Monday, 18 August 2014

Spasa - Ukrainian Fruit Harvest

As summer’s finale begins in the latter half of August, so does an extremely important set of three religious dates in the Ukrainian calendar which are known collectively as ‘Spas or Spasa’.  These are also referred to as ‘Saviour Days’ and respectively celebrate the harvesting of honey, apples and nuts.
The most important festival of the trinity is the Second Spas, religiously known as the ‘Feast of Transfiguration of Christ’ or is commonly known as ‘Apple Spas’ and is celebrated on 19 August marking the year’s apple/fruit harvest.
In the Ukraine and in Ukrainian communities worldwide, baskets of apples are taken to church and are blessed in a special mass and then afterwards, are eaten and/or cooked as part of the festivities.
As with every festival, in the Ukraine, each region, village or family would celebrate it in their respective way and I have often been told of my family’s memories of spasa.  In the region of Zboriw, Spasa was celebrated with extreme enthusiasm and my father as a young boy would eagerly anticipate the arrival of the funfair carousel that was enjoyed during the Spasa season and which was one of the area’s annual highlights.  Equally, my maternal Grandmother observed a ritual whereby she wouldn’t eat any of her apple harvest until it had been blessed and only then would she enjoy her crop.
As Apple Spasa approaches, it creates the perfect opportunity to enjoy the harvest yield and perhaps make a Ukrainian apple cake classic such as Yabluchnyk - an ideal accompaniment with coffee or as dessert for a late summer picnic.

Yabluchnyk (Ukrainian Apple Cake)
Recipe Acknowledgement - Adapted from:


210g plain flour, sifted
50g sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
100g butter, diced
1 egg
60ml evaporated milk
4 apples




* Pre-heat the oven to 190°C or Gas mark 4/5.
* Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder into a bowl then stir in the sugar to combine.
* Add the diced butter and rub in with your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. * Separately, beat together the egg and the evaporated milk.
* Add this to the flour mix a little at a time, until the mixture comes together a firm dough.
* Transfer the dough into a greased baking tray (suggested size: 25 x 20 cm) and pat into the base and sides.
* Peel and core the apples then cut into thin slices.
* Cover the pastry base with the apple slices.
* Combine the topping ingredients of sugar and cinnamon in a separate bowl and scatter this mixture over the layer of apples.
* Dot a little butter at various points across the apples to help with the baking process.
* When ready, transfer the cake onto the middle shelf of the oven and bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until the pastry is golden and the apples are cooked.
* Serve hot with sour cream.
Note: This article and recipe have also been published in the Ukrainian Thought newspaper, printed in London for Ukrainians and those of Ukrainian descent in the UK.

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