The Russian writer Ivan Sergeyevich Shmelev, who subtly and touchingly described in his prose in the Orthodox traditions of the Russian people, paid much attention to traditional festive dishes. So, in the story "Summer of the Lord," there is a narrative about the dishes that were prepared for the Christmas table. One of these dishes was uzvar (vzvar), a drink that, according to Shmelev, was prepared on Christmas Eve and made from prunes, pears and dried peaches and placed under icons - as a gift to Christ. Uzvar, along with Kutia (traditionally made from grains and dried fruit), was one of the ritual Christmas dishes, which has survived to this day.
In the old days, uzvar was always present on the tables of Russian people. It was a drink (or, rather, dessert) made from fresh and dried fruits, berries and herbs. The consistency of the uzvar resembled jelly. For thickening, starch or grain starter (wheat or oatmeal) was added to it. On holidays, an additional ingredient was wine or fruit and berry tinctures.
A variation of this traditional dessert drink was used as berry and fruit sauces for meat dishes. Vegetables (onions, cabbage), vinegar and honey were also added to those types of uzvars.
Uzvars, prepared to include a variety of herbs with the addition of honey, were also used as a medicine for colds or gastric disorders.
In addition to uzvars, popular drinks on the festive table have also included kvass, mead (a low-alcohol drink produced from honey) and sbiten.
What do they drink at Christmas in different countries?
Today, many countries have their own traditional Christmas drink. In Latin America, the United States and Canada, hot creamy drinks are prepared, such as egg nog (from milk, eggs, sugar and with the addition of strong alcohol).
In many European countries, the traditional Christmas drink is hot wine that includes a variety of spices (mulled wine or glogg). There are a great many recipes for such a drink, and they differ from each other in the amount of spices.
In warm countries, where there is no need for hot warming drinks, they prefer fresh cocktails from local types of alcohol with the addition of fruits and flower petals.
Uzvar in modern Russian cuisine
Today, due to the abundance of a variety of drinks and desserts on our tables, the Uzvars have practically sunk into oblivion. At the moment, most people not only do not cook this dish, but perhaps do not even know its name. However, until now, Uzvars were present in the church environment and constantly appeared on the tables as a ritual dish along with Kutia and sochivo. Traditionally, uzvar is prepared on the eve of holidays and during Lent as a Lenten dessert.
It must be said that due to its remarkable taste and health promoting properties, uzvars may well return to modern gastronomic reality, like many other traditional Russian dishes. Uzvars are nutritious, rich in vitamins and fully comply with the principles of healthy eating. Here are some simple recipes for cooking uzvar:
Uzvar can be prepared from both dry and fresh apples. For 3 liters of water you will need 500 g of fresh apples. Thoroughly wash the fruits and cut them into thin slices, removing the core. Then pour boiling water over the chopped apples, add spices (mint, cinnamon, cloves, etc.), cover with a lid and leave for 4-5 hours. After that, Uzvar from apples is ready.
To prepare uzvar from dried fruits, take 400-500 g of a variety of dried fruits (dried apricots, raisins, figs, dried oranges, apples, pears), half a cup of sugar, a tablespoon of starch or oat flour and a liter of water.
To begin, thoroughly wash the mixture of dried fruits, clean it from debris and separate dried apples and pears from the rest of the fruits. Once complete, pour water over apples and pears (since they cook the longest), add sugar and put the pan on the burner. Cook for 20 minutes, then pour in the remaining ingredients (raisins, dried apricots, prunes, figs, dried cherries, etc.) and cook for another 5 minutes. Next, dilute the starch (or flour) in cold water, pour into a saucepan and bring to a boil. At the end, add spices as desired (cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, star anise, etc.).
Uzvar from dried fruits, once ready, must be cooled and served cold.
Rosehip, or wild rose, is a rich source of vitamin C, so drinks from rose hips are a very effective tool for strengthening immunity and treating colds.
To prepare uzvar, you will need 40-50 dried rose hips, a liter of water, 2 tablespoons of honey and half a cup of sugar.
Wash the dried rosehips thoroughly and put them in boiling water. Cook for 3-4 minutes, then remove from the heat and let the uzvar brew under the closed lid for about half an hour. After that, add honey and sugar (If desired, sugar can be completely replaced with natural honey). Honey should be added only to the cooled drink in order to preserve all the useful properties.
There is no doubt that healthy nutrition plays a very important role in human life. And the Holy Fathers say that healthy nutrition is when a person eats with gratitude, prayer and spiritual sobriety.
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