If you’re a vegetarian – look away and head over here now. Studenetz is a Ukrainian version of head cheese – with garlic. Studenetz is a staple all year round but mostly pops up at Easter.
A traditional recipe takes way over four hours to cook on the stovetop plus assembling time – but less than half that time in the Instant Pot. It’s not “instant” but end-to-end I made this recipe in 4 hours total (then refrigerated everything overnight). This recipe uses the same ingredients as my baba’s recipe.
You either love studenetz or don’t touch it.
A lot of the traditional recipes I researched warned about “milky broth” as a highly undesirable characteristic. Basically, milky broth means your meat Jell-O looks grey. Every recipe pointed to different milky broth causes like boiling too fast or boiling with a lid. This made me worry that Instant Pot studenetz would have the dreaded milky broth – but no. The pressure cooker did an amazing job.
Those traditional recipes had different combinations of pig parts:
- 3 pigs feet and 3 pork hocks
- 4 to 6 pork hocks, 1 beef soup bone, 1 small hunk of a cheaper cut of meat
- 2 pork feet, 2 pork hocks
- 4 pork hocks
Overall, it’s a lot of pork – and I needed pork that would fit into my Instant Pot Duo. I found three pork hocks at my local Asian grocery store. Each one was close to a kilogram. Each hock was cut into six pieces – in the end I fit everything except two small pieces that I froze for later (maybe for a soup or even for Saltseson – best described as Ukrainian haggis). If you encounter whole pork hocks, ask your butcher to cut them into smaller pieces because they’ll fit better in the Instant Pot.
Rinse all the pork pieces well. Arrange all of the pork hock pieces in the Instant Pot and cover with water. Using the Saute function, bring the water to a boil and boil for 5 minutes.
The water will turn brown and weird. Discard all of that water and rinse each piece of pork to get the strange brown bits off. On this step, one traditional recipe says straight out: “This is very important.”
Wash out the Instant Pot. Return the pork pieces now to the Instant Pot and fill with water up to the two-thirds/pressure cooker maximum line. Add one whole onion, 4 bay leaves and 2 Tablespoons of salt.
Seal the Instant Pot and set it to the Soup setting – Normal, High Pressure for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, chop up some garlic – remove the centre if it’s starting to sprout. It’s easier to finely chop up garlic if you add a bit of salt. This is about ¼ cup of garlic.
When the time is up, let the pressure drop naturally. It could take 30 to 40 minutes. Then, open it up and stir in the chopped garlic. This is going to steep into the broth like a garlic tea.
Discard what remains of that onion. Remove the pieces of meat from the Instant Pot. Discard the bones, skin and fat. (Some people don’t discard the skin and chop it up to add to the final mixture)
Shred the meat and arrange it in a 13 by 9 inch Pyrex dish (or a similarly sized plastic container with a lid)
Strain the remaining liquid through a fine-mesh strainer. Ladle the liquid onto the meat.
Refrigerate overnight. The fat will congeal on the top, and the broth will become like Jell-O (but with meat)
When serving, carefully remove any fat that has accumulated on the top.
Discard the fat (or use it for garlicky frying). Slice the studenetz into cubes.
How long does the traditional recipe take? There’s still your manual labour but…
- The traditional recipe involves bringing a large amount of water to boil – twice – then cooking for four hours. With the Instant Pot, the total cooking time is roughly half – including the time to depressurize.
- Instant Pot
- Fine-mesh sieve
- 13 by 9 inch Pyrex baking dish
Serves: 13 by 9 inch dish
- 3 pork hocks, each cut into 6 pieces, approximately 900 g each
- 1 onion, whole
- 2 Tablespoons salt
- 4 bay leaves
- 4 to 5 large garlic cloves, chopped fine
- Rinse and clean the pieces of pork. Arrange the pork pieces in the Instant Pot and fill the pot with water up to the two-thirds line. Bring to a boil using the Saute function and boil for 5 minutes.
- Drain the water. Rinse each individual piece of meat. Clean the Instant Pot. Return the pieces to the Instant Pot and refill with water up to the two-thirds line.
- Add a whole onion, 4 bay leaves and 2 Tablespoons of salt.
- Seal the Instant Pot. Using the Soup/Broth setting, set it to Normal for 1 hour.
- Let the pressure drop naturally before opening - this could take 30 to 40 minutes.
- Remove the pieces of meat.
- Add the chopped garlic to the liquid.
- Separate out the meat and discard the skin, bones and fat. Shred the meat with forks. Arrange the meat in a 13 by 9 inch Pyrex baking dish.
- Strain the broth through a fine-mesh sieve. Pour over the meat mixture.
- Refrigerate overnight.
- Gently remove the layer of fat on the top using a spoon.
- Slice the gelatin and meat into cubes.