This sweet porridge, served for centuries on Christmas Eve, is eaten by all guests and family members from a single bowl to symbolize unity. In keeping with tradition, some families throw a spoonful of kutya up to the ceiling. If it sticks, a plentiful honey harvest is said to be in store.
1 cup whole wheat berries
4 cups milk, with extra as needed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup honey
1 cup poppy seeds, ground in a coffee grinder or food processor
Variation: Stir 1/4 cup chopped dried apricots, raisins, or toasted slivered almonds—or all of them—into the wheat-berry mixture just before baking. Serves 6.
- Place the wheat berries in a medium bowl and add water to cover. Cover with plastic wrap and soak overnight. Drain.
- In a medium saucepan, heat the wheat berries, milk, and salt and simmer until berries are tender, about 2 hours. Check occasionally to make sure there’s ample liquid in the pan. Add more milk, if needed. Remove the berries from the heat, drain, and place in a large bowl.
- In a small saucepan over low heat, warm the honey; then stir in the ground poppy seeds. Remove from the heat.
- Preheat the oven to 325˚. Stir the honey poppy-seed mixture into the wheat berries, and add 1/2–3/4 cup boiling water. The mixture should be slightly soupy. Place the mixture in an ovenproof casserole and bake, uncovered, 20 minutes.
- Remove the casserole to a cooling rack, and let stand 15 minutes. Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon. Serve warm or chilled.
Recipe from CHRISTMAS IN RUSSIA—Christmas Around the World, from World Book. (c) 2001 World Book, Inc. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.
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