Thursday, July 12, 2012

Shchi and Borscht, 1900

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

1 comment:

  1. This is a great site; thanks. This is a sour shchi, since it's made with sauerkraut. I've made several batches of green shchi based on this recipe:, which have been very well received by my WWII re-enacting comrades, especially on one cold, damp and windy weekend last May. However your recipe looks far more practical for preparation in the field.

    I've also made borscht, again from a very different recipe (would you believe the Official Star Trek Cooking Manual?) I must give yours a try.

    "Shchi i kasha, pischa nasha"; Shchi and kasha, that's our ration.