned salt, ground pepper, and flour over the purée and stir again.

If making kugelis, pour the potato mixture into a 9″ x 13″ baking pan. Bake at 425° for 1 hour and 5 minutes. The kugelis is ready to serve when the top is golden brown when it starts pulling away from the sides of the baking pan.

Slice into squares and serve Lithuanian kugelis hot with a dollop of thick sour cream.

If making bulvių dešros (potato sausage), tie a knot in one end of the sausage casing and then slide the entire casing onto a funnel. Quickly fill the casing with the potato mixture while carefully squeezing the sausage to remove any air pockets that form. When the casing is filled, remove it from the funnel and knot the open end. Place the potato sausage in a greased 9″ x 13″ baking pan. Repeat this process with the other casing and place this sausage into a second greased baking pan of the same size.

Baked Lithuanian Kugelis

Baked Lithuanian Kugelis

Using a toothpick, gently poke holes in the sausage to allow air to escape while baking (one hole every six linear inches or so is plenty). Since ovens and potatoes vary, you may want to baste the sausage once or twice with a little water while it is baking. Bake at 350° for about 1 hour until the dasheries are golden brown.

Slice into large pieces and enjoy with a dollop of thick sour cream.

Gero apetito!

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