Old Russian cuisine, History of Russian cuisine

Old Russian Foods - The History of Russian Cuisine from the 9th to 16th Centuries

The main ingredients of old Russian foods were bread, flour, and grains, especially since ovens were a large part of the home. Everything from blini (thin pancakes) to every type of pierogi could be found in a Russian home, never mind a loaf of bread on every table. Honored guests were met with a loaf of bread and some salt.

Porridge (kasha) was another dish that was always popular. Porridge could be made from buckwheat, barley, millet, oats, or other grains. Porridge was a symbol of prosperity, and was seen as sacred. Porridge was such an important part of weddings that wedding cakes were known as kasha for generations.

There were many types of vegetables commonly grown in Russia, such as cabbage, turnip, radish, peas, and cucumbers. These could be eaten raw, pickled, steamed, boiled, baked, or cooked into larger dishes as a filling or ingredient.

Up until the 17th century, milk and meat were relatively rare. Meat was a part of cabbage soups (shchi) and porridges, though it wasn’t fried or roasted until much later. Milk could be drank raw, or baked or left to turn sour. Tvorog (farmer cheese) and sour cream have always been popular, though cream and butter were rare until the 16th century.

Honey and berries could be eaten alone for dessert, or used for jams and syrups. Honey and berries were also main ingredients (alongside flour, eggs, and butter) as part of gingerbread, a common Russian baked good.

Many traditional Russian drinks have been around since the Middle Ages, including mead, kvass, and cider. Beer arrives in 1284, and in the middle of the 15th century, vodka becomes popular. Traditional Russian vodka is made from rye.

From the 16th century through the 17th century, some dishes from other ethnic groups near Russia (like Siberia) became popular in Russia. Most notable from this group are pelmeni and noodles, which are from Siberia, but are now such an important part of Russian cuisine that it’s as if they were always there.