Christmas is a very special time in my family because we get to come together and celebrate the holiday with our homemade, authentic Ukrainian dishes and make memories. These recipes have been in my dad’s family for centuries and I wanted to share a few of them with you. They definitely are the best tasting and filling dishes you will ever have!
We have different dishes that we feast over for Christmas Eve (Borsch and Pierogi) and Christmas Day (Holupchi). It would be my grammy and my aunt that would make the Borsch (and some years the Pierogi) and my mom, dad and I would make the Pierogi and Holupchi. Since my aunt and grammy have passed, now it is only my mom, dad and I that do the cooking.
Grammy’s Borsch (Beet Soup)
Serves 4 – 6
2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons olive oil
6 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 onion, chopped
4 potatoes, chopped
6 beets, chopped
2 Tablespoons vinegar (beets portion only)
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
Pinch of parsley
Pinch of sugar
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper
Pinch of dill
Pinch of paprika
Pinch of tobasco sauce
1 Tablespoon ham stock
2 1/2 quarts of water
1. Peel and cook potatoes in a large pot in boiled water. Set aside.
2. In a large skillet, add olive oil and butter over medium-low heat until melted.
3. Add carrots, celery, onion and garlic. Sautee for 10 minutes, stirring.
4. In a large pot, bring 2 1/2 quarts of water to a boil. Add ham stock, salt, pepper, paprika, dill, parsley, sugar and tobasco sauce.
5. Add vinegar and beets and cook until they lose color.
6. Add more ham stock if needed to taste.
7. Add potatoes. Before serving, add a dollop of sour cream to each individual bowl.
Comments: My family and I always eat this soup before the main course on Christmas Eve. It’s the beets that make this dish very flavorful and really hits the spot.
Pierogi (Filled Noodle Dumpling)
Serves 4 – 6
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup warm milk (or water)
4 – 5 large potatoes
1 large onion, chopped, buttered and fried
1/2 pound Colby cheese
1 large package of sauerkraut, squeezed and drained
1. In a large bowl, mix flour and salt together. Make a well in the center and add a slightly beaten egg and milk. Mix until ingredients are incorporated.
2. Place dough on lightly floured board and knead until smooth. Place cover over dough to rest until filling is prepared.
3. Wash the sauerkraut well. Bring to a boil and drain. Squeeze dry and fry in buttered onions for a few minutes. Use salt and pepper to taste.
4. Cook and mash the potatoes just until fork tender (do not over cook as they will get mushy). Add some buttered onions, sauerkraut, Colby cheese and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well. Make sure the filling is cool before adding to the dumplings.
5. Divide dough in half and roll out on floured board (not too thin). Cut into 3 inch squares. Place a teaspoon of filling on the center of the square. Fold over and pinch edges together. Lay the dumpling on slightly floured wax paper until all your dumplings are filled.
6. In a large kettle, bring 6 quarts of water to a low boil with a couple teaspoons of salt of medium-high heat. Cook Pierogi for 10 – 12 minutes until they surface. Do not over boil the Pierogi as the filling will wash out. Remove with slotted spoon into lukewarm water and drain into collander.
7. Serve Pierogi with buttered onions and/or sour cream.
Comments: This is the ultimate main Christmas Eve dish. It’s an all day project that we make usually a couple days prior, but it’s worth it and made with lots of love. My mom, dad and I usually put some Christmas music on to set the mood and share some past Christmas stories. It tastes amazing with sour cream and buttered onions.
Holupchi (Stuffed Cabbage Rolls)
Serves 4 – 6
2 medium heads of cabbage (select softer heads about 2 pounds)
1 large onion, sliced
1 large onion, chopped
3 Tablespoons butter
3 pounds ground pork, beef, veal (ground together)
2 Tablespoons salt
1 Tablespoon sweet paprika (Hungarian is tastier)
1 teaspoon pepper
3 cups long grain rice
2 cans tomato soup
4 Tablespoons vinegar
2 eggs (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. In a skillet over medium-low heat, brown chopped onions in butter until light golden.
3. Steam rice quickly with just enough water to cover.
4. Dilute tomato soup with enough water to cover Holupchi while cooking. Bring tomato soup to a boil in a large pot and keep warm. Sprinkle about 1 Tablespoon of buttered fried onions on top.
5. Carefully core out the center of the cabbage without injuring the leaves. Bring enough water to boil and cover the cabbage in a large pot. Add 2 Tablespoons vinegar to water. Steam cabbage for about 5 minutes (do not over cook). With a fork in one hand and a knife in the other, carefully peel off the leaves and place in a collander to drain and cool. Before filling leaves, cut off the thick center vein for easy rolling.
6. In a large bowl, mix meat, seasonings, buttered onions, rice and eggs with hands. Check the outer cabbage leaves for spots and use them to line the cooking utensil and sliced onions. Try to reserve a few leaves that cannot be filled to cover the top of the Holupchi (this prevents them from browning). A smaller head of cabbage would do just fine.
7. Place a heaping Tablespoon of filling into the leaf, beginning with the vein end. Roll cabbage by folding one end and tucking in the other and lay the roll end down. Repeat until complete. Lay spare leaves over top of Holupchi along with sliced onions. Pour hot tomato soup all over, about 2/3 full.
8. Bake for 2 hours.
Comments: We have this dish on Christmas Day and the mix of the meat, cabbage and sauce is to die for.
Serves 4 – 6
1 cup shortening (or butter)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 Tablespoon anise oil
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1. Melt shortening (or butter) until cooled.
2. In a blender, cream shortening (or butter) with sugar.
3. Add one egg at a time and beat well.
4. Add flavoring.
5. Add flour one cup at a time until well blended.
6. Chill dough overnight.
7. Turn on electric oven until hot. Spray electric oven with PAM Cooking Spray. Spoon dough into electric oven and press down until browned for about 30 seconds. Remove cookie with spatula and place onto plate.
Comments: This is my dad’s favorite Christmas cookie recipe of all time. He loves anise oil so much that he usually requests more to be added. I cannot stress enough that when you are making the cookies in the electric oven to use the PAM Cooking Spray! If you do not do this, the cookies will stick not come all of the way off the gridle.
Enjoy and happy holidays to you and your family! 🙂
Photo credit: Etsy, Couture and Cannolic Café, Food