Saturday, February 21, 2009

A Recipe for Koliva

Koliva is a boiled wheat dish traditionally used for the commemoration of the departed. The wheat is symbolic of the resurrection of the dead, reminding us of the Lord's words: " Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. " (John 12:24) The koliva is brought to the memorial divine liturgy, along with a list of names of our departed loved ones. At the end of the service, it is customary for families to hold their bowl of koliva while we all sing "Memory eternal." Many recipes and variants exist. Here is a standard recipe.

1.5 lb. wheat berries
1/2 - 3/4 c. chopped nuts (walnuts, almonds, pistachios, etc.)
1/2 - 3/4 c. raisins, golden or regular
1/4 c. chopped fresh mint (optional)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. sugar or honey

For the topping:
1 c. fine crumbs of graham crackers
1 c. sifted powdered sugar
1/4 - 1/2 lb. white Jordan Almonds (sugar-coated almonds) or yogurt covered almonds

The day before the Memorial Service:
  1. Rinse and drain the wheat. Cover with water and cook 3 hours or until tender, stirring often. Add more water if necessary. Do not overcook so that the grains explode.
  2. Drain and rinse under cold water.
  3. Allow to drain thoroughly. To dry wheat, spread out on double thickness of cloth. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon. Cover with another cloth and leave overnight.
The morning of the Memorial Service:
  1. Grind nuts and 1/2 cup graham crackers. Combine with wheat, raisins, sugar and spices.
  2. Transfer the mixture to the bowl to be taken to Church. Place a piece of waxed paper on top of the mixture and flatten the top so that it is evenly distributed.
  3. Sprinkle the remaining graham cracker crumbs evenly over the wheat mixture. This keeps the moisture from the powdered sugar layer.
  4. Sift the powdered sugar atop the crumb layer.
  5. Use the Jordan almonds to form a cross atop the powdered sugar. The edge of the bowl can be lined with Jordan almonds if desired.
Plan to be at Church before Liturgy begins so that you can give the bowl and a list of names of your deceased family and friends to the priest. A candle is often placed in the bowl and lit during the memorial service.

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