Maslenitsa (Butter Week) is a Christian holiday, one of the brightest and widely-celebrated holiday in Russia, a week before Great Lent. The name Maslenitsa came from Russian word ‘maslo’ which means butter. In the beginning of 16th century, when Church initiated the holiday, it was restricted to eat meat, however fish was allowed, as well as dairy products and butter. Most of the peasants could afford to eat only butter, thus the week began to call Butter Week or Maslenitsa.
During Druids’ times- before 16th century in Rus’ (old Russia’s name) was celebrated a pagan holiday – The Day of spring equinox, which was called Komoedica. It was one of the ancient pagan holidays, celebration of greeting spring, and moreover, worship of the Slavic Bear God: early in the morning people got together, song the songs and went into the forest to praise the Bear God, so they left first and freshly-cooked blini on tree stumps to treat him. After that the Butter Week revelry had been started.
That time Spring was considered as a beginning of new life, people revered to the Sun and made round flat-bread as its symbol. But in 9th century peasants began to make round-shaped blini. Hot and yellowish, blini became new symbol of the Sun; people also believed that with eating blini they had a piece of warmth and power of the Sun.
In ancient times the Komoeditsa holiday was celebrated during two weeks and played an important role for peasants. After a long, cold and often starving winter people had to eat plenty of food (usually it was winter stock remains), cheered up and got stronger for future spring works. Butter week celebrations denoted that winter has passed, and it’s time for a warm season to come. After this holiday peasants began to work from sunrise until sunset during all warm months – spring, summer and autumn. Up to next snow season, they forced to work almost non-stop, without any weekends to get food for their families, fodder for cattle; they repair houses, and cut woods to keep homes warm during the long Russian winter.
When Christianity was established as a state religion, all pagan celebrations and traditions were prohibited; Christian churchmen battle in a vain attempt to stop all holiday habits. After several centuries of unsuccessful fights, in 16th century the Church created new holiday – ‘meatless week’, the week before the Great Lent. People got used to the new holiday, started celebrate it widely and created other name – Maslenitsa.
Finally traditional Maslenitsa celebrations were set in 18th century by Russian Emperor Petr I, who was a famous reveller and party lover. Of course, the main treat was blini, which were baked and eaten in enormous amounts!
One of my fav sweet fillings for blini is a mixture of tvorog (cottage cheese), sour cream, raisins and sugar. For me, it’s a pure indulgence to tuck the delicious filling into piping hot blini! You can also fold blini into half then half again to form wedge, then take the wedge and deep it onto sweet condensed milk.. Incredibly satisfying breakfast or lunch, or even dinner! 😀
This blini recipe suits for any savory filling as well.
Russian blini. Sweet cottage cheese filling.
2 eggs, medium size
a good pinch of salt
1-2 tbsp white sugar, optional
200ml hot water
1/2 tsp soda
200-230ml kefir (or sour milk/laban/buttermilk), 2-3% fat
150-170g plain flour
3-4 tbsp sunflower oil
some oil for frying, if needed
300-400g soft cottage cheese
2-3 tbsp sour cream, or more if needed
2-3 tbsp sugar or sweet condensed milk
sour cream/sweet condensed milk/icing sugar
- In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs with salt and sugar.
- In a glass or cup mix water with soda, stir and add to the eggs, stirring constantly.
- Add kefir and mix well.
- Sift flour and add it to the batter. Stir to combine.
- Add oil and stir.
- Let the batter rest for 20-30 minutes, if you have time.
- Heat the frying pan and fry thin pancakes as usual. You can make any diameter you like.
- For the filling, soak sultanas in hot water for 5-10 minutes, then drain. Mix all ingredients until well combined.
- To assemble, spoon some filling in center of each pancake. Fold bottom edge of pancake over fililng, fold in both sides and roll up. Sprinkle with icing sugar and/or drizzle some sweet condensed milk, if desired. Or serve with a dollop of sour cream.