Wednesday, May 18, 2011

ŽITO ~ Koljivo for Parastos ~ Slavsko Žito ~ Memorial Wheat

One of my favorite recollections as a child at church was to stay for memorial services for the departed, after regular liturgy, and then eat the koljivo out of little white cups in the back of the church. I know, weird, huh? My brother and I loved the stuff! If there were 2 families, we’d wait in line to try them both. Whenever I make ground wheat for Slava, Patron Saint Day (Slavsko Žito), I make extra because my family loves it for breakfast with yoghurt or for dessert…more recipes to come on that later.

During memorial services (for Greeks and Serbians: Parastos), the family or friends of the departed will prepare the koljivo which is placed in front of the memorial table before which the service is chanted. The wheat for Slava and the wheat for parastos (Koljivo) are two different things. In both cases, the wheat symbolizes resurrection and eternal life (St. John 12:24); however, Slavsko zhito is prepared for the glory and honor of the Saint and for the repose of the souls of those departed members of the family who commemorated that Saint. We do not pray for the soul of the Patron Saint, but we pray that he or she intercede to the Lord our God for the forgiveness of our sins. Therefore, you should never place a candle in the Slavsko zhito.

Christ reminded us that except a grain of wheat die it cannot rise again, even as it was necessary that He die, be buried, and on the third day rise again so that we all can triumph over death.

For more info:
For more info on Slava please visit Mim B's wonderful site:

Memorial services are usually held on the fortieth day after the repose of an Orthodox Christian, as well as on the one-year anniversary. No written church rule exists, but the wheat is customarily left whole for parastos …”Nemoj mleti (meljeti) dušu ……“don’t grind the soul” is/was an old wives tale!!! You can grind it if you wish or use mixed grains as I do. When you cook the whole wheat, especially the hulled wheat, it pops open anyway. Today you can find wheat with the shell removed in health food store or in any import stores….so much easier to cook, less than an hour as opposed to 3 to 4 hours. My husband’s aunt only used fine cracked (bulgur) wheat which really didn’t need cooked. Sometimes only boiling water was enough.
More here:

Whole grain on left, cracked, and hulled grain on the right(Note it is lighter in color)

Most recipes in old cookbooks are so confusing and tedious that it leaves young women not wanting to prepare koljivo. Remember, women had to leave the wheat to dry over night on a cloth so that it could be ground thru a meat grinder without making a mess. Then they had to add water or liquids to make it moist again once ground. The food processor has made this item a one day deal. Easy peasy. Don’t skimp on the nuts…..same amount of nuts to wheat. I’ve tasted some watered down koljivo before. It NEEDS nuts!

• 1 pound hulled wheat berries, or cracked wheat
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1 pound ground walnuts or almonds, finely ground, or pecans
• 1 ½ C white sugar or confectioners sugar or a combo (try Splenda)
• 2 T vanilla, rum or almond flavoring
• ¼ cup honey
• Splash of Amaretto liquor or rum (optional)
• 1/2 teaspoon clove or cinnamon to start with, may add more later


1. Place washed wheat in a large pot or Dutch oven and cover with several inches of water and let stand for 1 hour or overnight. Drain and refill with enough water in large pot. It is starchy and you want to add lots of water, just as you would with pasta.
2. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until tender. Add water if necessary. When wheat is done (anywhere from 60 minutes for shelled or hulled wheat to 3 to 4 hours for whole wheat), rinse in cool water and strain. Let the wheat stay in the strainer overnight if you are not in a hurry. You don’t need to dry it completely because you are going to grind it if you wish in a food processor.
3. Mix wheat with walnuts & sugar that you have ground fine in a food processor. Add flavoring and spices. Here’s is your chance to customize it. Practice different flavorings. I love the combo of ground almonds with some cinnamon, almond extract, honey & Amaretto. You may have to add more spices or sugar. Easier to add than be too sweet or cinnaminny... is that a word?. Let it sit for awhile and come back to it later once the flavors have absorbed.
Transfer to a large glass bowl (I use my best crystal bowl)and decorate with raisins, almonds, or nuts in the sign of the cross. Some people mound the koljivo to resemble a grave and cover completely with powdered sugar.



  1. thanks for posting this, Martha. I never knew how it was made. Do you think freshly grated orange rind might make a nice addition? I don't think I can make it there for my dad's service, but maybe I will make this here in Charleston to commemorate the occasion.

  2. gee, I just realized that today would be 40 days.

  3. Jenny, I told your brother that I would be pleased to make it! I'd add orange rind in the breakfast recipe....see the new post. I would be excellent

  4. This is an excellent thing to share, Martha. You're right. I remember how my mother-in-law used to boil the wheat and drain it three different times and leave it to drain like you said. So much easier now. Thanks again for sharing, and ESPECIALLY, for the tip of visiting the website for any "newbies" on here who haven't heard of it before. I appreciate it a lot. You're great! Thanks!

  5. This is a wonderful website! Thank you, Martha, for putting in the time, work and love to share these great traditions. Everyone who visits will benefit!

  6. My Mom's was great ! Yes orange rind , nutmeg , cloves , cinnamon , any or all of those spices ,
    Mound w light powdered sugar and a cross of
    Raisins . Yum ! She had to make a second one for my
    Young Son & his friends . Everyone loved it !