February 01, 1997

Anti-Hangover Soup

Russian soups such as shchi and borsch are well-known throughout the world. And yet, surprisingly enough, it’s another, far more modest soup, called rassolnik, which is the most Russian of all national soups. The secret of its high regard in Russian cookery is its stock, rassol. Rassol, or pickle juice, is a staple of life dear to Russian hearts and taste buds. 

But wait! Lest you dismiss rassolnik as just mere pickle juice, you should know that, in the 18th century, this historical soup was cooked with caviar to delight even the finest of palates. Sadly, due to the expense, this delicious practice was rather limited and the cooks of less wealthy Russian families decided to invent a more proletarian rassolnik that everyone could enjoy. To that end, they created an appetizing soup  which was moderately spicy with a sour taste and gave it a  suitably appealing name – rassolnik. Besides its unique flavor, this pungent concoction  is also touted as an homeopathic remedy for hangovers.

Nowadays, this intoxicating soup is found throughout Russia. Even though it is not cooked as often as shchi or borsch, it is very easy to prepare. For the bouillon any meat will do – fresh, stewed, beef or chicken, even fish – whatever you have left in your refrigerator. Pickles, however, are a must. (Purists should also be aware that in order to make a traditional rassolnik, it is common to include kidneys and pearl-barley: not the most popular items on American menus.)

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