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Lithuanian Cuisine: Šaltibarščiai

Laima's Šaltibarščiai: Lithuanian cold beet soup

"Šaltibarščiai" translates as "Cold Soup," which for millions of those with Eastern European heritage -- including Ashkenazi! -- means a cold beet soup, a summer staple. There are Latvian, Polish, Ukrainian, Belarusian and Russian versions, but for me, a pescatarian Lithuanian, the Lithuanian version is best. I'll give you my cousin Laima's recipe first, and then I'll describe the other versions:

  • 2-3 boiled beetroots

  • 1 cucumber

  • 2-3 boiled eggs

  • chives

  • 1 liter kefir (a fermented milk beverage, with probiotics, with the consistency of drinkable yogurt)

  • fresh or dry dill

  • boiled potatoes on the side sprinkled with dill

  • salt

Latvian (Latgalian) cold beet soup:

Today's Latvian province of Latgale was "Polish-Lithuanian Livonia" (Lith.: Livonijos vaivadija; Pol.: W. Inflantskie) – also called Inflanty Province (a Polonized version of Livland, the German name for Livonia). It was part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania beginning 1561, then jointly administered by Lithuania and Poland from 1569 until 1772, the First Partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The area differs from the rest of Latvia by being 2/3 Roman Catholic, and only 5% Lutheran.

  • 2 liters kefir

  • 500 ml marinated beetroots

  • 3-4 potatoes

  • one spoon of oil

  • 2 fresh cucumbers

  • 4 boiled eggs

  • spring onions

  • dill

  • salt

  • pepper

Polish cold beet soup: (‘Chłodnik Litewski’ ‘Lithuanian Cold Soup’):

So is it Polish, or Lithuanian?

It is actually… both, according to a recipe at :

"The history of this soup dates back to the 14th century, when the Jagiellonian dynasty ruled in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. The old-Polish cuisine spread to Lithuania, and the Lithuanian flavors spread back to the Crown." This delightful dish comes from the region of Podlachia. The vicinity of Sejny county still has a large Lithuanian minority. That’s why many of the regional dishes are heavily influenced by the Lithuanian culinary arts. In May 2016, ‘Chłodnik Litewski’ was listed on the traditional product list of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, in the voivodeship of Podlachia. [Lithuanian: Palenkė]"

Podlachia became part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in 1446, and was ceded to the Kingdom of Poland in 1569 as part of the Union of Lublin, which created the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

  • 2 bunches young beets with greens (approx. 1.3 lb/600 g)

  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

  • 2 cucumbers (160-200 g total), dimply ones e.g. kirbys

  • 1/2 bunch fresh dill (approx. 1 oz, 28 g)

  • 1/2 bunch fresh chives (approx. 1 oz, 28 g)

  • 2 cup (500 ml) soured milk/kefir chilled

  • 1 cup (250 ml) sour cream, chilled

  • pinch of fine sugar, for seasoning

  • 3 pinches of salt, for seasoning

  • 2 pinches of ground black pepper, for seasoning

  • 2-3 tbsp of beet zakwas/kvass, optional (see notes)

Serve with: 3-6 boiled eggs and 4-5 radishes

Belarusian Khaladnik (халаднiк) - Russian Holodnik (Холодник / Svekolnik (Свекольник) cold beet soup:

From wikipedia on Belarus: "After an initial period of independent feudal consolidation, Belarusian lands were incorporated into the Kingdom of Lithuania, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Russian Empire and eventually the Soviet Union. Apart from a brief attempt at independence, known as the Belarusian People's Republic, following the political vacuum created by the World War I, Belarus only became an independent country in 1991 after declaring itself free from the Soviet Union."

"Belarusian cold borscht is made of beets -- sometimes beet leaves or sorrel -- served with sour cream and hard-boiled eggs, often accompanied by hot boiled potatoes."


  • 1-2 beets (120 gr)

  • 200-300 ml water

  • 1/2 liter kefir

  • 1-3 cucumbers

  • 50 gr. green onion

  • 50 gr. dill

  • 1 tbl spoon of salt

  • 2 eggs

  • sour cream and potatoes


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