August 01, 1996

Getting in a Jam

Russians love making their own food supplies for the winter — they spend late summer  salting, drying and preserving  as many of the fruits of nature as they possibly can. And although jam and pickled vegetables can be bought quite cheaply, almost every Russian apartment has a corner stuffed with jars of preserves.

Some believe that the tradition of making varenye (jam) spread through Russia relatively recently, when even the most necessary and basic goods were in short supply. But this is not true. In fact, varenye was already being made at the courts of Russian princes over 500 years ago. 

A good housewife was expected to be able to keep her family in varenye all through the winter. Varenye was made in the houses of nobles, and refined Petersburg ladies who were just married would go off to their country estates, forget their city habits and learn to make varenye, often simply because they were bored. (Interestingly, varenye making was considered married women’s work — girls who did this risked ridicule from their peers.) 

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