Carusel Tours
19 August 2021

My Mom's Varenye Recipe. Russian Preserve Dessert to Accompany Tea and Blini

Best Russian Strawberry Varenye Jam Recipe
Varenye is the name for a traditional Russian jam that you will find in every Russian household, at every market, at every after-meal tea ceremony.

Apart from being really delicious and beautiful (the berries or fruits in real varenye are whole and covered with jelly), it is also one of the best remedies against cold, flu and winter sadness. And we usually cook it ourselves from local berries picked up in nearby forests or grown up at our dachas in season.

Make your own varenye following my mom's secrets – it is easy and you will be delighted with the results!
Garden Berries and Beautiful Fluffy Cat
What Does Varenye Mean and What Do We Cook It From?

Varenye derives from the Russian verb варить (varit'), which means to cook. In southern regions of our country you will find varenye from apricots and young walnuts, in Siberia – varenye from pine cones, in Far East – varenye from actinidia fruits (small kiwis) and here in the north we cook varenye from numerous berries that grow abundantly in our forests or at our gardens.

The most popular types of berries for varenye in St. Petersburg Region and Karelia are black currant, strawberry, blueberry, honeysuckle, cloudberry and, of course, raspberry. You don't need to extract seeds from these berries before cooking varenye and therefore the process itself is not time consuming.

My grandma's raspberry varenye was my favourite remedy against any flu or cold as I was growing up and I must say that, apart from being really delicious, it worked much better than packed-with-artificial-flavourings-colouring-and-other-artificial-staff pills from the pharmacy. I still prefer to support my immune system with natural remedies and properly prepared varenye is one of them!
Cooking Varenye by V. Makovsky, Tretyakov Gallery
Cooking Varenye by V. Makovsky (1876), Tretyakov Gallery

In the Russian Empire and Soviet Union varenye was traditionally prepared in wide copper pans that can be found today at Udelka flea market, for instance. Vintage copper pans will serve as perfect decoration for your kitchen and they really are the best when it comes to cooking varenye - you will see in the photos below that we prepare our varenye in them.

Varenye is served with tea, it can be eaten separately or added straight into your teapot instead of sugar, and it is also one of the most popular toppings for Russian blini (pancakes) or yoghurts.

Russian Strawberry Varenye with Tea
What Is the Difference Between Jam and Varenye?

In good varenye the berries are whole and they are covered with jelly, they are not smashed or crushed. You will achieve it by heating and cooling down the berries mixed with sugar several times. The colour of good varenye is very intense, because you won't cook it for more than 5 consecutive minutes.
Ingredients

1 kilo of berries

800 grams - 1 kilo of sugar (depending on the acidity of your berry)

juice from half lemon

Guidelines for Cooking Varenye

1. Wash your berries carefully and remove any leaves and twigs from them (and green tops from strawberries of course)

2. Place berries in a pan, where you will be cooking them and cover them with sugar in a proportion 1 to 1 or 1 to 0,8. Leave them this way until they let the juice out, this may require around one to two hours.
If berries have not extracted enough juice after contact with sugar, you can add a little bit of water, otherwise they can burn to the pan and your varenye will be spoilt.
3. Set your pan on a cooking stove, and heat it carefully, stirring with a wooden or plastic spoon. When it will be about to boil, remove the white foam that will appear on the surface. Let it boil for 5 minutes on medium heat, stirring carefully, so that it won't stick to the pan. Don't crush the berries! Set aside your pan from the stove and leave it cool down uncovered.
If you are going to cook strawberry varenye, pick up smaller berries and repeat the step 3 two times. That is – bring it to boil and let it cool down consequently two times.
4. When varenye cools down completely in several hours, add the juice from half lemon in it and put it back on a stove. Bring it to heat, stirring it carefully. Leave it to boil for 3-5 minutes. Don't boil for more than 5 minutes. Pour your varenye in sterilized jars for preservation, while it is still hot.
Russian varenye in vintage copper pan
How to Prepare Jars for Preserving

1. Boil the glass jars that you will be using for preservation in a large pot for several minutes, place metal screw lids from the jars there as well

2. Remove them carefully with clean tongs or clean towel and put them on another clean towel on your kitchen surface. Don't touch the insides of jars and lids with your fingers! They must be sterile.

3. Pour hot varenye (it should be very hot) in jars close to the edge, but leave the edge clean. Close each jar with the lid and turn around immediately. Leave the jars to cool down this way.

4. When your jars are cold, turn them back up – the lids should be sealed and concave (curved down in the centre). Your varenye preserves are ready! You can store them in a dry and dark cold place for a year.
If the lids on some of your jars won't seal, store them in your refrigerator and consume within several weeks.

If, on the other hand, you will notice that the lids on the jars that you have already stored for some time are swollen, you can boil them for 10-20 minutes before consuming or throw them away.

If you choose to boil your varenye again, keep in mind, that in this case it will loose the intensity of colour and flavour.

Your varenye is ready! Enjoy it on its own with tea and coffee or as a topping for pancakes, yoghurt, oladyi or cheesecakes.

Have a look at our other traditional recipes and let us know if you have any questions! We will be happy to receive your feedback.

Text Alexandra Lyukina
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