Monday, December 24, 2018

Baltic Christmas Day 24 - Priecīgus Ziemassvētkus!


Priecīgus Ziemassvētkus! Linksmų Kalėdų! Häid jõule!

This 5th edition of the series comes on the heels of the centennial year for the three Baltic countries, and I hope we’ve captured the celebratory sprit as well as our eternal pride in our heritage over the course of the past month. I’m forever grateful to everyone who has contributed: in the form of posts, photographs, illustrations, interviews and ideas. As to the readers, the friends who commented and translated, and those who put me in contact with bloggers and authors all over the world, a heartfelt thank you as the series would not have been a success without you. A special mention to artist ZILGMA for the uniquely Baltic logo that is the face of the series, and to Roberts and my boys for their patience with me while I worked on the perpetual tasks vital to 24 Days of a Baltic Christmas.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed the series! If you tried one of the recipes, fashioned a craft, perused the calendar and gift guide, or just read your way through the Baltics this month, I hope you’ll leave a review on the Facebook page, as well as bookmark the page for next year. We are always taking suggestions of topics and contributors as well, please get in touch with any questions and comments!

Photo: Katram savu tautastērpu

On this final day of 24 Days of a Baltic Christmas, a look back at all the wonderful contributions we’ve seen this month. We kicked off 24 Days of a Baltic Christmas with a short introduction, then on Day 2 took a look at some of the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian Christmas markets taking place across the US, Canada, Australia and Europe.


On Day 3, a 24 Days Baltic Holiday Checklist, full of activities to help fill your days with holiday cheer. On the 4th Day of a Baltic Christmas we welcomed Baltic Imports with a gift guide; from something to bring the hostess of the next holiday party, to gifts for the Balts on your Christmas list, the 2018 24 Days Baltic Gift Guide has it all.


Sauerkraut, 2 ways via LatvianEats

Food blogger Latvian Eats joined us on Day 5 with a seasonal favorite, sauerkraut – not one, but two ways! Then on Day 6 we featured author Sandra from blog VeganSandra with a vegan alternative to the Estonian Christmas dinner favorite, blood sausage.

Vegan blood sausage via VeganSandra

Day 7 was a collection of Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian blogs, Facebook and Instagram pages, Pinterest boards, and other websites with spectacular Baltic landscapes and plenty of holiday cheer! Then we hopped up to Washington on Day 8 with artist Kristi O and her miniature mushrooms, a product of her creative talents and Estonian heritage.

Kristi O's mushrooms


Day 9 brought a collection of Baltic-inspired crafts. Then the essay “The Infinite Manifestations of Home” on Day 10 from contributor Ērika Veidis, a Latvian living in the United States. 

Ērika Veidis on the Infinite Manifestations of Home
Nine years of Yule dinner in Estonia, via Tulen Loobin Su Katusele Kive

Annika, of the blog Tulen Loobin Su Katusele Kive joined us on Day 11 with a photographic journey through nine years of Estonian Yule dinners. Then on Day 12 we welcomed Margaret of the blog Balt in the box room with her fish tale of the pitfalls of buying a carp for Christmas.

The pitfalls of buying a carp for Christmas, via Balt in a box room

On Day 13 of the series we welcomed Baņuta Rubess with her article Dec. 21: Lighten Up! concerning the Latvian tradition of pulling the log on winter solstice. Then on Day 14, An ode to verivorstid from another new contributor, Andres Simonson, courtesy of Estonian World.

An ode to verivortid!


On Day 15 we made tin can lanterns to celebrate the arrival of the Peace Light, the live flame that travels the world sharing its message of peace and hope. Then we discussed the similarities and differences of the Lithuanian and Latvian Christmas dinners on Day 16, comparing the food traditions of Kūčios and Ziemassvētki. On Day 17 we welcomed back contributor Kristīna, as she deciphered the mystery of candied cranberries; you can find her recipe for dzērveņu dzirksteles (cranberry sparks) here.

Kristīnas cranberry sparks

We journeyed into the world of Baltic libations with a miniseries during the third week of the series. Beginning with Lithuanian krupnikas on Day 18, then black currant liqueur on Day 19, and finally Tāle's Sunshine Coast Black Balsam recipe on Day 20!

Tāles Sunshine Coast Black Balsam
source: Wikipedia commons

On Day 21 we celebrated the winter solstice with a collection of resources concerning the traditions on this longest night of the year. Food blogger Isabelle from Crumb: A Food Blog joined the series on Day 22 with her post Debesmannā

Debesmannā via Crumb: A Food Blog

Finally on Day 23, we featured J. Daugirdas of Draugas News with his translation of Kalėdinė and the Magic Harmonica, the Lithuanian story of magical Kūčios night.


I hope you enjoyed the fifth year of 24 Days of a Baltic Christmas! We’re thankful to once again have been a part of your holiday preparations, and hope you found some Yule/Ziemassvētki/Kūčios spirit here on Femme au Foyer. I wish you and yours a very merry Christmas, and all the best in 2019.

Until next year,
Your Femme au Foyer

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Baltic Christmas Day 23 - Kalėdinė and the Magic Harmonica

The time surrounding the winter solstice is magical for the Balts; it was thought that on Ziemassvētki the animals could talk, and unexplainable things happen during the night. For example, in the Latvian Christmas story by Margarita Stāraste Barvika, everyday kitchen objects get a life of their own – the night holds a magic all its own. On the series a few years ago, Barbara Tedrow described her family’s Kūčios traditions, including reading Kalėdinė and the Magic Harmonica by Aloyzas Baronas. 

“My granddaughter Sophie snapped me out of my daydream. ‘Ouma, I’m ready for our reader’s theatre after dinner,’ Sophie whispered… Kalėdinė and the Magic Harmonica by Aloyzas Baronas was new to her. In the story, Kūčios was so special that at midnight the animals could talk. Sophie was doing her best to be patient, but the dinner celebration on the longest night of the year was turning into a personal endurance test…”

Today on 24 Days of a Baltic Christmas we are joined by J. Daugirdas of Draugas News. Having received a request for stories to read to children about the magic of the season, they published the short story written by Aloyzas Baronas, Kalėdinė armonika, along with a translation. Thank you to Draugas News for permission to publish an excerpt of the Christmas Harmonica!


A HARMONICA FOR CHRISTMAS

Aloyzas Baronas

Translated by J. Daugirdas

These events took place back in Lithuania. Kaziukas was small then and was not yet of school age. He would spend his days playing with his younger sister Elenutė. Some time before Christmas, Kaziukas’ Auntie brought him a gift – a beautiful ball painted with red and green flowers. Auntie warned him, “Kaziuk, you tend to lose your toys. If you manage to not lose this ball that I’m giving you, and don’t puncture or otherwise wreck it, for Christmas I’ll buy you a harmonica. “A real harmonica?” asked Kaziukas. “Yes, indeed,” replied his aunt, “A genuine harmonica, but a smaller one, just your size.”

Kaziukas promised to be good. He obeyed his parents, avoided teasing his sister Elenutė, did not throw any rocks at the rooster, did not pull the cat by its ears, didn’t ride the family dog Margis like a horse, and in general was on his best behavior, as he really needed this harmonica.

But then, just before Christmas, Kaziukas noticed that his ball was gone! He had actually grown tired of playing with the ball, and so it was only just before the holidays that he thought about it. He searched under all the beds and in all the nooks and crannies, but the ball was nowhere to be found! Kaziukas was in a panic. What would happen if Auntie found out that the gifted ball was no more? His Christmas harmonica would never be bought!

Still worrying about his ball, Kaziukas realized that it was Christmas Eve. Everyone was preparing for Christmas, but Kaziukas could focus on only one thought: now he might not be getting his harmonica, if Auntie found out that Kaziukas indeed did not take good care of his presents and toys.

On the day before Christmas, Auntie, speaking with Mom and Dad said, “Tonight, don’t forget to listen to what our horse will say, for on the night before Christmas all animals gain the gift of speech.” Mother said, “You’re joking, of course – I’ve never heard our animals talk!” Auntie was unfazed: “You didn’t hear them because you never listened. They do indeed talk.” “Tonight you’ll be able to listen to them,” smiled Father. “Then you’ll know for sure.”

Everyone laughed, while Kaziukas thought that maybe it would be worthwhile to go to the family dog Margis after nightfall and ask Margis if maybe he saw where his ball was Margis runs around all over the place, knows a lot, and has a keen sense of smell.

But to get out of bed in the deep of the night – is cold and frightening. Or maybe the cat would talk to him this night? The cat is always lolling about in the kitchen. But who would the cat talk to, as it spends most of its time alone? Although – perhaps the cat could speak to itself, like Auntie sometimes talks to herself? And is a cat an animal? Kaziukas’ mind was going ’round and ’round on this, and finally, he asked his mother, who was busily working around the stove. “Mom, is our cat an animal?” Mother answered while putting something into the oven, “What are you asking? Of course a cat is an animal. A small one, but an animal, nonetheless.”

After the Christmas Eve repast, everyone went to sleep except Kaziukas, who listened and listened. He waited until the clock struck the hour 12 times and then silently, he left his bed. The cold air doused him as if it were water, but on tiptoe he reached the kitchen. Next to the stove gleamed the green eyes of his cat. It appeared that the cat had been awakened by Kaziukas’ steps. Quietly, Kaziukas bent down and whispered directly into the cat’s ear, “Hey, cat, did you see where my ball went?” But the cat was frightened by Kaziukas’ unexpected moves. It jumped up and swatted Kaziukas’ on the cheek with its paw. Kaziukas jumped back, rubbing his face, which now was quite sore. Kaziukas tapped the cat on the head and, with a stinging nose, went back to bed. Kaziukas couldn’t fall asleep for quite some time. He was thinking: “I doubt that the cat scratched me deeply. Maybe tomorrow there won’t be any mark.”…


For the full translation, as well as the original Lithuanian tale, please see the Draugas News article, Aloyzas Baronas and the Christmas harmonica taleDRAUGAS (Friend) is a Lithuanian newspaper published in the United States since July 12, 1909, and is the oldest continuously published Lithuanian newspaper anywhere in the world. To learn more, please visit their website; you can find Draugas on facebook here.
  
Draugas News has also published an index of the 24 Days of a Baltic Christmas, with all five years of the series including titles and links to each article, listed by year. You can find the index here: Femme au Foyer – 24 Days of a Baltic Christmas.

As our countdown to Christmas draws to a close, we invite you to join us tomorrow on 24 Days of a Baltic Christmas for one final day of celebration!

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Baltic Christmas Day 22 - Debesmannā! (Latvian cranberry mouse)

This article originally appeared in December, 2013 on the blog Crumb. Reprinted with permission. Please welcome Isabelle Boucher to the series!


Secret Recipe Club: Debesmanna (Latvian Cranberry Mousse)


It’s hard to believe it’s already been a month, but yes, it’s Secret Recipe Club time again!

My assignment for December is Culinary Adventures with Cam, a blog by Camilla, a scuba-diving, jewelry-making, photo-taking mama from the Monterey Bay area.

I’ve been reading Cam’s blog for a while, after first discovering it through past SRC reveals. I admire her knack for finding interesting flavour combinations ( this delicious-looking Salted Fennel Pollen Shortbread), her seriously ambitious dinner party menus (I mean, look at this masterpiece of a Thanksgivukkah menu!), and her willingness to try new cuisines, no matter how obscure or unfamiliar they might be (I mean, did you even know there’s a place called Kiribati, let alone what they eat there? Because I sure didn’t.)


I hadn’t gotten around to cooking any of her recipes yet, though, so this was as good a time as any.

Cam has literally thousands of recipes to choose from in her archives, but the one that really caught my eye was the Latvian Debesamanna, a very simple cranberry mousse made from just three ingredients – cranberry juice, sugar and cream of wheat cereal. The trick is to whip the cooked mixture for several minutes as it cools, transforming the dark magenta sludge into an airy cotton-candy-pink cloud.


Cam used rice cereal for her version, but I decided to stick with the traditional cream of wheat, since I was pretty sure that the magical transformation in this dessert owes everything to wheat gluten – the elastic strands catch and hold the air as it’s being whipped in, much like the proteins in egg whites or the fat in whipping cream.

And, as you can see, my suspicions were right… it really does come out that brilliant shade of princess pink! (Honest, the colour in these photos is entirely un-retouched.)


It’s a surprisingly delicious dish, and totally unlike any dessert I’ve ever had before. Despite the airy texture that is nothing at all like the stodgy cream of wheat we all know and (kinda sorta) love, it still feels substantial and filling. It’s sweet and tart all at once, and the optional splash of milk adds a cool creaminess that helps to temper that tangy cranberry flavour.

I suppose a dollop of whipped cream on top might also be rather nice, if you wanted to dress things up, but I felt like keeping it simple, particularly since followed Cam’s advice and gobbled it down for breakfast.


I mean, when you think about it, as pretty and fluffy and pink as this dish might be, it’s still just cereal with fruit juice and a splash of milk. Right? :)

//

For Isabelle’s debesmannā recipe, please visit her blog Crumb. She can also be found on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

As we reach the final days of the series and are busy with the last Christmas preparations, I hope you find a moment here and there to relax, breathe deeply, and enjoy the season. Tomorrow on 24 Days of a Baltic Christmas we’ll bring you a holiday story from Lithuania – I hope you’ll join us!

Friday, December 21, 2018

Baltic Christmas Day 21 - Winter Solstice!

Today is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year; add to that a full moon and meteor shower, and it is bound to be a magical night! Many seasonal Latvian traditions originated in the ancient pagan celebrations of the winter solstice, and over the centuries these old pagan traditions not only survived, but have been incorporated into the Christian celebration. From pulling the log to decorating the house, we’ve compiled a list of resources of things you need to know to usher in the New Year and herald the return of the sun!

Photo: Wikipedia commons, credit Spekozols

To ward off the darkness, cold, last year's mishaps, bad work and thoughts, people pull a Yule log from one farm to another and then burn it, symbolizing the beginning of a new year. Baņuta gives us the details in her post Dec. 21 – Lighten Up!, and the article Day 22, Winter Solstice features additional options for the bluķa vilkšana. For those living in the city, the Light 'n Go Bonfire Logs from Home Depot are from the Baltics, burn quickly, and have handy pre-cut slots. 


In ancient Latvia, Ziemassvētki celebrated the rebirth of the Sun Maiden. Traditional celebrations included participating in ķekatas (also known as budēļi kaļadas, similar to mumming), when people dressed up costumes and went from house to house singing, dancing, and playing games. The traditional costumes varied, but popular choices were animals such as a horse, bear or crane. The ķekatas are believed to bring luck to the households that they visit, scaring away evil spirits in the process with the loud singing and carousing, and are warmly welcomed with food and drink. More on the budēļi tradition in Imanta’s post A Baltic Christmas Day 4 – Čigāni!


The saimnieks and saimniece at each house would treat the guests – whether they be ķekatnieki or log pullers – with food and drink. One traditional food that was served was the pig’s head; learn to make your own with the article A Pig’s Head for a Winter Solstice Dinner.

Christmas and the winter solstice is traditionally a magical time in all three of the Baltic countries, and nowhere is this magic more evident than in the natural world and the Baltic customs surrounding animals. Read more about these traditions in the post Christmastime Animal Stories and Superstitions.

It is also a time for fortune-telling, merrymaking and games. Here Daina discussed the role of ziemas saulgrieži in her holiday celebrations: Day 16 and the Winter Solstice

Daiva addresses some of the Lithuanian traditions in her article Lithuanian Pre-Christian Rituals and Superstitions in Today’s Catholic Celebration


May you have a wonderful winter solstice celebration, and please join us tomorrow for debessmannā


Thursday, December 20, 2018

Baltic Christmas Day 20 - Tāle's Sunshine Coast Black Balsam

This week on 24 Days of a Baltic Christmas we read about a black currant liqueur and Lithuanian krupnikas, but the series would be neglectful in not mentioning the Latvian drink, melnais balzāms. Joining us today is Tāle, to tell us more about this drink that has become well known even outside of Latvia…


As an Australian Latvian-Estonian (1st/2nd generation), I have always been involved in the Australian Baltic Community. My family & parents (Dad is Estonian & Mum Latvian) were heavily involved in the Brisbane Baltic Community as I was growing up. As it is with little ones, we always went with them and as such you cannot help but soak up the culture and traditions. By choice I started playing the kokle at 11 (1988) in the Brisbane group ‘Zigrīda,’ and started folk dancing the same year with ‘Senatne’. My oldest & bestest friends are Baltic, as that is who I grew up with. My first trip back to the Baltic States to visit family was in 1993, just after they gained their independence. Our family was fortunate enough to celebrate a true Jāņi with our Latvian family - an experience I will never forget!

My Vecmāmiņa & Vanaema were both wonderful cooks and taught my Mum, Dad, sisters and I how to cook all the traditional Latvian & Estonian dishes. These were usually at or before big family event days to make for celebrations. Although they both rarely wrote down their recipes, I am forever thankful we ‘pestered’ them to verbally tell us what they used and then wrote them down - as they truly are a family legacy to be passed down to future generations. Nowadays my Mum, sisters and I each have our ‘specialities’ and that in itself lends to expertise. These recipes from my Vecmāmiņa and Vanaema were the start of my own Baltic Recipe Book I use to this day.


As we got older, as you do in life, we all drifted into new adventures, had our own families and being close to our Latvian/Estonian Community hall was just not as feasible anymore. But I have missed the Latvian/Estonian community and have sought out ways to keep my sense of ‘Baltic Spirit’. Throughout the years I have tried to keep all the Latvian/Estonian traditions alive by teaching my children how to cook the traditional dishes, kept up my kokle playing, I have added to my own cooking skills and have also branched out into making modern Baltic pottery - Oak & Sea Ceramics. My Mum & I have taught my children about the annual celebration days and also some of the history (including the old gods). It is important to teach heritage and traditions to the next generation. I very much hope my kids will pass what they remember on to their children.

Over the years I have added to my Baltic Recipe Book with my own recipes. My version of the Riga Black Balsam (Latvian: Rīgas Melnais balzāms) started about 5 years ago from an obvious shortage of the drink in my household - and no one we knew going over to Latvia any time soon to bring some back! I spent some time researching on the internet, found some articles, and came up with credible and accessible ingredient list. So, I started with that.

The original Riga Black Balsam recipe was made by a pharmacist in the 18th century, and was most famously used for Queen Catherine the Great upon a visit to Riga, Latvia where she became ill. The original recipe was lost in WW2. After the war the recipe was carefully restored by a joint effort of former employees, and since then the recipe has remained unchanged. The recipe in itself is incredibly full of healing ingredients for colds and flu.


After many annual batches, I have fine-tuned my recipe so it tastes almost as good as the real thing – the last batch sold out at the recent Brisbane Latvian Christmas Markets! So here is my recipe that I would like to share:

Tāle’s Sunshine Coast Black Balsam


1. Fill a glass jar to 2/3 full with a combination of dry and fresh ingredients from this list*:
- Elderberries (a must for colour and taste)
- Cloves
- Lavender
- Nutmeg
- Star Anise
- Cinnamon
- Orange & Lemon rind (no pith as it will make it bitter)
- Vanilla Bean
- Rosemary
- Black Peppercorns
- Raspberries
- Cranberries
- Mint
- Ginger
- Lemon Myrtle (Aussie Touch!)
- Valerian
- St. John’s Wort
2. Add a 1/2 + 1/2 combination of 40% proof unflavoured vodka and brandy to completely cover ingredients
3. Leave to macerate for 8-12 weeks, shake daily
4. When ready, strain though a chux (muslin cloth) and sieve
5. If you like, add honey to taste & whisk through
6. Bottle in sterilised jars and keep for 12 months

* As with any recipe, you can tweak it to favour any flavour you would like, for example by adding cherries to make Cherry balzāms etc...

I hope you have enjoyed my article, Merry Christmas to my wider Baltic Community and wishing everyone a Happy & Safe New Year!

Cheers, Tāle Kai Liiv 😊


Thank you Tāle, for joining us on the series with your recipe! We’ve tried making krupnikas and the black currant liqueur, I think the next logical step is balzāms! Now about the lemon myrtle, we’ve got wax myrtle over here in our neck of the woods, why do I think I will have to find a substitute...?

Tāle posts photos and recipes of her Baltic cooking to @tkl1977 on Instagram. Her pottery, Oak & Sea Ceramics, can be found here.


Tomorrow is the shortest day of the year; let's celebrate the return of the sun on this winter solstice! Please join me tomorrow, for Day 21 of 24 Days of a Baltic Christmas!

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Baltic Christmas Day 19 - Black Currant Liqueur


My earliest summer memories are of my great grandfather’s farm: impatiently waiting for the apples to ripen in the orchard, the dust motes floating in the sunshine filtering through into the loft of the big red barn, the wooden slats on the floor of the shower in the old pumphouse. Although he had moved to the city and the chicken coop was no longer full of hens, my family were still regular guests. I’m sure we also made the trip in winter, though the most vivid memories are of summer.

While we had plenty of adventures exploring the big barn, most of our time was spent outdoors: setting up house under the low-hanging branches of the big pine trees, excursions to the small spring and creek, fishing the bugs out of the enormous (at least it seemed so to pint-sized me) temporary pool which had to be moved every two days so as not to kill the grass. However, it was the garden that most often attracted our attention. My sister and I would hunt for snap peas, dig the compost piles for worms, forge paths in the adjacent corn field, and count the days until the berries would ripen.

My vecpapiņš had planted rows of red and black currants, raspberries, and gooseberries, and years after he had ceased his annual plantings of corn and beans, the bushes still bore fruit - hundreds of berries dripping off the branches. At harvest time the adults would pull stools out to the field, choose a bush, and converse among themselves as they filled giant bowls with ripe berries, their hands stained and their necks tanned from the effort. Children were asked to come help, and we would hurriedly pick for a little while (placing more in our mouths than in our bowls) before disappearing into the tall grasses to weave dandelion crowns, or hunt sticks for the evening’s bonfire; reappearing only when the adults returned with their harvest.

It would be hot in the pumphouse, full of people and large pots simmering on the stove. In one pot were the mason jars, sterilized for the raspberry preserves. A second pot would be filled with the red currants which were boiled then placed in giant presses, the resulting ‘cakes’ of berry skins abandoned under the bushes for us to do with as we pleased. While gooseberries were my favorite to eat (but least favorite to pick due to the thorns), I’m unsure of how those were canned as I only remember eating them straight from the bush, the satisfying pop as they burst in my mouth. Finally, the black currants tasted bitter to a child, so although they were also preserved I mainly remember the smell of their leaves emanating from the jars filled with dill pickles lining the counter.

Fast forward thirty years, to my children exploring my grandmother’s garden. Lily of the Valley & tulips bloom in the spring and a large maple provides a jungle gym for the boys, but on one side are the black currants, descendants of those my great grandfather planted. Every year the berries are harvested, carefully rinsed then placed in special jars, covered in grain alcohol, and left to steep. When deemed ready, my grandmother  separates the alcohol, and places the berry jar in the sun. Over the coming weeks my grandmother ‘feeds’ the berries sugar, gently tilting the bottle to mix, observing the sugar dissolve over time. The berries give up their juice to the resulting syrup, which eventually will be mixed back in with the alcohol resulting in a delicious upeņu liķieris.

On Christmas evening my extended family gathers at my grandmother’s home after the church service, where we feast at a long table and then recite our pantiņi by the Christmas tree. The adults return to the table afterwards (while the children play with their presents and consume far too many piparkūkas), and at some point a bottle of the black currant liqueur is placed on the table. The syrupy drink brings a warmth low in the stomach, serving as a digestif after the meal, but also a portal into summer, those sunny harvest days full of green grass and ripe berries. We sit around the table and smile and laugh with our aunts, uncles and cousins gathered from across North America. As we sip from an īsā glāzīte we’ll nibble on sweets, sing a kaladū song, and then long after midnight bundle up for the trip home.

This summer we visited my grandmother just as the black currants ripened. In return for helping to harvest the berries, we departed with a jar full of black currants. Once home I poured alcohol over them and set them aside, and two months later carefully sniffed the result. That month I fed berries sugar for the first time in my life, fretting over the amount of sun, speed of dissolution, and whether they were ready, calling my grandmother more than once for advice. At one point it seemed time; I mixed the syrup back in with the alcohol and set aside a bottle of dark purple liquid. Two months later my husband and I sampled the result, toasting to the Latvian centennial with a drink that might not be known as traditionally Latvian, but for me is as Latvian as my family tree. As with krupnikas or balzāms, the flavors meld over time and it’s recommended to let sit for a while to mellow, but the essence of black currants is as true as the memories that come with the smallest sip.


It’s almost as if that Ziemassvētku spirit can be bottled, notes of my childhood summer days and more recent snowy winter nights comingling in that bottle of upeņu liķieris. My husband has declared that we must plant black currant bushes so as to be able to continue the tradition of making the liqueur, and although our climate is not conducive, we will give it a try. We tuck away the bottle of liqueur to continue ageing, and discuss what occasion might merit a taste: perhaps a toast to the New Year, or a birthday, or a wedding. But as I imagine the berry bushes growing along the blueberries, raspberries and blackberries in our yard, I dream of hands stained with black currants, of cucumbers pickling in dill and upeņu leaves, and of time spent with family Ziemassvētki past...


Tomorrow is the final post in the libations mini-series during this 24 Days of a Baltic Christmas - I hope you'll join us for Latvian balzāms

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