Sunday, July 1, 2012

Tushonka Recipe, 1941

Tushonka, Soviet Army & Navy, 1941

Reproduction tushonka labels.

Tushonka is a Russian canned stewed and spiced meat, most commonly pork or beef.  285 million pounds of pork tushonka were produced in the United States during WW2, to Soviet specifications, for Lend-Lease shipment to the USSR.  Tushonka is more fatty and gelatinous than either corned beef or SPAM (another great Lend-lease delicacy). Tushonka was commonly used in recipes with buckwheat, potatoes or pasta, or eaten with bread. Tushonka was also adopted as a Soviet Army slang term for tank crew members.
     The canned version of tushonka was what was used in military cooking, but it may be difficult to find in many areas of the U.S. This recipe that will produce an authentic tushonka to use in Soviet recipes from the WW2 era..
     Do not add more water than is called for in the recipe. As long as you do not overheat the pot, the liquid from the meat will be sufficient to prevent burning. Tushonka may also be cooked in an electric slow cooker.
Yield: approx. 2 quarts (1.8 liters)

 Tushonka as produced in the U.S. during WW2

U.S.                             Metric                        Ingredients
32 oz                           900 g                           pork (inexpensive cut such as Boston butt)
8 oz                             225 g                           pork lard or trimmed pork fat
2 fl oz                          60 ml                           onions (chopped small)
1-1½ tsp                      6-10 g                          salt
2 each                          2 each                          bay leaves
4-8 each                       4-8 each                       black peppercorns
1 tbsp                          15 ml                            water

1.      It is not necessary to trim all of the fat from the pork meat.
2.      Cut pork into 2-inch pieces.
3.      Put the meat (along with trimmed bones and fat), onions, salt, bay leaf and pepper and water into a heavy pot with a heavy cover.
4.      Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer.
5.      Simmer covered for at least 4 hours, or until the meat is tender enough to be pulled apart with a fork.
6.      Cool, remove the bones and solid pieces of fat.
7.      Pack the meat into a glass container, strain and pour the liquid onto the meat.
8.      Refrigerate immediately.


Beef Tushonka
Substitute beef for the pork and rendered beef fat (if available) for the lard. Procedure is as for pork tushonka, except simmer covered for at least 6 hours.


  1. What would the shelf life for this be (refrigerated / unrefrigerated)?

    1. Alex,
      I'll have to research this one. It's been a while since I made tushonka, and we kept it in the refrigerator. I'm not sure, but I think it was still good after a couple of weeks, maybe loonger. I'm think it would last for a couple of months if canned properly, but let me find out and I'll publish the answer here later.

  2. Alex,
    A reliable Russian source informed me that if canned properly, Russians often keep homemade tushonka for up to a year. However, if you are not experienced in home canning (especially with meat!) I strongly recommend contacting an experienced canner for assistance before proceeding.

  3. I realize this comment is quite late, but I just discovered your very interesting blog.

    Tushonka seems rather like a Russian version of the French Rillettes, which is pork shoulder cooked in its own fat and juices till it can be shredded into a paste. It's usually cooked with some bay and peppercorns, and the pots are sealed on top with some of the fat.

  4. Thanks for the kind words. I wouldn't consider it late, as the Tushonka post still ranks as the 4th most viewed post on my blog. I'm not sure of the origin of tushonka in its current form, but beginning with Tsar Peter the Great's reforms German, Dutch, Swedish and French chefs came to Russia and transformed Russian cooking. Russian cuisine is a fascinating subject in its own right, unlike any other and consistenty delicious.
    Kind regards,

  5. doesn't the recipe call for onions, since it is indicated in the label?

    1. How could I have forgotten the onions??!! An oversight on my part, many thanks for pointing this out. The recipe has been amended.

  6. Such a good read! Keep 'em coming!

  7. In the Philippines, just add vinegar and soy sauce, that means ADOBO stew, or Bistek if omit the vinegar and instead soy sauce with lemon juice. Tushonka reminds of that kind of dish given the use of pork, bayleaf, pepper.