No New Year’s table in Russia is complete without holodets or meat jelly. Although this dish is time-consuming and many modern cooks prefer to buy a ready-made product, nothing adorns the festive table as homemade holodets.
Meat jelly came into being through the merging of two culinary traditions – Russian and French. In Russia this dish has always been called a jelly and was nothing more, but an oily broth made from pork shanks and heads. The broth was exposed to the cold for better preservation, and that was the beginning of national dish. The inhabitants of the Northern territories of the country loved to take holodets to the hunt, as it was nutritious, easy to carry in a birch-bark sack, and when warmed up, it turned into soup – just a perfect dish for hiking conditions. The French boiled meat of domestic and wild birds, rabbits, milled it all and poured a small amount of broth over the meat. At a time when French fashion in Russia was shown in everything, the first recipe of aspic including a clear broth, vegetables and pieces of meat emerged.
Today, aspic is a totally different dish that is prepared with gelatin. Fish aspic still remains popular. Holodets is self-sufficient. It solidifies due to the jelly-containing substance in the bones. The main condition for successful holodets is cooking the broth for a long time until the meat begins to separate from the bones, it usually takes about 4 – 5 hours. Meat jelly is similar to salceson, but the technology of cooking is different.
Many people hesitate to cook holodets, as it requires too much time, but the greatest thing about this dish is that it can be prepared a few days before the feast, and it is perfectly stored in the refrigerator. Others think it is way too rustic a dish to serve on a festive table, but this is absolutely unfair as this rustic dish is hearty, rich and has an intense flavor.
2 bay leaves
2 pork shanks
2.2 lbs beef
Scald pork shanks with boiling water and put into a large pot so that the water covers the meat for 3 cm (1 inch). Cut vegetables in halves and add to the meat. Cook everything on slow heat for about 4 hours, remove the foam when necessary.
Approximately in 2 hours add beef, bay leaf, salt and pepper. In 2 more hours, remove the vegetables and meat. Strain the broth well and leave in a warm place.
Finely chop beef, remove all the excess from pork shanks and slice the meat. Chop the garlic. The meat can be put both on the bottom of the form, or mixed with the broth. Carefully pour the broth into molds and leave to cool in a cold place for about 3 hours, depending on volume of the forms.
After cooling carefully remove the congealed fat on the surface. Flip the form on a large platter and cut into portioned cubes. Best served with horseradish and mustard.