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