Russian Season


Russian, Eastern European and international cuisine brought to you by a mother and a daughter

Cranberry Kisel

Cranberry Kisel

Kisel (kee-‘sel) is a thick, starchy drink made mostly of fruit and berries. Kisel can be also made of oats or wheat, which I wouldn’t dare to try. I do admit that this can be really healing for a diseased stomach though. What’s interesting is that oatmeal kisel is one of the oldest Russian dishes ever. There’s a legend telling about an ancient Russian city besieged by nomadic tribes and suffering from famine until an old sage told the citizens to collect all remaining oats and all honey they could still find in their cellars. The citizens did as the wise man told them and brewed kisel from the oats, and sweet drink from the honey. They made two new water wells and filled them with kisel and honey drink, then invited a delegation of nomads, showed them the wells full of drink and kisel, and assured the guests that they had enough food to survive. The nomads were astonished at the fact that Russians obtained food directly from their land and told their king about the miracle. The situation seemed pretty hopeless. The siege was raised, and the nomads went away in search of a different city to conquer.

There’s also the expression “Milk rivers and kisel shores” in the Russian language, which is used to describe carefree and prosperous life.

You see how important this drink is in Russian culture?

You can have kisel as a soothing drink or serve it with cream of rice, rice pudding, oatmeal cream, or with all kinds of mousse, cream, and custard. In our next post, we will be talking about whipped vanilla custard with cranberry kisel. Kisel is also a pretty widespread dish/drink here in Latvia. They even sell dry kisel mix in stores (never tried that as it’s very simple to prepare from scratch). At my office canteen, they manage to serve nearly every dessert with kisel (ķīselis). It’s a little bit unusual for me to have my apple pie sunk in kisel, but generally it’s nice. And it’s so healthy.

Please note that in this recipe we are using wild cranberries picked in the forest – they contain much more acid and are very juicy inside. Is you use farm cranberries, consider adding less sugar.



1 ½ cup wild cranberries
1 ½ cup sugar
100g potato starch
1.8 l filtered water + 100 ml cold water


Wild Cranberries

Wild Cranberries

Wash and crush the cranberries.

Crushed Cranberries

Place crushed berries into a saucepan and add sugar. Pour 1.8 l boiling water over the cranberries, keep them on high heat until bubbles appear, then bring heat to medium low and keep the mix boiling gently for about 10 minutes. The colour of crushed berry skins will fade as they boil, and you can stop whenever you feel like the berries have given all of their juices and flavour.

In the meantime, dissolve the starch in 100ml cold water.

Starch in water

When cranberry mix is ready, pass it through a sieve to get rid of berry skins and return the hot juice into the saucepan. Keep it on medium low heat and slowly pour in the starch mix. This is the crucial moment and you’ve got to keep stirring kisel as you add more starch, and stir well afterwards. The better you stir the better the texture of your kisel will be. Because you want no lumps in it, right? You want it glossy and creamy. After you’ve added starch, just bring kisel to boil and set to cool.

Brewing Kisel

A thin skin might appear on the surface of kisel after it’s cooled, just remove it!


Cranberry Kisel

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Category: Beverage, Russian



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24 Responses

  1. [...] when it’s served with kisel (speaking about kisel, it’s one of the oldest Russian dishes and it is even known to have saved a city!). It doesn’t contain a lot of fat, and whipped egg whites* that are added in the end make it even [...]

  2. Sofya says:

    This is such a wonderful, useful, blog and I want to make this kisel! It’s been years and years and YEARS since I had it! But I’ve thought about it every once in a while. I had all the elderberries to do it with (buzina?)

    I have a teeny-tiny suggestion though:

    When you have your recipes only nestled b/w pictures, it’s hard to print them. I think it would be wonderful if you could provide a consolidated version of the recipe at the end of the post, so people like me would just “copy/paste” the recipe into text edit and print it. I find it hard to hunt for the bits of text b/w the pictures and to gather them together myself and do multiple copy/paste actions.


    • Alina says:

      Sofya I found a nice Print-this plugin so now there’s a Print link at the end of each post! Thanks for your feedback! ;-)

  3. Sofya says:

    What I mean is it’s great having captions nestled b/w pictures AND a full recipe in the end. Thanks!

  4. Alina says:

    Sofya oh yeah I’ve been meaning to turn on some kind of “Print this page” widget for months but I still haven’t done this, I absolutely agree with you that these posts are quite impossible to print out… I could try to follow your suggestion and post a consolidated version of a recipe in each post… perhaps that’s going to be easier than messing with the widgets and modules!
    As for Kisel, I found out recently that they make something similar in Sweden, I think it’s called rosehip soup!

  5. [...] (milk rivers and kisel shores) is used when talking about a carefree life, according to Russian Season, where you can also find a recipe to make your own cranberry [...]

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