Russian Alaskan Cuisine

By , October 3, 2015

If, as it is often said, everyone’s Irish on Saint Patrick’s Day, then perhaps I can assert that in Alaska, many of us are Russian on Alaska Day.

Alaska Day, October 18th, has always been a prime holiday in my life, although many Alaskans are unaware of this day that commemorates the U.S. purchase and transfer of Alaska from Russia (see October 18th—Alaska Day).

Growing up in Sitka, the former capital of Russian Alaska, I’m greatly influenced by the aspects of Russian culture that linger there. By chance and design, those aspects seem to have asserted themselves lately, as Alaska Day approaches.

Porcupine pelmeni (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

Porcupine pelmeni (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

Russian tea continues as a favorite autumn and winter beverage in our household (see The Secret of Russian Tea). Not long ago I assembled a fresh batch of the powdered mix. It seems I may have done that a couple weeks too soon—Michelle recently attended an intensive home canning training, and returned with a cookbook that includes a Russian tea recipe. It’s identical to ours, but suggests that the sugar may be omitted. I want to try that next time, as it certainly shouldn’t need additional sugar!

We also went Russian on our most recently bagged porcupine. Like most people who have lived in Juneau in recent decades, we adore pelmeni, the Russian version of the global meat dumpling. A restaurant in Juneau takes its name and single offering from the dumpling’s name. It’s a very popular place!

Michelle made some homemade pasta sheets, and we parceled the porcupine meat, mixed with onions and spices into little folds of it to be cooked in broth.

More recently, I made a big pot of that most famous of Russian dishes, borscht, using the last of our cellared beets, and beef chunks and broth from Michelle’s canning class. It was so good that, on my birthday, when I went to town with Michelle so she could attend a meeting, we decided against buying lunch in town so that we could go home and eat more borscht.

The flavors from each of these calls to mind fond memories of Sitka. That’s just as well. I had an offer to chaperone a high school group to Sitka this weekend, but I’m scheduled to take part in the author checkout event at the Haines Borough Library today. If the weather in Sitka matches our glorious autumn sunshine here, I’m missing out!

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