Maslenitsa

 

This year, on March 11, 2013 my family and I will celebrate Russian folk holiday by the name Maslenitsa (means butter week). Let me begin first by telling you what this holiday means and then talk about its history.

Maslenitsa is an Eastern Slavic religious and folk holiday. It is celebrated during the last week before Great Lent—that is, the seventh week before Eastern Orthodox Easter. Maslenitsa corresponds to the Western Christian Carnival, except that Orthodox Lent begins on a Monday instead of a Wednesday, and the Orthodox date of Easter can differ greatly from the Western Christian date.

Maslenitsa has its origins in both pagan and Christian traditions. In Slavic mythology, Maslenitsa is a celebration of the imminent end of the winter.

On the Christian side, Maslentisa is the last week before the onset of Great Lent. During the week of Maslenitsa, meat is already forbidden to Orthodox Christians, making it a meat free week. It is the last week during which milk, cheese and other dairy products are permitted, leading to its other name of “Cheese-fare week” or “Pancake week”. During Lent, meat, fish, dairy products and eggs are forbidden. Furthermore, Lent also excludes parties, secular music, dancing and other distractions from the spiritual life. Thus, Maslenitsa represents the last chance to eat dairy products and participate in those social activities that are not appropriate during the more prayerful, sober and introspective Lent season.

The last day of Cheese-fare Week is called “Forgiveness Sunday”, indicating the desire for God’s forgiveness that lies at the heart of Great Lent. At Vespers on Sunday evening, all the people make a prostration before one another and ask for forgiveness, and Great Lent begins in the spirit of reconciliation and Christian love. Another name for Forgiveness Sunday is “Cheese-fare Sunday,” because for devout Orthodox Christians, it is the last day on which dairy products may be consumed until Easter. Fish, wine and olive oil will also be forbidden on most days of Great Lent. The day following Cheese-fare Sunday is called Clean Monday, because everyone has confessed their sins, asked for forgiveness, and begun Great Lent with a clean slate.

Based on those traditions my family’s celebration includes baking a lot of pancakes (crêpes) and inviting our friends to our house. I’m the one who is responsible for making crêpes and I enjoy the process a lot. My husband is always around while I’m making the crêpes, so he can have one right out of the hot pan, because that is when they are the most delicious. We eat crêpes with different filings, and the most popular is with red caviar and sour cream.

This year we actually started our Butter week earlier and I made crêpes this week, since we all missed the taste of wonderful crêpes.

Here is a recipe of the crêpes for about 20 servings.

12 oz of flour

4 cups of milk 2%

3 eggs

1 teaspoon of salt

1 tablespoon of sugar

1 once of grape oil

Approximately ¼ lbs of butter

 

Directions

In a small bowl, combine the milk, eggs and butter. Combine flour and salt; add to milk mixture and mix well.

Lightly butter 8-inch skillet; heat over medium heat until bubbly.

For each crepe, pour 2 tablespoons batter into skillet; immediately rotate skillet until batter covers bottom.

Cook until golden brown.

Run wide spatula around edge to loosen; turn and cook other side until golden brown.

Stack crepes in a flat dish and pour 1 teaspoon melted butter to each crêpe.

And enjoy!

 

2 Responses to Maslenitsa

  • I can honestly say I’m generally quite fearless in the kitchen. To me, recipes are for the most part a set of instructions. And I’m good with following instructions. You read, you measure, you chop/mix/whatever… and eventually you get to eat. My favorite! But then there were blini…
    …making them scared me. Seriously scared me. Blini (Russian crepes) is absolutely my most favorite breakfast. I just love these buttery crepes dipped in sweet condensed milk or sour cream with jam. Love. So a few years back (when I had very little interest in cooking actually, so this memory surprises me), I asked my mom to show me how to make them.
    The batter was a piece of cake – mix some flour, eggs, milk (or cream), a pinch of sugar and salt and you’re ready to go. Easy! This is where things got a little scary. You pour the batter into a hot pan and very quickly have to tilt it to form the perfect circle. My batter was forming all sorts of shapes, dripping all over the place. Scary. Every time my mom gave it a go, hers were perfect. Mine not so much. Making crepes is all about technique which of course comes with practice (sort of hard for the perfectionist in me to wrap my hands around – I want to be perfect right away. Damn reality!) I gave up pretty fast.
    Since that day I figured I was just not a natural blini maker. And then I decided to conquer my fear and go for it. For the blog! Lucky for you, I think I figured out what went wrong that day. It was the pan. My mom’s super old cast iron skillet didn’t have a smooth enough surface for the batter to slide around effortlessly. She was used to it (she’s been making blini for years, on that same pan!) but unless you are an expert cook or want to have a blini-free life paralyzed by fear of trying to make them again (which I don’t recommend), I say use a good non-stick pan, and then oil it before each blin. It may take a few blini to get the hang of it, but then you’ll be banging them out like a pro. I promise!

  • Jose Alvarez says:

    Hi Xenia, I am glad that you have so much fun cooking. I have had the opportunity to taste your crepes in two different semesters. The first time was in our Accounting 2 class and this semester in our Business 32. I think it is great that you can connect with your family by giving them a good delicacy at the same time.

    Thank you for sharing your recipe. It is very detailed and I love the pictures. I am a really bad cook and I only know how to make a few things, so it seems like we are eating the same thing every week; however, I am going to try to follow your recipe and I know my kids are going to love them!

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