Me, Sher, and Ad

Me, Sher, and Ad
Bro Adam and sis Sher, my rocks!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Cucumber Salad and White Russia

Sarah and Herman Newman, my grandparents on Mom's side.
These pictures was taken by my father in the early 70's.
This is another recipe from Sarah Newman, my maternal grandmother, and is one which came with her from Belarus where her family hails from. Nana specifically came from a small town named Ilya, north of Minsk in Belarus.  Ilya was a significantly Jewish town which suffered incredible losses at the hands of the German solders during World War II. Luckily, my Nana's immediate family emigrated from Russia during the early 1900's, although many family members still perished during the Holocaust.

An interesting anecdote I remember well from my Nana. She often would tell me we were White Russian, as opposed to Black Russian. The name Belarus actually derives from Belaya Rus, meaning "White Rus". Nana was always adamant that I remember this, "You are from White Russia.You are NOT Black Russian."

Black Russia was an area in the upper western part of modern day Belarus around the towns of Hrodna, Slonim, and Navahrudak. Even after moving to America in the early 1900's, Nana held onto her historically ethnic roots so strongly until she passed in 1976.  Could this be why I prefer the White Russian cocktail over the black one? Hmmmm.

Ethnicity aside, staples of an Eastern European or Russian diet include cabbages, potatoes, radishes, other root vegetables, and cold tolerant greens. Cucumbers also became a staple as they grew quickly during the short growing season over the Russian summer. The nice thing is that you can buy cucumbers year round so you can enjoy this recipe any time of the year.

My ingredients
Cucumber Salad by Sarah "Nana" Newman

3 large cucumbers, peeled (I used 4 medium sized ones and deseeded them.)
Sliced thin OR sliced lengthwise, then sliced 1/2 inch thick
salt and pepper to taste
chopped onion (I used a medium sized onion.)
Nana's cucumber salad
dash onion powder
1/2 pound sour cream
Mix well

As with a lot of old family recipes, measurements are varied and according to taste. I personally add (as do a lot of other people) 1/8 to 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar depending on taste. I do not add dill or basil as do others. Other variations include adding a bit (1-2 teaspoons) of sugar to counter the sourness of the vinegar. My neighbor Charlotte goes a step further and adds a bit of half and half to make it creamier and a dash of Coleman's Mustard Powder for an extra zing.

*Thanks to for help in filling out the historical and geographical information.

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