In celebration of wheat and beets
In the Russian Orthodox tradition, Christmas Eve is meatless and a traditional food in both cultures is Sochivo in Russian and Kutiain Ukrainian (boiled wheat). Wheat is a stable crop in Russia and of course the Ukraine, the original bread basket. This tradition was brought over to Canada along with the Red Fife wheat, which is once again being grown on the Island by our neighbours in Metchosin.
Pick out the foreign objects in 1 cup of wheat. Wash well and place the wheat in a heavy pot. Add 6 cups of water and pinch of salt. Soak overnight. Do not strain. Bring the wheat to the boil, skimming off the scum which accumulates. Turn to low and simmer 4 to 5 hours or until kernels burst open to show the white inside. Stir occasionally while cooking.
Wash 1/2 cup poppy seeds, which you have harvested from your garden in the fall, in a fine cloth. Scald the poppy seed in 1 cup boiling water. Drain and grind the poppy seeds with a food mill or in the blender. Add 1 cup honey and 1 cup boiling water. Stir into the wheat and cool and refrigerate. Before serving add 1/2 cup chopped nuts. the honey in the dish symbolizes happiness, success and peace.
The sheaf of wheat which adorns the table is symbolic of the hope that next year’s crop will be bountiful. Hay is spread under the tablecloth and table, to represent the manger where Christ was born. A candle at the center of the table is lit to signify the star that appeared at the birth of Christ. Food made without any butter or cream is served and games played and carols sung, until it is time for midnight Mass.
Traditionally borscht is served as well but made without a meat base and usually the winter vegetables including rutabagas celeriac and dried mushrooms are added. You have the borscht recipe printed earlier, so you can add some of those winter vegetables available from local farmers www.foodchi.ca.
In both cultures, pork is served for main Christmas dinner. It could be a roasted piglet.
The piglet is scalded and the inside rubbed with salt and the outside brushed with sour cream and drizzled with butter. You could use a pork leg roast for this as well. If using a pork leg, rub a little salt on the skin and then the sour cream and butter. Bake in a hot oven, 375’ F for 1 1/2 hours until the skin is golden.
Traditionally there are buckwheat cabbage rolls (replacing the rice in the previous recipe) or rice only with salt and pepper and tomato juice for moisture, perohy (recipe to come at a later date) and doughnuts and a rich bread of Kolach. There may be sauerkraut soup and lenten bread (pagaach) which represents Jesus, the bread of life, and more biscuits drizzled with honey and sprinkled with poppy seeds. We have access to all of these foods locally, like the Russian and Ukrainian cultures had so many years ago. Now we can see that they truly ate locally grown food in Season and were very creative about it. Enjoy another Christmas in another tradition where every part of the farming culture was in harmony with God.
For further information on recipes or questions contact Ellen Lewers at: mrslewersfarm email@example.com