Feasts are extremely important in the traditions of our regions, special days of the year when families and friends gather to pay respect to their patron saint and celebrate a great holiday. The celebration ritual is both church and folk, and as such it includes some important features of Orthodoxy and folk traditions. Preparations for the celebration usually begin a few days before the celebration itself, in order to welcome the saint as solemnly and beautifully as possible, the house is prepared, cleaned and decorated, children are given new things or other gifts, and the family has a festive and joyful atmosphere.
Our celebrations necessarily include some important elements, namely a candle, a slavish cake, red wine, oil, incense and, of course, the indispensable slavish grain, to which we will pay more attention on this occasion. It seems that in modern times, the celebration seems more like an occasion where abundant food and drink are especially emphasized, but a lot of effort, sacrifice and piety have always been put into the preparation of meals for the celebration, especially when it comes to important elements such as cake or grain. Slavsko zito is certainly a mandatory feature of baptismal celebrations and church holidays.
Unfortunately, fast-paced modern life often deprives time to prepare a festive meal, so grain is often ordered ready-made, and it is less and less cooked at home. However, home-made Slavic wheat is at the very core of our nation and many hosts and housewives still prepare it with joy. Below are recipes for the preparation of Slavonic grain, as well as some tips for decorating it.
Recipes for the preparation of Slavonic grain
Slavic wheat has been prepared in Orthodox households for generations, and each household has its own way of preparing it. The recipes generally work similarly, but various Slavic grains can differ greatly in their taste. The skill of the host certainly plays a role in the preparation of the best and tastiest Slavic grain.
Homemade Slavic wheat – Slavic wheat is generally prepared according to the following recipe, with slight variations according to desire and taste. Here’s how to prepare it. It’s necessary:
- ½ kg of white wheat
- 300 – 500 g of crystal sugar
- 300 – 500 g of ground walnuts
- 1 vanilla sugar
- ½ nutmeg
Nutmeg can be omitted from the mentioned ingredients, if someone does not like its aroma, and a little cinnamon can be added, a little lemon peel can be grated, while some hosts also add raisins for an even better taste. Some use brown sugar instead of white crystal sugar or add a little honey. The quantities can also be adjusted to taste, depending on whether the household prefers a sweeter grain or a nutty taste. The most important thing is that whiter wheat is used, and that the nuts are good, healthy, nicely cleaned, without shell remains.
The wheat should first be well sorted and cleaned of chaff and other debris, and then poured into a deep pot, so that there is still as much free space. Cover with cold water and leave overnight. It is important to use a pot, not a saucepan, and preferably a pressure cooker. The next day, the wheat is washed from the dirt that has separated and cooked well. Then let it cool down and while it is lukewarm, strain it without rinsing. The secret is to keep the wheat starch for flavor. While it is still warm, the grain is crushed, and it is best to leave the larger pieces. It is recommended to use a meat grinder, but it can also be ground in a blender or food processor. Then, still warm ground wheat is mixed with finely ground walnuts and crystal sugar, then vanilla sugar and ground nutmeg are added, as well as other additives to taste. The secret to the best homemade cereal is to mix and mash it with your hands and fingers. Finally, place it in a bowl and decorate it in the desired way, which we will talk about below.
Grain from the Holy Mountain – In Greece and in the monasteries of Mount Athos, grain is prepared in a different way than in our regions. The following is a recipe for preparing this interesting Slavic grain. It’s necessary:
- 100 grams of wheat
- 2-3 tablespoons of flour
- 2-3 spoons of sugar
- 80 g of almonds
- 80 g of walnuts
- 60 g of raisins
- 2 tablespoons of toasted sesame seeds
- 2 tablespoons of toasted coconut
- ½ tsp Granny Smith Spice Mix (or a mix of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, coriander, anise)
- Powdered sugar, decorative beads, blanched almonds and pomegranate berries for decoration
Boil the grain according to the usual procedure, then rinse it with cold water and spread it out to dry. In this recipe, the wheat is not ground. While the grain is drying, lightly toast the flour in a dry pan, then mix it with the grain in a bowl when it has dried well. Mix ground almonds and walnuts, coconut, sesame, spices, raisins and sugar. Mix everything together and gently press into a shallow bowl. Sprinkle with a little toasted flour and pat in powdered sugar. Decorate. On the Holy Mountain, the monks use a template, over which they sprinkle sugar and cinnamon and thus make an image on the grain.
Decorating Slavic grain
Slavsko žito or koljivo is a grain that is cooked before the Feast of the Epiphany and is prepared from the finest white wheat, and according to custom it is sorted grain by grain. The Slavic grain is sanctified and blessed, and the prayer for blessing the cradle is addressed to God especially for those who prepared it, decorated it and offered it for blessing in honor and memory of the saint who is celebrated that day. According to old Serbian customs, the Slavic grain is consecrated in the church or in the host’s house, before cutting the Slavic cake. When the slav cake is cut, a slavish candle is placed in the grain, which burns during the rite of cutting the slav cake. After finishing, the grain is poured with wine.
Slavsko zito is decorated in a very simple way. It can only be sprinkled with walnuts on the surface, and very often a cross-shaped decoration is made from whole walnuts. Almonds, hazelnuts, sugar and raisins can also be used. Among the Greeks, the kolivo is decorated with powdered sugar, pomegranate berries, beans and sesame, and artistic paintings are made from the grain. Greeks often use molds with motifs of religious content, so they sprinkle powdered sugar and cinnamon over it, in order to get a beautiful image. They also use silver decorative edible beads and blanched almonds for decoration. In our country, however, the most common is the simple decoration of the cross made of whole or half walnuts.