By Jonathan J. Kalmakoff
Kut’ya (Cyrillic: Кутья) (pronounced: KOOT-yah) is a cold wheat porridge/pudding, sweetened with honey, traditionally made by Doukhobors in Russia and the Caucasus at Christmas for centuries. It is customarily served on Christmas Eve, following the evening prayer meeting, to family and friends.
The following Doukhobor recipe for Kut’ya was shared with the writer by Vasily Stroyev and family, formerly of Troitskoye village, Bogdanovsky region, Georgia, now living in Markevichevo village, Shiryaevsky district, Odessa region, Ukraine.
|3 cups wheat||4 tablespoons brown sugar|
|½ to 1 cup poppy seeds||1 teaspoon vanilla|
|1 cup honey||¼ teaspoon salt|
|Ground nuts, raisins or diced fruit if desired|
- Clean the wheat by spreading it on a plate and removing any green kernels, foreign seeds, chaff, etc. Rinse it well in a colander. Soak the wheat in 6-8 cups of fresh water overnight for approximately 8 hours.
- Cook the wheat.
a. Stovetop: add 6 cups of water and wheat to pot and bring to a boil. Skim the residue off the top. Turn to low heat, cover and simmer for 4-5 hours, stirring frequently and adding more water as needed.
b. Slow Cooker: add 6 cups of water and wheat to slow cooker. Cook on high heat for half an hour, then reduce to low heat and cook for 6-8 hours.
The wheat will expand as it cooks to approximately twice its volume. It is done when the kernels burst open and the white germ appears. Drain off excess water in a colander.
- Place poppy seeds in a small bowl and pour 1 cup of boiling water of it. Let it sit for 15 minutes then drain. The poppy seed may then either be ground or added whole to the wheat.
- In a large measuring cup, combine honey (can be melted in the microwave), brown sugar, vanilla and vanilla with 1 cup of boiling water. Stir until honey is completely dissolved. Add to wheat mixture and stir thoroughly.
- Add ground nuts and/or diced fruit if desired to wheat mixture.
- The wheat mixture should be porridge- or pudding-like in texture. Cool in refrigerator. Serve either hot or cold. Makes 10-12 cups/servings.
The making of Kut’ya at Christmas is a millennia-old Orthodox tradition practiced throughout the former Russian Empire. When the Doukhobors openly rejected the Orthodox church in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, they discarded many Orthodox customs and traditions. However, they continued to make Kut’ya at Christmas, modifying and imbuing the practice with their own religious meaning and significance. Learn more about the historical, religious and cultural aspects of Christmas Among Doukhobors.
When the Doukhobors first arrived in Canada in 1899, they initially continued to make Kut’ya at Christmas. However, at an All-Doukhobor Congress at Nadezhda village, Saskatchewan in December 1908, Peter V. Verigin, in an effort to simplify and modernize Doukhobor ceremony and ritual, and to focus on its wholly spiritual aspects, set aside many of the folk traditions and festivities formerly associated with Christmas, including Kut’ya making. Thereafter, the recipe eventually fell into disuse and was forgotten by many – but by no means all – Canadian Doukhobors. The Doukhobors who remained in Russia and the Caucasus continue to make Kut’ya to this day.
Let us revive this centuries-old, traditional Doukhobor recipe!
Image Credits: Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.