Holodets (Meat in Jelly)

holodets, studen, russian meat jelly

Holodets, or studen’, is a traditional Russian dish dating back many centuries. Holodets is essentially a meat jelly made by cooking pork legs, with addition of parts that contain skin and cartilage, such as ears and snout.  These parts contain natural gelatin, which is what makes the jelly set. These days, many Russian cooks use powdered gelatin (same substance used  in Jello-O). But I prefer to make holodets the old-fashioned way because the natural gelatin makes it set better – it’s neither too firm nor too runny.

Recipe

  • 2 pork hocks
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1-2 pork earls or 1 snout
  • 10 peppercorns
  • 1/2 tbsp salt
  • 1 carrot, peeled
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp parsley, finely chopped

1. Add pork hocks, ears, and snout to 2 liters of water, add salt, bay leaves and peppercorns. In  a large pot, boil for 1 hour and 30 minutes, skimming off foam periodically. Add carrot and boil for  a further 30 minutes until it’s cooked.

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2. Remove pork hocks, ears, and carrot from the liquid; let cool. Clarify the broth by pouring it over a strainer lined with cheese cloth. Return clarified broth to the pot and simmer uncovered until it reduces in volume to about 2 cups.

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2. Finely chop garlic and parsley. Chop the cooked carrot.

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3. Remove pork hocks, ears, and carrot from the liquid; let cool. Clarify the broth by pouring it over a strainer lined with cheese cloth. Return clarified broth to the pot and simmer uncovered until it reduces in volume to about 2 cups.

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 4. Remove skin and bones from pork hocks and discard, but keep the meat. I usually discard the ears as well, but some people like to add them. Separate meat into strands. Place meat into a mold, such as a glass baking dish. Arrange carrots, garlic, and parsley on top of the meat.

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5. Slowly pour reduced broth into the mold.  The broth should completely cover the meat and vegetables. Put the dish into the fridge and let it congeal overnight. Serve with mustard and horseradish on the side.

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3 Comment

  1. The first time I tried this was in Yoshkar-Ola, Russia in 2008 at the Laviar Cafe’ on New Years Eve. At first I thought it looked really disgusting, but I was pleasantly surprised when I actually tasted it. It is somewhat along the lines of souse (which I don’t understand why no one in my family except my aunt and me will eat). It has to grow on you, I guess, but if you spend any time in Russia, it will inevitably find it’s way onto a dinner table at some point in time.

  2. Serge Melnikoff says:

    I think the American translation might be of help. They (we) refer to it as “head cheese”. These should not be the poor cuts of meat used in this dish, but rather the PRIME cuts from the …head..cheeks, snout, etc… . The tastiest meat is from the head. These happen to be small bits. Tasty small bits in are served in gelatine as they can’t be served in large quantities, due to their nature.

  3. Serge,
    Thank you for pointing that out. It seems to me that holodets has a lot more aspic (the jelly part) than does head cheese. While head cheese is akin to Holodets (aka Studen’), in that it is essentially meat congealed in aspic, the Russian version is traditionally made with pork feet (pork hocks). If available, parts from the head such as ears and snout may be added to help the dish congeal and eliminate the need for gelatine. Last year I actually succeed in making holodets without any extra gelatine. I will be making it again for the New Years and will post the recipe here hopefully with much better pictures 🙂

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