Food in Russia: what's hot in a cold country
Today I tell you about lingonberries (cowberries), as I promised in previous post. In Russian it’s called «брусника» (brusnika).
Lingonberries are red berries growing in Russia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Baltic Countries, but also in Canada. That’s how they look like growing in the forest:
Lingonberries are tart, so sour that they are seldom eaten on their own, but rather used for preparing preserves, beverages or for baking. They taste rather like cranberries.
Another berries similar to lingonberries are bearberries. I remember picking berries when I was a kid and how frustrated I was when I confused the berries and ate instead. They have a stone in it and taste like you’re eating a paper!
Lingonberries are rich in vitamins, especially vitamin C, that’s why they were used as a scurvy remedy. They were used in a folk medicine too (both berries and leaves).
Also, lingonberries have some natural preservatives. In Russia and Sweden, one of the traditional ways to keep berries was to simply put them in water – yep, that’s all! Water than was drunk as a refreshing beverage.
Another “lazy” way of keeping lingonberries is a simple “jam”. All you need is just mix berries with equal amount of sugar and then keep in the fridge. BTW it’s very popular method of preserving in Russia. You don’t need to bother with cooking in on a stove, to bother yourself with jar’s sterilization etc. I myself use it for blueberries, strawberries, blackberries etc. The only thing is that for most berries you should keep it in the fridge, or better yet in the freezer. (Or still sterilize those jars.) But lingonberries don’t require it and can be kept quite long.
As a nice bonus, lingonberries are rich in pectin, just like apples, so this “jam” gets really creamy and nice texture.
We also freeze berries after picking so they can be used later.
So, what are traditional dishes with lingonberries?
In Sweden they are a staple, eaten with meatballs, game, liver, pancakes and of course for cakes, sweet treats and beverages. (Drawing analogy with cranberries here is totally legit.)
Finns eat them with meat dishes too, especially with reindeer (and I’m yet to try this combo).
Although in Russia these berries were also eaten with savory dishes (fresh, pickled or prepared other way), for many people today it’s weird. Today lingonberries are mostly used in sweet treats, for preserves, beverages and cakes. Most popular drink is “mors” (морс). It can be prepared from any berries, but using tart ones like lingonberries or cranberries is a win. In cakes lingonberries are often paired with apples (just like cranberries) or sometimes with tvorog. I showed my favorite lingonberry recipe here – check it, it’s very simple.
Here’s Wiki article about lingonberries if you want some further reads.
http://votevk.ru, http://lesnoecarstvo.ru, Wiki, pics by Alyona