Did anyone realize that it’s hot outside. Thankfully in these modern times we have air conditioning, unlike our grandparents and before them. Even with air conditioning and like our ancestors we still adjust our Summertime cooking and eating habits. One of the ways that hasn’t changed too much is to do as much of our cooking, and maybe baking, outside. My Czechoslovakian grandmother actually had a “summer kitchen”. It was located outside of the main house but had all the necessities required for summertime meal creations – a sink with running water, an authentic period-style ice box, an electric stove with oven and a kitchen table to prep on.
Just as in the “old country” many from the Slavic Nations coming to the Americas grew many of the fruits and vegetables right in their backyard gardens. My grandparents had 2 cherry trees, a large granny apple and a peach tree. Of course there was the vegetable garden and for what wasn’t home grown there was an open air market close by. Later, my father and uncle would have their own large vegetable gardens and brought much of what my grandmom needed to her.
The scent of fresh baked pie or chicken soup filled the air when walking up to the door. I wish I had her recipes but many from that generation did not write things down and measuring was by hand-weighing and measuring by site and feel. The thing is, it didn’t vary from one time to another because no matter how many times they would cook or bake it tasted the same way.
So, what are some of the Summertime dishes made during the hottest of months? This varies from one Slavic nation to another and even from section to another in the same country. That’s no different than comparing meals from our Mid-West and say, “Southern Cooking” and even different from that style and that from Louisiana’s New Orleans.
Summertime in places like Poland, Slovakia and Hungary means a large abundance of fruits and vegetables that are widely available and inexpensive when only in season. This was a time they made use of these seasonal ingredients for meals and to even save for the cold months by canning or storing in a cold “root” cellar under their home. Over time we learned from our grandparents some of the delicious meals that don’t need much heat or cooking times. I’ll include some quick recipes in a little bit. I’m sure many of you reading this have family recipes for the hot weather months that you and your grandmothers made and would love to have you share them here.
Chilled Cherry Soup
One of the Polish dishes that comes to mind is a cold cucumber soup and even quick pickling process which takes around a week to complete. Sour cherry soup (hideg meggyleves) is a summertime favorite in Hungary. Hungarian cream of green bean soup (teifeles zoldbab leves) can be served hot or cold. Perfect for use of summer’s home-grown bounty of green beans.
Okroshka (окрошка) which is a cold Ukrainian/Russian soup. It’s very easy to make. It’s a cold, refreshing liquid snack for the hot summers. The liquid that is traditionally used is called kvas which is a fermented drink made from bread and can actually be found in many US grocery stores. I never seen it but I am told it’s out there in areas with high Russian and Ukrainian ethnic populations. The Poles have something similar but a little simpler called “chlodnik”. Both varieties of this dish are made with cucumbers and radishes and Okroshka has added potato and scallions (or green onions).
Other things to do for summer cooking is to make use of your barbeque to cook your pork and kiebasa outside or use a crock-pot or a larger slow cooker inside to make your beef and chicken for use in a salad or maybe with some awesome German potato salad. Crock-pots don’t cook with a lot of heat and because it cooks using liquids the meats come out tender and tasty. Anyway you want it, you have many options to make a delicious meal and keep you and your home cool while it’s blazing hot outside.
Here is a recipe for a Hungarian Hideg Meggyleves or “Cold Cherry Soup”. It is a summertime favorite in Hungary and has a sweet and refreshing taste.
- 1½ lbs fresh sour pitted cherries (or 1 can sour pitted cherries including juice)
- 4 cups water
- ⅓ cup red wine
- 1 cup sour cream or heavy cream
- ¼ cup sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 -2 cloves
- 1 lemon peel
- In a large pot, add the water, wine, sugar, salt, cinnamon stick, cloves, lemon peel and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar, for about 1-2 minutes.
- Add the cherries and simmer for 10 minutes or until cherries are soft.
- Slowly add the sourcream or heavy cream to thicken soup.
- Remove the cinnamon stick, cloves, and lemon peel.