Dip 1 silver 20 kopeck coin or a silver teaspoon into
Silver leaven may be kept on ice for about 2 weeks.
*The word varenets comes from the same stem var- as in the verb varit’, to boil. The basic preparation, without the silver leaven, is a very old Russian dish; its long popularity was partly due to the construction of the traditional Russian stove, the slow heat of which was ideal for clotting the cream. The addition of the silver must have mainly been for “good luck” since the reaction of silver is so slow that its presence would not materially affect either the chemical composition or the taste of the final product. Silver is a relatively inert metal; its slow reaction with the acid in the milk eventually precipitates out the milk’s protein, making silver proteinate. This silver leaven is sweeter than milk that had soured on its own since natural clotting results from an organism reacting with the milk and increasing its acidity, but any effect of the silver leaven would be marginal in comparison with the natural clotting that occurs simultaneously, especially with unpasteurized milk and cream. Just as silver utensils and pans were used without ill effect, the silver reaction with the milk was not toxic. If anyone wants to experiment with this recipe, the silver should be polished first so that the metal is as clean as possible.
© 1992 All rights reserved. Published by Indiana University Press.