This weekend the kids and I made a favorite food from my grandma’s Russo- German side of the family called Bieroch. My grandma’s father and grandparents were Germans whose ancestors lived along the Volga River in Russia for three generations, but never lost their German heritage.
The Russo-Germans were invited over to Russia by Catherine the Great to help settle frontier land. One of the deals Catherine made with them was that they would never have to serve in the Russian army. In 1874 Tsar Alexander reneged on that promise, and in order to avoid conscription, whole towns of Russo-Germans left Russia for the United States. Most of them settled in the Midwest where they brought seeds of Winter Wheat with them. This type of wheat grew really well in the Great Plains, and led to a wheat boom/bubble economy in the Midwest that precipitated the Dust Bowl. There is a really interesting book about this by Timothy Egan called The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl, which I will include a link to at the end of this post.
Although it is never a good idea to generalize an entire population, the Russo-Germans had a reputation for being incredibly hard working, tidy, thrifty, and family oriented. If you judge by my grandma’s family, they also placed a high value on education and training. Three of my grandma’s nine siblings graduated from college, and my great-grandpa served on the local school board.
During World War I and World War II many Russo-Germans were persecuted by their Midwestern neighbors for being of German descent, but this did not stop many of them from fighting bravely in the American army. My grandma still has letters my great uncle Herman wrote her from the European front where he died. He is buried in Arlington cemetery.
Growing up, it was always frustrating to me to meet other kids from German-American backgrounds. The foods our grandmas cooked were never the same things! Now I understand that Russo-Germans have their own genre of cooking, including butter-ball soup, bump bread (made from cooked down watermelon rinds), and bieroch.
Nobody in my family likes butter-ball soup, and I’m not about to cook down watermelons, thank you very much. But bieroch is something we all enjoy! Usually it takes a lot of work to make, but I have developed a “cheaters version” using the crock-pot and bread machine, that is actually pretty easy. This weekend the kids and I a big batch of bieroch together, and put about four dinners worth away in the freezer after feasting on it Saturday night.
Of course, me being me I’ve got to make a homemade book about our Bieroch experience for Jenna(26m)! (For more information on the how and why of homemade books please see here.)
I invite you to give bieroch making a try. It’s really yummy and freezes well. The filling includes hamburger, sausage, onions, cabbage, Worchester sauce and any spice you like. For the dough, just use your favorite dinner roll recipe. Let them rise for 45 minutes after you form them, then bake at 375 for about 20-25 minutes. (There is an official recipe at the top of this post in the hyperlink for Bieroch.)
The Bieroch Book
Jenna helped Mommy
Mommy cooked meat, cabbage,
onions and spices in the crock pot.
The bieroch filling cooked
for a long time.
Jenna helped make the
dough in the bread machine.
Mommy rolled out the dough.
Bruce helped fill the bieroch.
This is how you wrap up bieroch.
Soon the bieroch were
ready for the oven.