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Child playing in SOS CV Islice
Children in Latvia face neglect as parents struggle to find work and social welfare spending declines. Education is key to securing a route out of poverty, and SOS Children's Villages offers key resources for children, including help with school work. In the past, we have supported a primary school, financing refurbishment and renewal of equipment. … more about our charity work in Latvia

A Christmas treat from Latvia

(Photo: christmasstockimages.com CC-BY-SA 3.0)
(Photo: christmasstockimages.com CC-BY-SA 3.0)

Mince pies, Yule log and Christmas cake are all very well - but how about trying something a bit different this Christmas? We take a trip to our Children's Village in Islice, Latvia to discover some delicious festive treats. If your taste buds are tingling, why not try our recipe for Cranberry Kissel?

“I love Christmas!” says 10-year-old Baiba from our Children's Village in Islice. Like all children, she looks forward to wrapping up presents, putting up the tree and decorating her home. But a particular highlight for Baiba is Christmas cooking, and she loves getting involved in the kitchen: “We usually bake gingerbread cookies together and cook grey peas, roast a chicken and make various pastries.”

Līga, who is three years older, tells us that this is typical Christmas fare in Latvia: “There is always stewed sauerkraut and grey peas - that's the tradition!” Much as she enjoys all Christmas cooking, Līga has a sweet tooth: “We have various sweets and a hot winter drink from black currants with spices.”

This winter drink is called kissel, and is popular all over Eastern Europe - especially as a treat the night before Christmas. In Latvia, it is known as ķīselis, and it can be made with all manner of fruit - you can even add red wine! SOS Mother Anna tells us a little more about the favourite variation in her SOS family: “Everybody loves the hot cranberry drink, which is traditionally served on Christmas Eve.”

Why not try making some of your own cranberry kissel this year? A wholesome, hearty winter drink, it's very easy to make and only takes about 20 minutes to prepare. Try our recipe and you'll soon be celebrating Christmas the Latvian way!

Baiba from Islice, Latvia
Christmas cooking is a highlight of the festive season for 10-year-old Baiba

Recipe: Cranberry Kissel


  • 1.5 cups of cranberries; preferably wild
  • 1.5 cup sugar
  • 1.8 litres filtered water
  • 100 ml cold water
  • 100g potato starch


  1. Wash and crush the cranberries
  2. Put the crushed berries into a saucepan, then add the sugar.
  3. Pour 1.8 litres of boiling water onto the cranberries, and keep them on a high heat until bubbles begin to appear.
  4. When this happens, reduce the heat to medium low and simmer gently.
  5. As the berries boil, their skins will fade. After around 10 minutes, they will have imparted all their juice and flavour to the water.
  6. While the berries are in the pan, dissolve the starch in 100 ml cold water.
  7. Photo: Kunetskiy CC-BY-SA-3.0
    In some parts of Eastern Europe, kissel is enjoyed as a sauce on syrniki (a special type of pancake)
    When the berries are ready, strain the juice solution using a sieve and return it to the pan. Discard the skins.
  8. Keep the juice on a medium low heat, while gradually adding the starch as you stir. Be sure to stir carefully to improve the texture of your kissel and avoid lumps.
  9. Once you've added the starch, bring the kissel briefly to the boil, then allow it to cool a little.
  10. If a skin forms on the surface while the kissel is cooling, just remove it.
  11. Now drink your kissel!

We hope you enjoy this recipe from Latvia. If you'd like to know more about our work there, visit our Latvia page.

Merry Christmas from SOS Children!