No New Year’s table in Russia is complete without holodets or meat jelly. Although this dish is time-consuming and many modern cooks prefer to buy a ready-made product, nothing adorns the festive table as homemade holodets.
Meat jelly came into being through the merging of two culinary traditions – Russian and French. In Russia this dish has always been called a jelly and was nothing more, but an oily broth made from pork shanks and heads. The broth was exposed to the cold for better preservation, and that was the beginning of national dish. The inhabitants of the Northern territories of the country loved to take holodets to the hunt, as it was nutritious, easy to carry in a birch-bark sack, and when warmed up, it turned into soup – just a perfect dish for hiking conditions. The French boiled meat of domestic and wild birds, rabbits, milled it all and poured a small amount of broth over the meat. At a time when French fashion in Russia was shown in everything, the first recipe of aspic including a clear broth, vegetables and pieces of meat emerged.
Today, aspic is a totally different dish that is prepared with gelatin. Fish aspic still remains popular. Holodets is self-sufficient. It solidifies due to the jelly-containing substance in the bones. The main condition for successful holodets is cooking the broth for a long time until the meat begins to separate from the bones, it usually takes about 4 – 5 hours. Meat jelly is similar to salceson, but the technology of cooking is different.
Many people hesitate to cook holodets, as it requires too much time, but the greatest thing about this dish is that it can be prepared a few days before the feast, and it is perfectly stored in the refrigerator. Others think it is way too rustic a dish to serve on a festive table, but this is absolutely unfair as this rustic dish is hearty, rich and has an intense flavor.