So how do traditional Eastern European foods taste? Come join my sweet Texas son Ben and me as we try a variety of foods, including some popular snack foods, from a local market that specializes in Eastern European foods.

Watch the Two Texans Taste Popular and Traditional Eastern European Foods video

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What is the Borderless European Market?

Recently, we discovered BEM or the Borderless European Market that opened in Austin, Texas. Knowing my love of traditional foods, I know you will not be surprised to learn that I couldn’t wait to go shopping there! BEM is a delightful shopping experience with aisle after aisle of traditional, as well as popular foods, most originating from Eastern Europe.

I found some wonderful foods that I am anxious to share with you, including:

  • Baked kefir
  • Birch juice
  • Kvass
  • Sea buckthorn jam
  • And a whole host of other international goodies!

What is Birch Juice?

Spoiler alert! After tasting all the different foods in front of us, we kept coming back to the birch juice as one of our favorites. (And we highlight all of our favorites in our Eastern European Foods video.) Oh my! Is this delicious! But what exactly is birch juice?

You may also know birch juice as birch water or birch sap, which is sap from the birch tree. Birch juice has a mildly sweet, almost citrusy flavor that is so refreshing and especially welcome on a hot day in central Texas!

What is Birch Beer?

If you live in the United States, you might not be familiar with birch juice, but have you ever heard of birch beer? It’s an old-fashioned soda that we don’t often see today, but it was a popular beverage years ago.

As the name implies, birch beer is made from the birch tree, but instead of the sap, this drink is made from the bark and is equally tasty! So keep your eyes open for this unique beverage if you visit a specialty grocery market. You might just find a can or bottle.

An interesting fact about birch beer is that before it was a soda, this drink was a fermented alcoholic beverage dating back to the 1700s. The beverage craftsmen of the time made this alcoholic version from birch tree sap that they fermented into a citrusy-tasting beverage. And John Worlidge, author of Vinetum Britannicum, stated, “Ale brewed of this Juice or Sap, is esteem’d very wholesome.” Very wholesome indeed!

Eastern European Foods Surprise: Pickled Vegetables

In this video, Ben and I try a variety of pickled vegetables, primarily from Poland and nearby countries. All were tasty, but we were so surprised at how mild they were!

In the United States, we are used to very vinegary pickled veggies, but these Eastern European foods were all exceptionally mild and soft in texture, not crunchy. We both agreed they would make great toppings for sandwiches.

But our biggest surprise was the pickled cornichons. They were not vinegary in the least, but boy, they had a spicy kick! What a welcome treat they would be on any charcuterie platter.

Rice Cakes or Rye Cakes?

While shopping at BEM, I spied two round packages that were filled with buckwheat cakes and rye cakes. Unfortunately, I couldn’t glimpse inside to see what they looked like through the opaque packaging, but of course, they fell into my cart!

Well, much to my and Ben’s surprise, when we opened both packages, they looked just like rice cakes, but the flavor was completely different. As the label name said, one tasted just like buckwheat and the other like rye.

Both the buckwheat and rye cakes were so light and much more flavorful than the rather plain tasting (dare I say bland!) rice cakes we are accustomed to eating here in the United States.

Kvass, Rye Bread, and Sour Cherry Jam

In addition to the delicious birch juice, Ben and I discovered more Eastern European food favorites. We made a meal out of some delicious rye bread from Lithuania that we topped with some sour cherry jam from Armenia.

And as you’ll see in our Eastern European foods video, we washed our meal down with some deliciously refreshing Kvass that was made from rye bread. How international of us! 😉

What is Sea Buckthorn?

Over the years, I have read various articles about the benefit of sea buckthorn thanks to its high Vitamin C content, but I have never had a chance to try it.

Sea buckthorn is a shrub with a small orange berry that grows in Europe and Asia. Farmers have harvested the leaves, flowers, seeds, and berries of this plant for thousands of years to make various medicinal preparations, including healing teas.

So what does sea buckthorn taste like? I’ve read descriptions from various cooks. Some describe it as a sour orange with hints of mango or pineapple flavors, but all agree it is quite tangy!

When Ben and I tasted the sea buckthorn jam, we found it to be similar to a compote or a chutney. It was very tangy with a bit of a sour raisin flavor. Unfortunately, this preserve had lots of seeds—many more than, say, a raspberry or blackberry jam might have.

I would eat sea buckthorn jam for medicinal purposes, but alas, it would not be my first choice when reaching for jam.

Milk Kefir and Baked—Yes Baked!—Kefir

When he was younger, Ben was not a fan of the effervescent milk kefir. Now, keep in mind, he has only tasted my homemade versions, which can be pretty strong.

In our video, Ben tasted the kefir from our Eastern European foods haul, and he discovered it was quite pleasing, and he even ranked it as one of his favorites!

Baked Kefir

I had not heard much about baked kefir before, which some may also know as baked milk. However, when I researched how baked kefir was made, the process reminded me of how I made clotted cream.

Unfortunately, for both Ben and me, baked kefir was not one of our favorites. The particular brand we tried, which was actually made here in the United States, had a strong burnt flavor. Very unusual. Maybe the flavor should be better described as smokey, but that initial taste can be a bit unexpected!

Fun Tasting Eastern European Foods

If you have an international grocery store in your area or a special international aisle at your local market, be sure to peruse their offerings. (And if you’re in Austin, Texas, be sure to visit the BEM grocery store to see what new items they have in stock.)

It’s so much fun to try foods from other countries, and you will often be pleasantly surprised with a new taste or flavor that might just become one of your favorite foods!

Milk and Water Kefir Recipes

Want to try your hand at making milk kefir or water kefir? Watch the videos below, where I walk you through the entire process step-by-step.

More Dairy Recipes

Speaking of clotted cream, you can learn how to make this treat homemade along with cultured butter in the following videos.

Pickling Recipes

A variety of the Eastern European foods we tried were pickled. You can make pickled foods too from just vegetable scraps, as I show you in the following videos.

Kvass Recipes

I am so happy to share with you my recipes for making homemade:

I’ve perfected these recipes in my over 20-year-old traditional foods kitchen. I’m sure you’ll enjoy making these tasty beverages, not only for their flavor, but for their rich source of probiotics too!

Rye Bread Recipes

Rye bread is one of my favorite breads. If you’re looking to bake with rye, give this traditional rye sourdough bread a try!

In my conversational video, I discuss the different types of wheat berries, both modern and ancient, but I also share a bit about rye. Check out the video to learn more about Spelt, Hard White Wheat, Emmer/Farro, Hard Red Wheat, and Einkorn.

Download Your Free 36-Page Pantry List

For an extensive list of the traditional foods you can make and purchase to stock your pantry, be sure to download my free 36-page Traditional Foods Pantry List. This comprehensive eBook is full of links to recipe videos, helpful articles, and more!

And if you’re looking for a printed book full of my traditional foods recipes to show you how to create a traditional foods kitchen, be sure to order your copy of my new bestselling book, The Modern Pioneer Cookbook.

Order YOUR COPY Now!

The Modern Pioneer Cookbook

Seasonal ingredients, traditional techniques, and nourishing recipes. Over 85 traditional, from-scratch recipes! Discover for yourself how you can use simple ingredients and traditional techniques to cook the modern pioneer way.

Join the Traditional Foods Kitchen Academy

Are you looking for more traditional foods videos? I invite you to join the Traditional Foods Kitchen Academy. Members of this optional paid YouTube community get access to exclusive videos, live streams, and other members-only perks. Plus, your YouTube comments include a special members-only badge.

In the following members-only live stream video replay, I chat with my Kitchen Pioneers about herb gardening, milk kefir, and more.

Stay in Touch with Mary’s Nest

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I look forward to having you join me in my Texas Hill Country Kitchen!

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