Kutia celebrates the richness of the land and preceding year’s harvest and is only served at Ukrainian religious ceremonies of the greatest importance. While traditionally made with whole wheat berries, it can also be successfully constructed with any number of other cooked whole grains, such as spelt, emmer (farro), or Khorasan wheat (marketed under the trademarked name ‘Kamut’). We actually ran out of wheat berries, and used Khorasan wheat when making the batch of Kutia illustrated below. It tasted great. There is one special piece of equipment that we use when making our Kutia. All recipes call for ground poppy seed, and typically give directions that involve soaking poppy seeds in a hot liquid and then grinding in a food processor or blender. We find this approach simply does not work because the small size of poppy seeds does not allow them to be ground by the spinning blades. We ultimately ordered a hand-cranked poppy seed mill from Lehman Hardware in Dalton, Ohio. It is now being sold as a flax-seed mill. We love the ground poppy seed paste that comes from ours.
Learn more about Ukrainian Christmas traditions and find even more vegan holiday meals at A Ukrainian Christmas Eve.
• 1-1/2 cups dry wheat berries (or other whole grain)
• 4+ cups water
• 3/4 cup poppy seeds, ground
• 2/3 cup slivered almonds
• 1/2 cup honey
• 1/2 cup dry apricots, chopped
• 1/2 cup raisins
• 1/2 cup dry, tart cherries
• Ground cinnamon, to taste
1. Place wheat berries and water into a pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook over low heat until the wheat is very tender, at least 3 hours. Make sure there is at least 1 inch of water covering the wheat berries at all times. A crock-pot set on low heat works very well for this step.
2. Grind poppy seeds. Toast slivered almonds on a baking sheet for 3-5 minutes in a 350 degrees Fahrenheit oven until light golden brown.
3. Drain the cooked wheat, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid. Add honey to the reserved liquid and mix well.
4. Mix all ingredients together and bake uncovered in a 325 degrees oven for 20 minutes.
5. Remove from oven, cover, and let sit for another 15 minutes. Top with a dusting of ground cinnamon. May be served either hot or cold.
Note: You can (and should) grow your own poppy seed. Try the Hungarian Blue Breadseed Poppy.
Jeff Nekola has a PhD in Ecology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and has a passion for biodiversity in its many forms. You can learn more here.
Linda Fey’s first and finest childhood memories are of helping her mother and grandmother in the garden and then bringing in freshly picked produce to the dinner table. As an adult, she has over 20 years of experience in market gardening and teaches middle-school English. Visit www.LindaFey.com to view her writing about food and life.