Manna from Heaven

A Traditional Latvian Dessert

Cranberry Mousse

        Many Latvians remember manna from heaven as a favorite childhood dessert. If my mother ever made it, I have forgotten. Cooking was never one of her interests. She only did it because she had to in order to feed her family. If she made manna once and I hated it, she’d have seen no reason to prepare it again.

           Inspiration from posts on a Latvian foods group on Facebook, and a sense that I’d missed something, prompted me to make it for the first time last year. In the Facebook photos it looked pretty, pink and fluffy. People raved about this special treat from their childhood. I think I’ve mentioned before that I can be pretty impressionable. The instructions are simple enough. Only three ingredients. I love fruit of all kinds. I decided to give manna from heaven a try.

           First I had to find out what manna was, other than something tha,t according to the Bible, fell from heaven. Turned out it’s farina. Who’d have thought? I no longer run from store to store, looking for just the right ingredient. If I can’t easily find what the recipe calls for, I make do. Farina is not available in the bulk foods section of my local supermarket. The only option is Malt-o-Meal, even though it has a bunch of other ingredients besides farina.

           To make manna from heaven, you can use the recipe from the Malt-o-Meal package. Just leave out the salt, substitute juice for water, add sugar. Latvians traditionally make this glorified breakfast food/dessert using cranberry juice, a half cup sugar, and three tablespoons farina to three cups juice. The resulting dish is tart enough to leave your mouth puckered for a week. Serving the mousse with milk cuts the tartness. Not nearly enough for me. Not even twice the sugar is enough. Add sugar to taste.

Beat until light and fluffy

           The instructions also say to beat the mass an unconscionably long time. It’s okay to beat a long time if you have a stand mixer. I do not. I used my electric hand mixer until my arm was ready to fall off. Not necessary to whip the stuff forever–five minutes, or so, will do. A mixer of any kind is not necessary. A whisk is not necessary, either. A spoon does just fine.

            Cranberry juice is not a requirement, either. You can use any juice or fruit purée that you like. The second time I made manna from heaven, I used strawberries and rhubarb. It turned out very good, though still tart.

Strawberry Rhubarb Manna

           The other day I wanted to make manna, but didn’t have juice of any kind at at home. There are days when I will do just about anything to avoid going to the supermarket. This was one of them. I remember. I remembered that I had frozen cranberries in the freezer. No juicer. I was not about to try to figure out how to make juice with or without a juicer. I figured, if you can use fruit purée, why couldn’t you use cranberry sauce? Since I didn’t have that, either, I had to make my own.

           One time I read somewhere that when you make cranberry sauce the berries will pop. They may or they may not. If they don’t pop when you cook them, they will pop nicely in your mouth. You don’t have to cook the berries half to death while waiting for the mixture to gel. It’ll do that on its own, once you cover it and let it cool. The result is beautiful, ruby red, with gem-like berries. Delicious, too. I figure the only reason more people don’t make their own cranberry sauce is because no one has told them how easy it is.

            Oh, wow! SO easy. Boil a cup of juice in a cup of water, when they’re bubbling, add a twelve ounce package of cranberries. Sort and rinse first. Cook at a gentle boil for five minutes, remove from heat, cover, and set aside. So says Ocean Spray.

           For one serving of manna from heaven, I used a half cup of cranberry sauce, a half cup of water, about a half cup of sugar. I stood over it, stirring as it cooked. Started on high heat, when it began bubbling, reduced heat to medium. You don’t have to cook the stuff until it gets thick, only until it starts to thicken. It will keep thickening once you take if off the stove. Made this lazy way, it’s more porridge-lie than mousse-like, but it still tastes wonderful. Serve with milk and enjoy a tangy, refreshing dish inspired by Latvian mom and grannies.

Manna from Heaven Made from Cranberry Sauce

6 thoughts on “Manna from Heaven”

  1. Wow, you’re quite the kitchen experimenter. Sounds like you make some wonderful stuff, sort of accidentally! My mother didn’t like to cook either. I’m like her in that way, but I enjoy others’ enjoyment of cooking and baking, and of course the delicious results when shared with me (:


    1. Only when I’m in the mood, Judy. Or desperate to avoid the supermarket. I enjoy other people’s cooking, too. Thanks for reading and commenting.


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