Since ancient times, preserves have helped Ukrainians survive the cold season. Thus, locals like to pickle everything from cucumbers and tomatoes to cabbage and carrots. But pickled apples (kvasheni yabluka) must be the most extravagant type.
In Ukraine, fall and winter apple varieties are often pickled with cabbage and carrots in glass jars filled with salted water. Yet, Transcarpathian Oblast, with the administrative center in Uzhhorod, prefers a different recipe. In this region, people prepare this food in oak barrels. First, wheat straw and cherry tree leaves are put on the bottom. Apples complete a second layer, coated with another sheet of straw. Then, another layer of apples proceeds, and so on. When the cask is full, the contents are poured over with a brine, made from salted water, some honey, and cinnamon. At last, the barrel is topped with linen, a wooden circle, and a kind of press.
The product is ready to go on the table in a month and a half or two—just when winter arrives with its scarcity of vitamins. Sweet and sour, pickled apples not only keep all nutrients but also acquire additional benefits—they accelerate digestion and boost the immune system overall.
So when you visit Ukraine between December and February, make sure to sample this seasonal treat. The product is not widespread—mostly homemade and common in the countryside.