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Monday, May 25, 2009

Studenetz - Jellied Lean Pork

Here’s another of Judy’s recollections from her memorable trip to Ukraine and preparing for a family wedding in the village. She shared it on Nash Holos on Sunday May 17, 2009.

One of the most unique dishes of Ukraine, and certainly very traditional as well, is "studenetz" (also known as "kholodets" or “hyshka”). I’ll never forget making studenetz in Ukraine, for my cousin Oleh and Oksana’s wedding.

Most of the food was being prepared in the converted garage (on a 24-inch stove yet!)… but every cooking area they had was being used to the max. We’re Ukrainian, we had a lot of people to feed at this wedding!

At one point Loosha asked me to go and stir a pot simmering on the stove in the summer kitchen. I picked up the large wooden spoon, and lowered it into the pot. It seemed to have gotten caught on something. As I tried to unhook the spoon, up came the head of a pig.

Screaming, I let go of the spoon … all I remember was teeth and these beady eyes looking at me. Of course, everyone came running into the kitchen to see what all the screaming was about... and started laughing their heads off . That sight will live with me forever.

I never remembered my mother using the head of the pig. Then again in Ukraine, they utilize every part of the animal.

While jellied meat is not commonplace in North American cuisine, it is very popular in many parts of Europe. In Ukraine, and Ukrainian homes around the world, studnetz is often served as a main course. Or, as an appetizer with other assorted cold meats.

Most cooks I know, including myself and Pawlina, prefer an equal mix of jelly and meat, but it’s up to you. You can have more meat, or more jelly, depending on your taste. If you find you have broth left over, you could freeze it and use it as soup stock.

Total cooking time for studenetz is generally about 6 hours. (A quality dish takes time!). So it’s a good idea to start in the morning.

Not everyone uses pigs feet, and you can make a good studentz using just pork hocks, but I find that adding the feet makes a firmer jelly. But I draw the line at using a pig’s head. Fortunately, when you shop at supermarket, it’s not an issue!

For studenetz the way I make it, you’ll need:

4 pig’s feet, cut in half
2 pounds (2-3) pork hocks
1 tablespoon or more of salt
1 medium to large onion
3 heads of garlic
5 peppercorns
4 bay leaves

Use a strong clean brush to scrape and trim the pigs’ feet. Wash them very thoroughly and pat them dry. Cut the feet in half lengthwise.

Wash the pork hocks and place them and the feet in a large kettle. Add the salt and cover with cold water.

Bring to a boil and skim. Cover the kettle and simmer very slowly. This is very important, because rapid boiling will make the broth turn milky. And make sure not to stir it, as it will also make the broth go milky. You want a clear broth.

After 2 hours of cooking, add the whole onion, garlic and spices. Continue simmering until the meat comes off the bones easily, another 2 or 3 hours depending on your stove.

Take the meat off the bones, and cut up the larger pieces. Strain the broth. Discard bones, spices, and vegetables.

Arrange the meat in a baking dish or a pan such as for scalloped potatoes or lasagne. If you want to be really traditional, like I do, cut up some of the skin and add the small bones from the feet to the meat.

Pour the broth over the meat. You can add fresh crushed garlic if you like, and mix it in. Chill thoroughly so the broth will gel.

Before serving, scrape off the fat that collects on the top. Serve in slices or squares (the traditional method) and garnish with sprigs of parsley.

Most Ukrainians enjoy their "studenetz" with slices of dark rye and will pour a bit of white vinegar on each piece.


When she's not on the radio you can usually find Judy at her restaurant, Prairie Cottage Perogies in Langley.

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