According to ancient Ukrainian folk tradition on Christmas Eve families got together for a festive dinner. It was important that no one was late. On this day, our ancestors did not eat until the very evening. Only when one saw the first star in the sky, which, according to biblical tradition announced the good news of Jesus’ birth – Ukrainians would begin the festive meal.
Although Christmas Eve falls on the last day of Christmas (often known as Pylypivsky) lent, and all meals cooked for this holiday are lenten, this night is often called a ‘rich supper’, as normally one finds 12 dishes (at least) on the table. Traditionally, the Holy Supper includes the following dishes:
o Borshch with ‘ears’ (вушка – vushka – mushroom-filled mini dumplings)
o Mushroom soup
o Varenyky (aka perogies)
o Holubtsi (cabbage rolls)
o Pickled herring
o Marinated mushrooms
o Fish in aspic
o Uzvar (dried stewed fruit juice)
o Pampushky (sweet filling pastries, similar to donuts or fritters)
Here are instructions for maing the two main Christmas dishes!
Kutia – is one of the main Christmas dishes and is a special kind of grain porridge. It’s usually cooked with unground wheat, rice, oats or barley and sweet additives - honey, sugar, raisins, jam, candied fruits, dried fruits etc. Grains symbolize eternal life and prosperity, and the sweetness of kutia is a symbol of heavenly bliss. Kutia usually is made with honey syrup, made of water, cereal broth, poppy seeds, almond, hemp milk, nuts, and various spices.
Here’s a simple classic kutia recipe:
Ingredients: 2 glasses of wheat, 1 glass of poppy seeds, 1 glass of nuts (typically walnuts are used), 50 grams of raisins, 100 grams of honey.
Rinse the wheat with water and let it soak for a few hours. Then cook over medium heat until tender. Rinse the poppy seeds with water, then pour some boiling water and leave for 20-30 minutes. Then drain the water and crush the seeds until they become paste-like (you can use a coffee grinder or blender to save time, though traditionally everything is done by hand). Crush nuts (you can add a variety of nuts) and roast them for a couple minutes. Mix all the ingredients together, add raisins, honey, sugar and other dried fruit to your liking.
To make uzvar you'll need:
100g dried apples, 100g dried pears, 100g dried prunes, 50 g raisins, 3/4 cup honey (or as much or little as you like it), water - 5 liters.
Rinse the fruit with hot water, then place in a pot, adding honey, raisins and a fair amount of water and cook over medium heat for an hour. Once ready let the stew brew and cool off for another 3-4 hours and then serve on your Christmas table.