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Kolyva (Memorial Wheat)

Yields1 ServingPrep Time45 minsCook Time1 hrTotal Time1 hr 45 mins

A simple, adaptable recipe for Orthodox kolyva, or memorial wheat.

Kolyva or Memorial Wheat

 2 cups white or soft winter wheat berries
 ¼ cup monkfruit sweetener
 ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
 1 tsp ground cinnamon
 1 tsp ground coriander
 1 tsp ground cumin
 1 cup white raisins
 ¾ cup finely chopped walnuts or almonds (optional)
 1 cup finely ground zwieback toast or plain bread crumbs
 1 ¼ cups powdered sugar (10x confectioners)

The night before the memorial service:

Cover the wheat with 4 quarts of water in a large heavy pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer on low, uncovered, keeping the wheat covered with water. Stir occasionally until wheat becomes puffy and tender, about 1 hour.

While the wheat is boiling, prepare the other ingredients and set them aside/refrigerate them for the morning. If you are using zwieback crackers, process them in a food processor until they are the consistency of fine breadcrumbs. If you do not have a food processor, you can seal the crackers in a large Ziploc bag and crush them with a rolling pin.

Drain in colander and spread out to dry in a large baking pan or very large bowl for at least 6 hours (or overnight). (Note: Do NOT mix the wheat with the other ingredients yet. If you mix them together too early, your kolyva will turn mushy.)


The day of the memorial service:

Light a candle.

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except powdered sugar, zwieback/bread crumbs, and any decorations. Put the combined mixture in a bowl or tray and shape it into a heaping mound toward the center, pressing it smooth with the back of a large spoon.

Sprinkle bread crumbs evenly over the top of the mound, making sure the wheat is thoroughly covered. Place a sheet of wax paper on top and press down, sweeping your hands to smooth it out. (This layer of bread crumbs keeps the wheat's moisture contained, so it doesn't bleed out into the powdered sugar.)

Sift powdered sugar evenly over the crumb layer and press down with wax paper, as above.

Decorate the sugar layer with nuts (candied, blanched, etc.) or white raisins or pomegranates. If making kolyva for a Soul Saturday, decorate with a large cross in the center. For memorials (trisagions) for specific individuals, place a cross in the center, the initial of the deceased person's first name to the left of the cross, and the initial of his or her last name to the right of the cross. In either case you can decorate the edges of the kolyva however you like.

Bring the kolyva to church with you. If you are not sure where to place it, ask your priest.