Traditional Czech Foods: A little sweet, a little sour and a lot of comfort

I have always enjoyed cooking recipes from all around the world.  Many use fresh produce that is available from my home garden.  Recently I have been working with the foods of the Czech Republic for common United States methods of cooking.  These foods are best friends with slow methods of cooking – the meats need time to absorb the wonderful flavors. Many of the foods from the Czech region of East Europe will be familiar to people from certain regions of Germany.

This braised pork hails from Eastern Europe, where the sweet, sour, caraway, and meat combination is done ever so well. Due to the long winters and shorter growing season in this area of the world, their cuisine relies on foods that can be stored or preserved.

Czech Roast Pork
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
2 tablespoons caraway seeds
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
5 pounds pork shoulder blade roast
3 medium onions, chopped
1/2 cup beer (optional)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons butter

In a small mixing bowl, form a paste of the oil, mustard, caraway seeds, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Rub this paste into the pork roast and let it sit about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).  Scatter the onions in the bottom of a large roasting pan and pour beer over them (optional). Place the roast, fat side down, on top of the onions. Cover the pan and roast 1 hour in the preheated oven. Remove lid/foil, turn the roast, and score the fat. Re-cover and continue roasting 2 1/2 hours, or to a minimum internal temperature of 160 degrees F (70 degrees C). Remove from oven, reserving the pan juices, and let sit about 20 minutes before slicing thinly. Meanwhile, in a saucepan, bring the juices, butter and cornstarch to boil to thicken. Reduce heat, and simmer 5 to 10 minutes. Serve over the sliced pork.

Serve the above roast pork with Sour Red Cabbage and Apple.

Sour Red Cabbage and Apple
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
8 cups shredded red cabbage
1 onion, chopped
2 tart apples – peeled, cored and sliced
2 Tablespoons water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Ground black pepper to taste
3 Tablespoons white sugar
3 Tablespoons distilled white vinegar

Heat oil in a medium size saucepan. Stir in cabbage and onion and saute until they are wilted. Stir in the apple, water, salt and pepper. Cover saucepan and simmer about 25 minutes. Pour vinegar and sugar into the mixture; taste and adjust to your liking as far as the sweet and sour goes. Cook another 5 to 6 minutes and serve hot.

And for dessert…

Kolaches – A traditional Czech pastry, these treats can be filled with a variety of fruit preserves or jams.
2 1/2 cups warm milk
1 1/2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup shortening
1 tablespoon salt
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup fruit preserves or jam

In a mixing bowl, pour the warm milk over the yeast and stir gently to dissolve. Add the sugar, shortening, salt, eggs, egg yolks and flour and  mix until well combined. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, and turn once to coat the surface of dough with oil. Cover and let rise until doubled (about an hour). Remove the dough by tablespoon, and roll each clump into a ball. Brush with shortening, and let rise until doubled. Flatten the balls with the palm of your hand or a rolling pin, and make a depression in each center. Spoon fruit preserves into the depressions. (My family loves strawberry, raspberry or a quality apricot preserve.)  Allow to rise again 30 to 45 minutes. Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 15 to 20 minutes.

This is just the surface of the flavorful foods of the Eastern European region of the world that we can explore and enjoy.  Rich, hearty foods are staples of this region and make wonderful additions to our menu choices.

About Dori Fritzinger

I live and work with my multi-generational family in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina. We have a farm of cows and calves, wool sheep, dairy goats, rabbits, ducks, geese, chickens, honey bees, a horse and a donkey. We have a goat's milk soap and bath products line available on our farm web site. I enjoy reading, quilting and doing embroidery.