дранікі (Draniki), Belarus and My Family

When I first met Jeannee Yermakoff she was writing A Global Garnish: A Traveling Chef Shares Food and Fundamentals, a very pretty and informative blog with wonderful photos and a wide range of recipes based on her travels, her upbringing, her culinary school training, working at Vie, named one of Chicago’s 50 best restaurants by Chicago magazine and running a catering company and teaching cooking. And then she stopped. Got too busy. And I really missed it. Well, I’m happy to say that Jeannee ,who has a home off Blue Star Highway in Coloma, is back to posting on her blog.

               Because she’s a scientist—Jeannee has a Ph.D. in toxicology and worked at British Petroleum before entering the food world–the contents of A Global Garnish are very well organized with category lists of her blog posts starting with country (there’s a long list here of places she’s visited including Thailand, Denmark, Norway, France, Greece, Peru, Cuba and Morocco), menu types—Dinner Buffet, Holiday, Do-Ahead and recipe categories.

               Jeannee’s grandfather immigrated from Belarus (once called by its Russian name of Belorussia) which according to Wikipedia is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe known for its Stalinist architecture, grand fortifications and primeval forests. In several of her posts Jeannee discusses shares both stories of her grandfather including his decision to immigrate to the United States when it became apparent the Bolsheviks (the precursors to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union) were taking over before World War I as well as his love of his native foods.

“His Belarusian Borscht is one of my favorites among his recipes,” she writes. “It is different from a traditional Borscht, which uses beef rather than pork as a base.  It also has a bit more sweet/sour than many versions of this soup, which gives it a nice kick.  And, instead of tomatoes or tomato paste, he substituted his all-time favorite ingredient: ketchup.  This is definitely not traditional, but I think Grandfather Simon so loved the U.S. that he preferred anything that he viewed as American – even ketchup in his Borscht.”

Welcome back, Jeannee. Now if only you’ll write that cookbook you’ve been talking about.

Since beets are in season, I’m sharing her grandfather’s recipe—which Jeannee tweaked a little–as well as another of his favorites.

My Grandfather’s Belarusian Borscht

3 pounds pork ribs, baby backs



2 tablespoons oil, olive

1 onion, cut in quarters

10 cups water

1 1/2 pounds beets

3/4 pound carrots

1 1/2 pounds cabbage, green or savoy, about 1/2 large head

3 cloves garlic

3 tablespoons sugar, brown

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon dill, chopped, packed

6 tablespoons vinegar, cider

3 tablespoons ketchup

2 cups sour cream

Salt, if needed

Pepper, if needed

Cut pork spareribs into 3-bone pieces.   Salt and pepper the meat generously. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in large Dutch oven and sear meat.  Add onion, cut in half.  Add enough water to cover bones/onion, about 10 cups.

Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.   Within a few minutes, skim any foam that rises to the surface.   Let simmer for about 2 hours or until the meat is fork tender.  Leave uncovered.

While meat is cooking, prepare vegetables.  Peel and dice beets and carrots.  I use a large dice as this is a rustic soup.  Chop cabbage into pieces about the same size as the beet dice.   Slice garlic thin.

(Reserve beet greens for another use.  Cook as you would cook spinach.  They make a great omelet; just sauté them with onions and add to an omelet along with a bit of sharp cheese.)

Strain the stock, reserving the broth.   Discard onions.  Discard bones. If desired, you can remove meat from bones and add it to the stock. However, this is not essential as most of the meat flavor/nutrients has already been introduced into the stock.  Also, I prefer the texture of the soup without the meat.

Place reserved stock in a clean stock pot. You will likely have less than 10 cups of liquid now unless you have added to the pot during cooking.  Replenish up to 8 cups as needed with water.  Add vegetables (beets, carrots, cabbage, garlic), salt, pepper and brown sugar to stock.  Cook uncovered about 45 minutes or until vegetables are just tender.  Exact timing will depend on how large you have diced your vegetables. 

Season soup with dill, vinegar and ketchup.  Cook an additional 10 minutes.

Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.  Add additional sugar or vinegar if needed to balance the sweet/sour taste to your liking.

Serve with sour cream.

DO-AHEAD DIRECTIONS:  This entire soup can be made a day ahead of time and refrigerated.   If can also be made ahead and frozen.  However, the texture of the vegetables will be best if simply refrigerated rather than frozen.


(Potato Pancakes)

Yield: About 8 pancakes

2 pounds potatoes, russet, or about 6 potatoes

1 medium onion

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1/4 teaspoon pepper, black, or to taste

1 egg

Oil, canola, for frying

Peel and finely grate potatoes.  Draniki are best made by grating by hand with a fine grater.  Alternatively, a VERY fine food-processor blade may be used.

Place in mixing bowl.  As the potato will begin to brown once exposed to oxygen, work quickly to minimize browning.

Peel and grate onions and add to bowl; peel and mince garlic and add to bowl.

Add salt and pepper to taste.  Beat egg and mix in the potato batter.

Drain excess water from the batter by letting the batter sit in a colander lined with cheesecloth or paper towels or by draining in a fine sieve.  Drain only for a few minutes. Removing too much water will make your batter too thick.

Heat oil in heavy frying pan.  When hot, drop spoonfuls of batter into pan.

Cook until edges are just beginning to turn golden and turn pancakes.  Cook on the second side until golden brown.

Draniki are best served in the traditional Belarus manner — with sour cream.

They may also be stuffed with meat (pork) or mushroom or served with a bit of Kielbasa on the side.   While my cousin tells me that it is not traditional in Belarus, my Grandfather liked his draniki with a bit of horseradish added to the sour cream — a nice little taste surprise.



Follow Jane at