Thursday, September 8, 2016

THE PA MELTING POT - PART 7 - 3 - Southcentral Europe: SERBIANS

The Melting Pot:  A look at the evolution of food in Southwestern Pa.  Part 7 - 3 SOUTHCENTRAL EUROPEANS: Serbs

The greatest numbers of Serbs arrived during the peak period of immigration to America between 1880 and 1914 from Austro-Hungarian Croatia, Slavonia, and other parts of Yugoslavia, Vojvodina, Turkey and Montenegro. The overwhelming majority of Serbian immigrants were uneducated, unskilled peasants from the countryside so they turned to the mining areas of Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, etc. and to the big industrial cities of Pittsburgh and Cleveland in the east, working in steel mills and related industries. They did not plan to stay long, just long enough to make money and return home to their families with earned money.  There was another mass immigration after World War II.

The number of Serbian Americans is supposedly over 440,000, however, it is difficult to determine the exact number who came to America in the early waves of immigration because immigration records often did not distinguish between various Slavic and, especially, South Slavic groups. The term Slavonic was used in recording immigrants from various parts of Eastern Europe. Census statistics compiled before World War I had further confused the issue by listing immigrants by their country of origin. Thus, the Serbs could be included in with the Croats, Slovenians, Austro-Hungarians, Turks, Bulgarians, or Romanians, or simply listed as Yugoslavs after 1929. (This paragraph cites information from
Centuries of Austrian and Austro-Hungarian rule richly influenced Serbian cuisine, especially Serbian desserts and confections with a unique mix of various traditions: Kolijivo (wheat pudding with religious significance), Baklava, Nut Rolls and Sachertorte (Austrian chocolate cake or torte).

Srpska Kuhinja (Serbian cuisine) is a mixture of cuisines, sharing characteristics of the Balkans (especially the former Yugoslavia) and and The Mediterranean (Greek, Turkish, Austrian and Hungarian). The national dishes include Pljeskavica (a ground beef patty), Cevapi (grilled minced meat), and Sarma (grape, cabbage or Swiss chard leaves rolled around a filling usually based on minced meat, or a sweet dish of filo dough wrapped around a filling often of various kinds of chopped nuts).

Most people in Serbia will have three meals daily, breakfast, lunch and dinner as do we.  Breakfast in Serbia can be large and can consist of a choice of: tea, milk, milk coffee or cocoa milk, pastries or bread served with butter, jam, yogurt, sour cream and cheese along with bacon, sausages, salami, scrambled eggs and kajmak (a non-aged cheese similar to clotted cream).

The national drink is the plum brandy Slijivovica (slivovitz). Other distilled beverages are Komovica, Pelinkovac, Rakia (plum brandy) and Vinjak.  They drink fruit juices, mineral waters and Turkish coffee.

A number of foods which are simply bought in the West, are often made at home and include Rakija (fruit brandy), Slatko jam (Slatko is a thin fruit preserve made of fruit or rose petals) and various pickled foods. 

The Serbian population is alive and well in southwestern PA:  the American Serbian Club of Pittsburgh ( has food and music on some Friday and Saturday nights & is located in the South Side) and many other Serbian organizations.  There are multiple churches in Allegheny County. There are a few restaurants and a deli (in Dormont) serving/selling Serbian/Yugoslavian food.





Tuesday, September 6, 2016

THE PA MELTING POT - Introduction to Ethnic Cusine in western Pennsylvania: Recipes, Photos and Videos

 A look at the evolution of food in southwestern Pa.
RECIPES - Introduction

This introductory post contains recipes from early Southwestern PA before all the LARGE ethnic food groups became a major part of this area.  The dates under the recipes' titles show when the recipes actually occurred in print. There is a modern day counterpart link for each recipe. 

As a native (German, PA Dutch, Scotch-Irish & Welsh) of Southwestern PA & many time resident, visitor & student to Northwestern W VA & Southeastern Ohio, I have found many commonalities and much diversification in cuisine from this area.  I grew up on Italian, German, Polish, PA Dutch (Deutsch) & other foods.  In this area your next door neighbor could be a a German or an Italian or a Serb, etc.  There were lots of festivals for ethnic groups.  Some of the Native American residents who inhabited our region early on were the Eries, Senecas, Iroquois and Shawnees.  Pre-1700 foods were nuts, berries, and roots. They hunted (bison, elk, deer, beaver & wild turkey) & fished. Common vegetables raised were corn, beans & squash.  As you can see these foods had an influence also on the foods of the area. 

14 ETHNIC immigrant groups have been identified as making up the “melting pot” of the area which is probably THE MAJOR “melting pot” in the USA.  These groups immigrated to the US from the 1700’s to the 1960’s.  These groups were the 
  • (1) Germans (from Bavaria, Alsace, Moravia, Switzerland, Bohemia, Holland, PA Dutch from several areas) 
  • (2) British (from England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales), 
  • (3) Russians, 
  • (4) African-Americans (from the southern US), 
  • (5) Ukrainians, 
  • (6) Macedonians, 
  • (7) Bulgarians, 
  • (8) the western Europeans: Slovaks or Slavs (parts of countries of Slovakia, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Moravia, Romania, Serbia, Croatia ), 
  • (9) Italians, 
  • (10) Polish, 
  • (11) Jews from Poland, Germany 
  • (12) Native Americans 
  • (13) Scandinavian 
  • (14) Indians & other minor groups:  Swedish, French (first to settle but most immigrated to other areas after Washington chased them out), Spanish (Basques), Syrian, Chinese, etc. (These minor groups also contributed to the ethnic food of the area.)
This series of articles will focus on these immigrant groups and their cuisine THEN and NOW!!

(Remember, they didn't measure anything back then)

Potato Balls 1894

Mash some cooked potatoes with salt, pepper, butter and a little chopped parsley.  Roll into balls, dip in beaten egg, roll in bread crumbs & fry for a few minutes in hot butter. 

LINK to Modern Day Potato Balls

Stewed Celery 1894

Scrape & wash one or two heads of celery, cut the stalks into 2 " lengths & boil half an hour, or until tender, in salted water.  Drain off the water, pour over the celery sufficient cream sauce to cover; simmer a few moments & serve. 

LINK to Modern Day Stewed Celery

Squash 1796-1882

Take young, tender summertime squash & boil whole without peeling.  Use as little water as possible and cook until tender. Drain thoroughly, mash & set aside to dry out remaining moisture.  Stir occasionally, then season with salt, butter, pepper and a little cream.  If using old squash, remove the peel, take out seeds & slice & season and season as above.  Serve hot.  

LINK to Modern Day Squash Recipe

Cranberry Sauce 1893

 Wash & pick the berries, removing all imperfect ones. Put them in a porcelain kettle: to a quart of berries allow a pint of sugar.  Boil 10-15 minutes taking care not to mash the berries.  Pour into a deep dish or a mold.

No Link but here is my EASY personal recipe:
1 package frozen cranberries
1 orange
1 cup sugar or to taste (I make mine tart)

Put the defrosted cranberries and the cut up orange (skin and all after removing seeds, if any) into the food processor.  Process.  Add sugar and mix.  This is so simple it is unbelievable. I get asked to take it to every Thanksgiving & Christmas invite!!

Corn fritters 1893

  For corn fritters, either cooked or raw corn may be used. 
With 4 eggs (separated) and 8 ears of corn are needed.  Strip the corn from the cob.  
  • 1 TBSP of sugar
  • 1 TSP of salt
  • 1 pint of sweet milk
  • 1 TBSP of melted butter
  • 3 TBSP flour
  • NEXT
  • Whisk egg yolks until smooth
  • Stir the corn in slowly and
  • then the sugar, salt, flour, melted butter, milk and last of all the whipped egg whites (whipped into a stiff froth).
  • Heat a griddle
  • grease it lightly with butter, 
  • & drop the batter in tablespoonfuls.
  • Turn with cake turner (spatula).
  • NOTE:  The fritters must be quickly cooked and served very hot. 

LINK to Modern Day Corn Fritter Recipe with VIDEO

Oyster Stew 1700's

1 pt. oysters
2 cups milk, scalded
1 tablespoon butter

Put shucked oysters and liquid into a saucepan.   Heat about 5 minutes, or until oysters are plump and edges begin to curl.  Stir oyster mixture into the milk.  Add the butter and season to taste.  Serve immediately. 

Apple Dumplings 1700's

  NOTE:  Cooking was an adventure for people back then since they didn't always write down recipes nor quite follow modern day methods. 

Rich baking powder (no measurement given)
(couldn't find a definition for "rich" baking powder so I would just use what you normally use)
Biscuit dough (remember they didn't measure anything)
6 apples, medium size (I like tart so I would use Granny Smith 
but use any apple that will hold its shape)
1/2 cup brown sugar (Up to you whether you use light or dark; it certainly will affect the color)
1/2 TSP salt
1 TSP cinnamon
1 TSP nutmeg
1/2 cup raisins (use white or dark or a mixture for color)
1 TBSP butter

Prepare biscuit dough.  
(After looking at recipes this appears to be recipe for a two crust pie or your favorite recipe for biscuits.) 
Roll 1/4 inch thick and cut into squares: 6 x 6 (depending upon size of apples).
Pare and core apples & place one in each center of square. 
Fill each with a portion of the seasonings, sugar & raisins & dot with butter. 
Bring corners of the dough to the top of the apples & seal by pricking with a fork.  Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Serve with cream or milk.  

Sponge Cake  1890's

One large cup of sugar, four eggs beaten into a foam, three tablespoonfuls of milk, two teaspoonfuls of baking power, one large cup of flour, flavor with lemon.
This makes a small cake. It should be baked in a shallow, square pan and eaten fresh. Rich and delicious according to grandma.  Again no time frame for the  baking. 

Lemon Butter Late 1600's

Lemon butter is good for sweets and other foods.  I would spread on the pound cake or on the plain tea cakes or plain cookies.


Pumpkin Pie 1890's

One quart of pumpkin pressed through a sieve
Eight eggs (separated) beaten separately
Two scant quarts of sweet milk
One pint sugar
A teaspoonful each of butter, cinnamon and nutmeg. 
Beat together and bake in pie pans lined with rich pastry.  (No time frame on this)

Tea Cakes 1756


NOTE:  Recipe as written:  Of flour, sugar, a quarter of a pound of each and as much yolk of egg as will mix into a stiff paste.  Make them into round cakes the size of half a crown.  Below this line is a photo of a half crown (a British coin)

NOTE: I couldn't find an American coin that compared to it. 
I am guessing they are small or about the size of this coin!

Bake them in tins. Put some caraway seeds in them. 

Next part of The PA Melting Pot will be German Sects Part 1.  (The Germans from various parts of Europe were the largest immigrant group to this area.) 
See my blog at 

Monday, September 5, 2016

THE PA MELTING POT - 7-4 - Southeastern Europeans: Croatians

The Melting Pot:  A look at the evolution of food in southwestern Pa 
Part 7 Southeastern Europeans -  4 - Croatians

Map of Croatia

There are 1,200,000+ Croatian-Americans in the USA with 50+ lodges and 250,000 (largest settlement in USA) in PA. In the early 1990’s it was estimated that 200,000 Croatians lived in the Pittsburgh metro; today 50,000+ They originally settled in in the Northside and in Millvale.

Croatian cuisine can be divided into 10 regional areas (I will cover the three main ones) with their specific cooking traditions. Generally most dishes can be found all across the country with local renditions. World-class produce combined with Italian and central European influences provide a Croatian diner’s delight. Following are three samples.

Istria (northwestern Croatia near Venice, Italy)

Istrian is the most exquisite cuisine. FOCUS:  fresh, quality ingredients (heavy Venetian) and specialties reflect this: Manestra (vegetable soup) is similar to Minestrone and Fritaja (omelette with vegetables) which is a version of the Frittata. Also a hand-rolled pasta called Fuzi (a hollow pasta shaped around a chopstick or rod) is often served with Tartufi (truffles) and game meats.

Croatian Prsut (prosciutto) is from Istria and Dalmatia. It’s more rustic (thicker and stronger tasting than the Italian) but the flavor is impressive.  

Istria’s green nectar olive oil is famous internationally. There is an olive-oil route for local tastings from 94 growers.  Like wine, olive oil is at its best when combined with food that complements its subtle flavors.
Istria has mapped out wine routes too with access to very popular wines for tastings.  Istria’s grappa (Italy produces many grappas: grappa is a brandy made from pomace which are pressed skins and seeds of grapes. These Croatian brandies (35%–60% alcohol by volume) are worth sampling:  Medica (honey) and Biska (mistletoe).  

Dalmatia (southwestern Croatia on the coast)

The Adriatic Sea provides the area with top quality fresh fish.  FOCUS:  the local fish recipes use simple ingredients such as garlic, tomatoes and herbs.  Seafood preparation includes Na Gradele (grilled seafood) or served as a Brodet (thick stew with red wine, sage and thyme). Besides seafood Pasticada (beef stewed with wine, spices and dumplings) is a treat served with red wine.
Pag Island produces Paski Sir (pungent cheese which has been soaked in olive oil and aged in stone) and top quality lamb.
Dalmatia produces wines and local brandies such as Rakija and Slijivovica (plum).

Continental Croatia (northern Croatia near Slovenia and Hungary)

The flavors in this area are influenced by central Europe.  FOCUS: sausages, sauerkraut, bread, dumplings and meat, for example.
A very popular dish is Pecenje is a roast with more than one meat: Svinjetina (pork), Janjetina (lamb) and Patka (duck). It is served with Mlinci (baked noodles) or roasted potatoes. Another popular dish isZagrebacki Odrezak (fried bread crumb covered veal steak stuffed with ham and cheese) served with Palacinke (crepes). The region of Slavonia bears strong Hungarian influences (one is a liberal use of paprika). On menus you can find Gulas (goulash), Fis Paprikas (carp, pike and perch served with vegetables and noodles) and Slavonian Kulen (paprika flavored sausages served with soft cheese, tomatoes and peppers).

Sweets are Orahnjaca (walnut cake) and Makovnjaca (poppy cake) which are served strong local coffee.

For recipes from 1700s to 1960s and modern day links versions, visit . Christine Willard, a native of western Pennsylvania, researches and blogs about the food unique to western Pennsylvania.  She currently resides in North Carolina.  Her blog can be found at