Traditional Ukrainian Christmas recipes
In contrast to the parties of New Year's Eve, Christmas is more subdued, as it is a time of reflection. Svita Vecheria (Holy Supper) is accompanied with old Ukrainian rituals that are dedicated to God, the welfare of the family and remembrance of the family's ancestors.
The holiday recipes featuring kutya, kalach and pickled fish reflect some of the traditions of Svita Vecheria.
Impress your family and friends with these easy-to-make recipes.
To some Ukrainians, Christmas isn't really Christmas without kutya, a wheat-based cereal. It is the most important dish because it kicks off Christmas Eve. The main ingredient, wheat, represents fertility and the honey represents the spirit of Christ.
Ingredients: 2 cups of wheat, 3 quarts water, one cup poppy seeds, 2/3 cup sugar, 1/3 cup honey, dissolved in 3/4 cup of hot water, 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts, and a 1/2 cup of chopped almonds or pecans.
Instructions: The day before preparation, wash the wheat and soak in cold water overnight.
Place it in a pan and bake it at 250 F for one hour - stirring occasionally. Boil 3 quarts of water and add the wheat and chopped nuts. Stir until the water has been completely absorbed. Pour the mixture into a dish and add the butter and honey. Mix in the poppy seeds, saving a few to sprinkle over the top.
Kalach is a braided, ring-shaped Christmas bread. Served with borscht, kalach originates from the word kalo, meaning circle in Ukrainian. The circle is an ancient symbol of eternity, and also means the continuity or general well-being of the family. Three pieces of kalach are placed at the center of the table on top of each other, symbolizing the Trinity.
Although this recipe appears laborious, it is actually one of the simpler versions.
Ingredients (makes 3 loaves): 1 tsp. granulated sugar, 1 cup lukewarm water, 2 packages dry yeast, 2 cups whole milk, 3 large eggs - slightly beaten, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1 tsp. salt, 2 tbsp. melted butter, 8-9 cups all-purpose flour, sifted, 1 whole egg - beaten with 2 tbsp. water for glaze, and 2 tbsp. poppy seeds.
Instructions: Pre-heat oven to 375 F. Dissolve sugar in lukewarm water and sprinkle the yeast over the top. Let the mixture stand for about 10 minutes. Scald milk in a large saucepan over medium-high heat and then let it cool to lukewarm.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the yeast mixture with the warm milk, eggs, sugar, salt and melted butter. Add 3 cups of flour and beat until smooth. Cover the dough and let it sit at warm room temperature for about an hour. Gradually mix in the remaining flour.
Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough appears smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a greased pan. Cover the dough, and let it sit in a warm, dry place for about an hour. Push down the dough and then let it rise for another hour.
Divide the dough into three equal parts. On a lightly floured surface, divide one portion into three equal parts. Roll each portion into a 10- to 12-inch rope. Braid the three ropes together, starting at the middle and working your way out to both ends. Join the ends together to form a braided ring, leaving the center open.
Repeat the rolling and braiding process with the two remaining portions of dough.
Place the loaves on greased baking sheets. Cover and them let rise until they double in size. Brush the loaves with the egg-and-water glaze and sprinkle with poppy seeds.
Bake the loaves at 375 F for about 45 minutes. Cool on wire racks. Serve warm or store in an airtight container for use later.
Svita Vercheria also includes a lot of fish dishes. Because it is easy to make, stewed fish is the most common dish on the table on Christmas Eve.
Ingredients: 2 fillet whitefish or 4 salted herrings, 2 large onions (sliced), 1 cup white vinegar, 1/4 cup water, 1/2 cup dry white wine, 1 tbsp. pickling spices and 1 glass of dry white wine.
Instructions: Wash the whitefish (or herring) fillets and soak in cold water for about 12 hours, changing the water two or three times. Wash again and cut into the size you want to serve. Place into a jar with a layer of sliced onion. Boil vinegar, water, wine, spices and additional sugar for 10 minutes. Let the boiled mixture cool. Strain and pour it over the fish. Let it stand at room temperature for three to four hours. Then store in the fridge for half a day.
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