Despite the fact that the very first garden strawberries allegedly come from France, wild strawberries have been cultivated all over the world for centuries and it shouldn’t be surprising that our ancestors have been using this healthy and super tasty fruit long before the age of the garden strawberry. Here are some of the best ways you can incorporate strawberries into a traditional Slavic recipe.
Jam/ Slatko/ Varenye/ Sladko/ Džem
Known under a variety of names, the strawberry jam is one of the most popular types of jam in every Eastern European country. Prepared with fresh whole fruits and lots of sugary syrup it’s a favorite jelly-like spread for Slavs of all ages. Used for topping on toasts, pirozhki, bliny pancakes and other dishes, the strawberry jam is something every babushka knows how to prepare. Similarly to marmalade, it can be made solely with strawberries or mixed with other seasonal fruits.
Decades before fruit-infused water became a trend our Slavic ancestors have been preparing kompot for the whole family. This sweet beverage can be enjoyed either hot or cold and it can even be spotted in some foreign culinary cultures like Austrian, Estonian, Kazakhstani and Finnish. In a nutshell, it’s made out of lots of water and whole or chopped boiled fruits like berries, peaches, cherries, apricots and quince. Just like jam, kompot can be preserved all year round and makes for a great refreshing cold drink in hot summer days or for a cozy hot beverage during the winter season.
Sernik with strawberries
Poles are famous for many unique desserts such as the sernik – a.k.a. the Polish cheesecake. Traditionally crafted from seasonal fruits and tvarog instead of mascarpone or other cream cheeses, it comes in a plethora of shapes and flavors with the most popular one being the Krakow sernik. One of the more simplistic types is the strawberry sernik, which is fluffier and lighter than its Krakow counterpart, but delicious nonetheless.
Mainly eaten in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the kolach or koláč is a puff pastry dessert that resembles a quiche. Baked in springform pans, its crunchy crust and sweet filling are its signature features. Strawberry kolaches can be made with jam or with fresh fruits, whipped cream, jelly, cream cheese, chocolate, nuts and other tasty ingredients. Some recipes even call for alcoholic spirits suitable for strawberries – take rum or rosé wine for example.
Strawberry vareniki/ pierogi
There are people who hate vareniki/ pierogi with sweet fillings, and then there are people who love them just as much as the typical meat/ veggie filled Slavic dumplings. If you’ve never tasted the sweet variation before, chances are you’ll like the classic ones with cream cheese and fruits like strawberries. And if you leave out the cream cheese, they can be served as a light dessert all year round. Unlike other dough-based desserts, strawberry pierogi are extremely easy to prepare at home, regardless of whether you prefer your usual pierogi deep fried, boiled or pan-seared.
But what about cake Pavlova and Strawberries Romanoff?
Before any of you start arguing that Strawberries Romanoff isn’t included in the list, it’s only because the dessert is not Russian in any way. It was created by a French chef named Georges Escoffier, even though the recipe is wrongfully attributed to Michael Romanoff, who was actually Lithuanian and born under the name Hershel Geguzin. The same goes for the popular cake Pavlova – although it was named after the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, the cake itself originated in New Zealand after a local chef got inspired by her visit to New Zealand during her 1926 tour.