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Lithuania - Cooking and Food
Overview of Lithuanian Cuisine History
The Lithuanian cuisine features produce suited to the cool and moist northern climate and dishes inspired by various European traditional recipes, most commonly German or Eastern European. Hence, many of the ingredients can be found in the national cuisines of the surrounding countries. The Lithuanian cuisine, however, managed to gain its own identity, after incorporating many influences, in time.
A strong influence comes from Poland, as for many decades the two countries were allies. The alliance resulted in sharing some of the dishes and beverages. Therefore, the Lithuanian dishes of 'pierogi', 'blini', 'pączki' and 'kartacz' may resemble the Polish versions. The German influence consists in the great number of Potato and Pork dishes, also featuring a baroque spit cake 'Šakotis'. 'Kugėlis' represents a pudding made from potatoes while 'vėdarai' is the name given to some sausages which are based on the same ingredient. The Eastern cuisine also affected the cooking style of the Lithuanians and as evidence, 'čeburekai' and 'kibinai' are two dishes very famous in this country. During the 18th century, the Russian Empire controlled majority of the Lithuanian territory, negatively influencing the country's cuisine. While Lithuania became independent during the Interwar period, it was again annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940, remaining communist until 1990-91.
The most important product in Lithuania is the bread made from Rye. It replaces the Wheat bread and it is known to be healthier. The farms from this country have large areas covered with Rye crops. The vegetables also have a great role in the Lithuanian cuisine, and the most frequently vegetables that may appear in a Lithuanian dish are: potatoes, cucumbers, cabbage. The potatoes are boiled, mostly and decorated with dill. The cabbage is utilized in many soup recipes. Also, a dish named 'balandėliai' is based on this vegetable. Beets are very often part of borscht recipes. The dishes made in Lithuania are rarely spicy. Dill and Caraway seeds are the most frequently used ingredients for seasoning the foods.
The wild berries and the mushrooms are popular ingredients to the Lithuanian cuisine. The most used mushroom type is Boletus (Lithuanian: baravykai), while the wild berries vary from cranberries to bilberries and wild strawberries. The fruits that are used for desserts or for beverages are: pears, apples and plums. These are the most used fruits, as the environment of the country does not permit growing other types.
Cottage cheeses have a very important role in the cuisine of Lithuania. The types of cheese that result are diverse, and range from sour or sweet to harder or softer varieties.
Each of the five regions of Lithuania has developed a unique cooking style. As every region has been influenced by another country, there are dishes that are typical only for one of the parts of the country. The climate does not vary very much, across the country. Therefore, this cannot be a cause of the diversity. However, in each region certain ingredients are used. People who live in a mountainous area are famous for the pancakes, as well as for the dishes that are based on cheese. On the other hand, people from the North Western part of the country prepare their sour butter and gruels in a specific manner. Mushrooms, Buckwheat and potatoes are the main ingredients used by the Dzukai. In the South Western part of the country, people prefer smoked meat, cepelinai and sausages. People from the coastal regions use fish as the main ingredient of dishes.
By Geographic Area and Style:
- Aukštaitija cuisine
- Žemaitija cuisine
- Dzūkija cuisine
- Suvalkija cuisine
- Mažoji Lietuva cuisine
Preparation Methods for Lithuanian Cooking
Lithuanians use mostly the same preparation methods as the rest of the European countries. However, some of the cooking techniques have a higher importance to them. As the smoked meat is consumed in high quantities, smoking is a preparation method widely used across the country. Boiling is another technique that is used frequently, as the potatoes are often cooked in this manner. Seasoning is not such important, because the Lithuanian cuisine does not make use of many spices. Mostly, herbs such as dill are used to decorate and to enhance the flavor of the dishes.
Special Equipment for Lithuanian Cooking
Most Lithuanian dishes don’t require you to purchase any special tools. However, having a coffee grinder helps with roasting and grinding spices and maximizes their volatile oils, which, in turn, provides your food with more flavor.
Great Lithuanian Food Traditions and Festivals
One of the most important and representative traditions for the Lithuanians is named Twelve-dish Christmas Eve supper. The local name for this event is Kūčios. Each of the twelve months of a year is represented by a food. This tradition is also practiced in Ukraine and Poland, and it is believed to have been widespread in the Russian Empire. The foods that are served at this meal are nearly similar in all of these countries. Among the ingredients, the poppy seeds have a significant role in the Lithuanian version of this event. Poppy milk and slizikai are the two most important foods eaten in this occasion. The other dishes are based on fish, peas, and fruits, from which the desserts are made.
The main festivals that are planned in Lithuania do not have as main goal the promotion of the national dishes. Most of them are organized in order to support the national folklore, through dance and music. However, this is a good occasion for the tourists to try the traditional food.
People in Lithuanian Food
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