Shchi (Cabbage Soup) and Borscht (Beet Soup), Russian Army, 1900
The common soldier in the Tsarist Russian Army was, enemy action notwithstanding, well fed. The total caloric value of the daily ration was actually slightly higher than that of the Soviet era, although the diet would be considered bland and repetitive by current tastes.
In the early 20th century the Russian Army was equipped with an advanced system of rolling field kitchens. Soups, kasha and bread were basic components of meals in the field.
Using the now-obsolete Russian system of volume measurements, a “vedro” (bucket) of 12.3 liters/3.2 gallons was used to measure soup rations for ten soldiers. A vedro consisted of 10 kruzhki (mugs), with a single kruzhka (1.2 liters/2.5 pints) being used as the measurement of the individual ration.
Shchi and 100% Rye Bread
Although it may appear to be a rather large portion of soup, it should be noted that a meal for the Russian or Soviet soldier would consist only of soup and bread. As most home cooks would not usually be inclined to prepare over a gallon of soup, a halving of the ingredients (US measuring system) is also given.
There was much leeway in the original recipe left to the judgment of the cook: quantities used of salt, onion, pepper, and bay leaves were “to taste”; whole grains, "as needed for taste and density". Recommended amounts for these ingredients are given, but this of course can be varied without losing authenticity.
Yield: 4 servings
US US (half) Metric Ingredients
166 fl oz 83 fl oz 4.9 l water
28.8 fl oz 14.5 fl oz 850 ml meat (beef in Tsarist era, beef or pork in Soviet era)
30 fl oz 15 fl oz 900 ml whole grains: oat groats, rye berries or pearl barley
44 fl oz 22 fl oz 1300 ml sauerkraut
8 oz 4 oz 115 g flour
2 large 1 large 2 large onion, chopped
to taste to taste to taste salt
to taste to taste to taste black pepper, ground
2-4 each 1-2 each 2-4 each bay leaf
1. Cut the meat into 1 inch (2.5 cm) pieces.
2. Cut the onions into ½ inch pieces.
3. Put the water into a large pot.
4. Mix the flour with a little cold water to make a thin paste, add to the pot.
5. Add all of the other ingredients.
6. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 3 hours.
Borscht (Beet Soup), Russian Army, 1900
Ingredients and procedure are as for Shchi, except for half of the sauerkraut substitute beets. The total amounts of sauerkraut and beets are given below.
U.S. U.S. (half) Metric Ingredients
22 fl oz 11 fl oz 650 ml sauerkraut
22 fl oz 11 fl oz 650 ml beets: boiled, peeled, and chopped or grated