Tuesday, June 26, 2012


I have had a few people ask me for the recipes of the things I traditionally make for sideboards and feasts.

Units of measurement that may be important:

1 glass = slightly less than 1 US liquid cup
1 spoon = between 3.2 and 3.6 US tablespoons

Apricot dinner kasha:
3 to 4 cups water
1 cup bulgar
2 carrots, diced
1 onion, diced
1/4 cup of prunes, dried apricots, raisins or other dried fruit cut up
salt to taste

Bring water to boil and stir in bulgar, onion, and carrot. Simmer over low heat, stirring every 15 minutes until the desired texture, approximately 45 minutes (watch carefully so it doesn't burn). Add the apricots toward the end of cooking. Add extra water if needed.

Marinade for 5 lb meat (lamb or beef): 
1-2 onions, coarsely chopped
2 bay leaves
2 clove garlic
Pepper corns
2 cups pomegranate juice

Layer cubed meat with onion and spices. Top layer should be onion. Pour pomegranate juice over the meat. Freeze or marinate in fridge. Grill to desired done-ness.

Cabbage Pagach:
1 large onion, chopped
1 medium cabbage (chopped)
Salt and pepper to taste
Enough pie crust for five 9-inch pies.

Saute onion in a large pot until soft and translucent. Add the cabbage and cook covered until soft. Add salt and pepper to taste. Roll out a crust and put into a pie tin. Put cabbage mixture on one half of circle. Fold over other half of dough to form a large turnover and seal the edge, leaving half the pie tin free to hold another pie. This recipe should make 5 pies. Bake in preheated 400 degree oven about 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Flat Breads:
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour 
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup water

Mix ingredients with hands. Turn dough onto a floured work surface and knead for 5 minutes.
Transfer to a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let dough rest for 30 to 90 minutes. Divide dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a 7-inch (18-cm) circle. Spray a cast-iron griddle or skillet once with cooking spray and set over medium-low heat. Cook for 1 minute. Turn over and cook 5 minutes on second side or until bread bubbles up. Flip back to first side and cook for 5 minutes.

Marinovannye Griby: (Pickled Mushrooms)
1c red wine vinegar
2 whole cloves
½ c cold water
5 whole peppercorns
½ bay leaf
2 tsp salt
2 cloves garlic
1 lb mushrooms
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Combine vinegar, cloves, water, pepper, bay leaf, salt and garlic in a pan. Heat over high heat to boil and drop in mushrooms. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove garlic from marinade and pour contents of pan into 1 quart jar. Pour oil over top. Place plastic wrap over top and cover jar tightly. Let marinate about one week.

Hen with prunes:
1 large hen (or equivalent of chicken)
2 spoons butter
1 carrot
1 parsley root
1 onion
2-3 bay leaves
1 spoon flour
vinegar or ½ a lemon
1-2 pieces of sugar
½ lb prunes
10-15 allspice

Clean and salt hen. Place ¼ lb butter, root vegetables, and spices in a stew pan. When butter starts to bubble, add the hen and stew, covered, until tender, turning and adding a little water. When cooked, remove and cut into pieces. Return to pan and add 3 glasses (a little less than 3 cups) bouillon – cook for ½ an hour.
Meanwhile, fry 1 spoon (3.5 tablespoons) flour in butter, dilute with hen bouillon and add vinegar and sugar. Bring sauce to boil, strain, pour over hen. Add prunes that have been boiled in water, covered, left to stand 1-1 ½ hours, and removed from water with a slotted spoon. Bring everything to a boil. Serve chicken and prunes with a little sauce on top and rest of sauce separately.

Turnip pudding with ham:
2 1/12 spoons butter
6 eggs
2lbs turnips
½ lb ham
1/6 lb cheese
½ spoon butter

Cream ¼ lb butter until white. Beat in 3 eggs and 3 egg yolks and 1 ½ glass mashed/boiled turnips and 1/2lb finely chopped ham. Mix thoroughly and pile into a mold greased with butter. Set in oven and, when pudding is ready, turn it out onto a platter. Strew with cheese and pour on hot butter.
(Can be made easily without the ham and is well received.)

Mushroom Caviar:
12oz mushrooms finely chopped
1 medium onion finely chopped
4 oz butter
1 tbsp dry sherry
3 oz curd cheese
3 oz cream cheese
2 oz parsley
1 oz tarragon
1 oz marjoram

Saute mushrooms and onion in butter. Once soft, add sherry and remove from heat. In a bowl beat together cheeses and herbs. Stir in mushrooms, onion, and juices. Beat until combined and transfer into a crock. Chill overnight or up to three days.

Creamed Beets:
3lbs beets
1 spoon finely chopped onion
1 1/2 spoons butter
1/4 spoon flour
3/4 glass sour cream
2-3 spoons vinegar

Boil beets. Peel and chop. Fry onion in butter and add flour and beets. Mix. Add sour cream, salt, and vinegar. Bring to boil. Some people add sugar or honey.

Most requested sideboard items (to continually be updated):


My recipe is always the same. Mix together 1 cup of flour, 1/2 cup of powdered sugar (or sugar that has been pounded in mortar/pestle or pulsed through a food processor). Rub in one stick of butter, cut into cubes, until a firm cookie dough is formed. Roll and cut or shape cookies with hands and then cook at 325 for 15-20 minutes. As shortbread is so easy to experiment with, it is no wonder I use it to make mock springerle or add various other flavors. A recent event I was at I ended up making a special type of cookie and wanted to share that recipe here:

1 cup flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar (there was only granulated at the event, so I made do, but MUCH better with powdered)
1/2 cup (or one stick) or cold butter
1/ teaspoon orange zest
2 tablespoons lavender

Sift together the flour and sugar. Add the orange zest. Cut the butter into cubes and (trust me on this) rub the butter with your fingers into the dough. When dough begins to resemble crumbs, add the lavender. Keep rubbing until a nice firm cookie dough forms. Shape however you like using cookie cutters or just shape with fingers. Decorate using the pine-nuts. Bake at 325 for 15-20 minutes until lightly golden. Cool on a rack for best results.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Tales of a Munane Nature

What happens when you become “that person” among your friends, your barony, or even within your kingdom? What happens is that you get interesting opportunities and, if you play it right, you take them.

For example, about two weeks ago I had received a text from Shelley, asking if she could speak to me about helping a student of hers. Well, of course I said yes. I didn't know if I could help, but I would be happy to try. She then explained that a student had decided they wanted to do their big project on Baba Yaga and she was looking for resources that she could pick up that would talk about the different types of stories or the symbolism that created Baba Yaga. Well, the first thing that came to mind was the recent book that came out all about the ambiguous witch, so I told Shelley the title and she asked if I could email it instead. So, I wrote up a quick little email pointing out the book as an excellent resource for all the nit picky bits about Baba Yaga. This person who wrote it really did their research. But I also linked her to my class notes on my blog because there were a lot of other great resources she could use there as well, I felt. I sent the email and figured I wouldn't hear back from her since I sent her all the information she was looking for.

I was wrong.

Two days ago, I received this email:

Thank you for the information on Baba Yaga (especially the book) to get me started! I think that this research paper is going to be fun. I do not know anything about her,
except that she comes from slavic folklore and this is the reason I chose her as my research subject - I am slavic.
I was hoping I could ask for your knowledge reagarding her form time to time? I have found a lot of "foe" stories about her but I am looking for her "friend" stories as well. I would like to prove in my research paper that she is a friendly goddess and that she is good. I would love to send you a copy of my outline to see what your thoughts were! Also, I am asking if you would be willing to perform a Baba Yaga story in persona - that would be an excellent piece to my power point presentation on Baba Yaga!!!!!!!!
Again, thank you!”

What do you respond to something like that? Well, if you are anything like me, you respond 'Of course I would love to help” because there is nothing like conglomerating together on a project. You never know what you will learn. And I am certainly not proud enough to think there is nothing left for me to learn. I am certain that this will be a great boon to me as well as this woman.

Will I perform? I seriously hope that I can and that it will fit into my schedule. There is nothing like sharing something you enjoy with others.

So, although this entry may not be 100% SCA related, this is how I live my life. And the SCA is a not-for-profit organization, right? We are all about sharing our love of history, what ever the hobby we chose may be, right? I encourage you all to find some way, some part of the community, that you can go and share this joy, and learn from others.

This comes from a woman who was recently, twice, an “exotic Russian princess” at a day care to share the joy of imagination with kids, from making crowns to helping make the patter of rain on their cardboard castles. What did they teach me? Smiles and laughter are an important part of what I do... and always should be.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Podniza Documentation

Boiarynia Katrusha the Skomorokh

The joy of a Russian persona is that all women's clothing was, more or less, exactly the same differing slightly in fabrics but mostly in trims and ornamentation. One of the most popular ingredients of ornamentation were pearls. Pearls could be used in many ways, from sewing them directly on to an outfit or couching them on with embroidery. Because pearls were such an easy thing to find all over Russia, it is not surprising that many women would create podniza, veils attached to their hats that would hang about to their eyebrows, as forms of decoration. It could take hundreds of pearls, depending on how tight knit you wanted your network to be. Because of the amount of work it takes to make one of these, it was not strange to find them passed down from mother to daughter and re-attached to hats. The first time they may be seen is on the crown like hat that is placed on a woman's head when she gets married.

Hats, in general, were a part of Russian culture that could designate your status. Depending on the style of hat, types of decoration, it could easily be seen whether you were married or a maiden and what role you played in society. A kokoshnik, for example, was a crown like hat. Usually the ladies of high society liked to keep their kokoshnik smaller, more crown like, while the towns women inflated them to much larger sizes. It is no wonder, with the hats so large and ornamental, that the hundreds of pearls could be seen as a stabilizer for the hat.

There were a few key points usually found on hats. First were the riasny. These had started in history as a Byzantine accessory and usually was only seen in court headdresses. They were normally ten to twelve inch long strings of pearls that dangled coins, or kolti, at the bottom for the sound. These riasny were attached to the hat rim directly over ones ears. Later, the riasny became more decorative, using strips of gold fabric that would then be heavily ornamented with pearls and jewels, but kept the same length as before.

12th - 14th century Russian headdress adornments
Photo courtesy of Secret Chamber of Kremlin

The second aspect of the hat was the ubrus, a scarf that would be folded in half and either draped or attached to the back of the hat. It would then sometimes be pinned about under the chin of the wearer, or it could be left hanging down the back. Either way, it was said that some ubrus were decorated just as heavily with pearl trimmings and metalic embroidery.

The third aspect of the hat, finding a counter balance all the way around, was the podniza. The podniza first appeared in the Muscovite period of Russia, and it was an open lace work structure that formed a decoration on the front of the headdress. The net of small pearls usually attached to the front of the headdress and stretched from ear to ear where the riasny hung, covering fully over the forehead and hanging nearly to the eyebrows. This acted in a manner to not only stabilize the hat, but also fashionably extend the hat band.

Podniza are created by making small loops of pearls where each row attaches to the middle of the loop on the row above it. Not all podniza encorporated only pearls, though. Nor did they all only stretch the front of the hat. There have been finds of the podniza having fine metals or jewels being encircled by the pearls or even dangling, much like the riasny, to make soft sounds when the wearer moved. This could perhaps be attributed to the fact that noise was seen as a way to banish evil spirits in your path. There have been finds of the podniza being sewn onto fabric, as well, much like the riasny that came later. There have also been finds of a longer veil like podniza attached to the back of the hat instead of an ubrus.

In either case, podniza was a fashionable item to put on the headdress that also helped to weigh it down, with the help of the riasny and the ubrus, to keep the large ornamental hats from tumbling off the head. I have made two podniza, the first being made from glass pearls (which was not uncommon for a peasant to use). The second one was made of small irregular shaped pearls as I am certain that not all pearls found in the streams of Russia had been perfectly shaped. I started with a straight line of pearls before starting the looping network in a horizontal manner. I have heard doing it vertically makes it a little stronger and gives it more elasticity, so I may try that next time. I also plan to add in the metal discs or pearl flowers to the next podniza.

                                                                             Fig 1

                                                                            Fig 2

                                                                       Fig 3

Some different examples of podniza:
Fig 1: The podniza appears to be sewn onto a band going around the hat and appears to interchange between pearls and metal discs.
Fig 2: Another example of a podniza interchanging between pearls, discs of metal, and jewels. This is also a great example of a podniza extending all the way around to create an almost veil behind the head. This is also a headdress of a married woman.
Fig 3: Here is a maiden's headdress with a much shorter podniza than the married woman's headdress, but it still goes all the way around the back of the head.

All drawings copyright Julia Sepanova.


Kies, Lisa. Women's Headdress in Early Rus. http://shadow-cat.150m.com/Costume/rusheads.html (April 3rd, 2011).

Pouncy, Carolyn Johnston. The Domostroi: Rules For Russian Households in the Times Of Ivan the Terrible. Cornell University Press: London. 1994.

Pushkareva, Natalia. Women in Russian History: From the Tenth to the Twentieth Century. M. E. Sharpe: Armanok, NY. 1997.

Rostovskogo, MordakTimofei. Class Notes “The Practical Clotheshorse Embroidered: 16th Century Russian Decorative Stitchery and Pearling.” 1997.

Sepanov, Julia. History of the Russian Traditional Suit. http://archcostume.narod.ru/index.htm (February-April 2011).