Favorite Polish Easter treats
By Robert Strybel, Polish/Polonian Affairs Writer
You may be planning your annual family “Święcone”, that festive breakfast held after Easter Sunday Mass. Or maybe your Pol-Am parish or group is holding a Święconka (Polish-American Easter party) or Dyngus Day celebrations. Whatever the case, here are some traditional treats worth considering. Some have been simplified for the benefit of today’s convenience-minded Pol-Ams.
SHARING BLESSED EGGS (dzielenie się jajkiem): Cut shelled, blessed eggs into wedge-shaped quarters and sprinkle with blessed salt & pepper. After grace, eggs are shared by all to signify the end of the Lenten fast with the symbol of New Life. Participants may be standing or seated and a plate containing the egg wedges may be past around the table or (more elegantly) it may be offered by the host to each family member. When all have their eggs impaled on their forks a general wish of “Wesołego Alleluja” goes up and all consume their eggs. Now Easter breakfast may begin.
EASTER RYEMEAL SOUP (żurek wielkanocny): In pot combine 2 c diced smoked kielbasa, ham and/or roast pork, 6 c water, 1 heaping T quick-cooking rolled oats, 1 quartered onion and several peppercorns. Simmer on low under cover 20 min.. Stir in 1 c liquid ryemeal sour* (żur - available at Polish delis; it also may come as a more concentrated gel, in which case use less), and ¼ of a mushroom bouillon cube. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer 20 min. Switch off heat, add 1-2 buds crushed garlic, 1 heaping t prepared horseradish and 1 T marjoram. Stir and salt & pepper to taste. Serve over hard-boiled eggs in bowls.
WHITE EASTER BARZSCZ (biały barszcz wielkanocny): In pot combine 3 c water in which fresh or smoked kiełbasa has been cooked with 3 c plain. Add 1 c liquid ryemeal sour,* bring to boil and simmer 5 min. Remove from heat. In small mixing bowl, fork-blend or whisk 1 heaping T flour with ¾ c sour cream (or plain unsweetened yogurt) until smooth. Add 1 c hot stock 1 T at a time to sour-cream mixture, fork-blending or whisking constantly, then stir mixture into pot. Return to heat and simmer 2-3 min just below boiling point. Serve over hard-cooked eggs and sliced cooked sausage. Cubed farmer cheese, dry rye-bread cubes and horseradish may also be added according to individual preference. * If liquid ryemeal sour is not available, add 1 c water mixed with 2 T vinegar.
HARD-BOILED EGGS (jaja na twardo): Place room-temp eggs in pot and fill with cold water to cover by at least 1”. Add a T or so salt. Gradually bring water to boil and immediately reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Cook 10 min, then cool immediately in cold running water. When ready to shell, strike each cold or room temp hard-cooked egg against sharp edge of table or counter lengthwise, and shell should come off easily in large pieces. Serve plain whole eggs in serving bowls providing horseradish, ćwikła or sauces (see below) on the side.
EGGS IN SAUCE (jaja w sosie): An easy but delicious way to create your own sauces is to start by fork-blending ½ c mayonnaise with ½ c sour cream (or plain unsweetened yogurt), then proceed as follows: – Easter sauce (sos to święconego): stir into basic sauce ½ c chopped chives, green onions, radishes and dill pickle, 1 chopped hard-cooked egg and 1 t prepared horseradish; – Horseradish sauce (sos chrzanowy): to 1 c basic sauce stir in 1 heaping T prepared horseradish; – Tartar sauce (sos tatarski): stir into basic sauce 1 grated onion, 1 chopped dill pickle, 2-4 pickled mushrooms and 1 t lemon juice; – Caper sauce (sos kaparowy): Stir in 1 T caper liquid into basic sauce, add 1 – 2 heaping T capers and stir to distribute evenly. Note: The above sauces are also good with pâté, aspic dishes, roasts and other cold meats.
RED PICKLED EGGS (jaja marynowane na czerwono): Place peeled, hard-cooked eggs in a single layer in pan and drench with pickled beet-liquid to cover. (See beetroot & horseradish recipe below). Cover with plate to keep eggs submerged at least 1 hr. Remover eggs from bath and drain on paper towel. Serve just as they are as an alternative to the shelled, white hard-cooked eggs and intersperse them amongst the white eggs on a single platter for variety. On a large platter, the red eggs may be used to form a cross surrounded by the white eggs. EGGS IN HOT HORSERADISH SAUCE (jaja w sosie chrzanowym na ciepło): Melt ½ a stick (⅛ lb or 2 oz) butter in saucepan on low heat, sprinkle with 1 t flour, stirring into smooth paste. Stir in 1 c sour cream, stirring constantly until bubbly. Remove from heat, stir in 1 – 3 heaping T prepared horseradish, 1 T freshly squeezed lemon juice an 2 t sugar and several dashes salt. Simmer until bubbly. Add 10-12 hard-cooked egg haves cut side down, cover and simmer several min on low heat until eggs are heated through. Serve at once.
HOT STUFFED EGGS (IN SHELLS) (jaja faszerowane w skorupkach): Cook hard-boiled eggs allowing 1-2 per guest. Start with 8-10 cold, hard-cooked eggs. Hold each egg firmly against cutting-board and tap it lengthwise with a sharp, thin-bladed, non-serrated-edge knife. With swift cutting motion cut through to cutting-board. shell and all. With small spoon gently scoop out yolk and white and side aside, taking care not to break the shell. Carefully remove and discard and loose, jagged shell fragments that adhere to eggs or rim of shells. Set shells aside. Simmer 2 finely minced onions in 2 T butter until tender and golden. Grind or chop eggs fine and combine with onion. Add 1 - 2 heaping T finely chopped fresh dill, 1 heaping T finely chopped chives and salt & pepper to taste. Mix ingredients well. (Optional: Work 1 T sour cream into mixture.) Fill shells with mixture pressing it down very gently so as not the damage them. Sprinkle tops generously with bread crumbs, pressing them in gently. To serve, fry stuffed eggs, open-side down in 2 T butter or margarine until a golden-brown crust forms on the bottom and top of shells are hot to the touch. Serve immediately.
BEETROOT & HORSERADISH (ćwikła z chrzanem): Drain a 12 oz can pickled beets (reserving liquid). Grate or chop fine and mix with 1-2 heaping T prepared horseradish. Optional: sprinkle with a pinch or 2 ground caraway. This relish as an absolute “must” to accompany traditional Polish Easter food (eggs, ham, sausage, roasts).
EASTER SALAD (sałatka wielkanocna): Combine 2-3 c cold, cooked, diced potatoes, 1 can drained peas & carrots, 2 cans drained navy beans (or pea-beans), 4 diced dill pickles, 1 bunch chopped green onions, 1 bunch diced radishes, 2 - 3 peeled, cored, diced apples and 2 - 5 diced hard-cooked eggs. Toss ingredients gently, season with salt & pepper, garnish and lace with just enough basic mayonnaise-sour cream sauce (above) to coat ingredients. Garnish with chopped parsley. Note: Feel free to juggle quantities according to preference. Other possible ingredients include: capers, chopped celery, bell pepper, diced beets, a firm diced pear, etc.
RED EASTER SALAD (sałatka ćwikłowa): Combine 2-3 c cold, cooked, diced potatoes, 2 cans drained navy beans (or pea-beans), 1 large chopped onion, 2 peeled, cored, diced apples, 1 c diced, drained canned beets and about ½ c. canned-beet juice, and 6 diced hard-cooked eggs. Toss gently to spread the redness evenly and lace with basic mayonnaise-sour cream sauce flavored with 2-3 heaping T ćwikła (see beet & horseradish – above).
CRANBERRY-HORSERADISH SAUCE (sos żurawinowo-chrzanowy): Fork-blend 1 c store-bought whole-style cranberry sauce (preferably Łowicz brand “Żurawina” imported from Poland) with juice of half a small lemon and a heaping t or heaping T prepared (preferaby non-creamed) horseradish depending on potency desired. A tangy, zingy accompaniment to cold roast meats (pork, turkey, veal) and ham.
COLD-MEAT PLATTER (półmisek zimnych mięs): On lettuce-lined oval or rectangular serving platters artistically arrange any of the following sliced cold meats (home-made or store bought): boiled ham, baked ham, smoked pork loin (Canadian bacon,) kabanosy (thin dry sausage), myśliwska, (hunter's sausage), krakowska (Kraków sausage), smoked kiełbasa, baked fresh kiełbasa, cold sliced roasts (pork loin, veal, beef, turkey), boiled slab bacon, boiled beef tongue and/or smoked turkey breast. Decorate platters with parsley sprigs, radish roses, pickled mushrooms and/or spiced plums. An Easter egg may be placed in a bed of greenery at one end of the platter.
PORK IN ASPIC/JELLIED PIG’S FEET (galareta z nóżek wieprzowych/zimne nogi): Singe 4 split pig’s feet and 2 pork hocks over flame to remove any remaining bristle. Wash well, place in pot, cover with cold water and bring to boil. Simmer several min, then pour off water. Add fresh cold water to cover (2½ qts, more or less) and 1 T salt, bring to boil once again and reduce heat. Skim off any scum that forms at top. Add 6 peppercorns, 3 grains allspice and 1 bay leaf and cook on low heat 2 hr. Add 1 portion soup greens (2 carrots, slice of celeriac, 1 leek, 1 small onion and 1 parsley root) and cook another 2 hr or until meat falls away from bone. Add 2-3 buds crushed garlic. Drain stock, discarding vegetables and spices, but reserving carrot. Remove the meat from bones, discard bones and dice meat. Transfer meat to glass or crockery pans, add the sliced or diced carrot and drench with stock. Chill in fridge until set. Before turning out, scrape off and discard the congealed fat at top of containers and cut aspic into serving squares. Provide cruets of vinegar, lemon juice, a 50-50 vinegar-lemon juice mixture or prepared horseradish for guests to flavor their portions to taste.
ROAST PORK LOIN (schab pieczony): Mince and mash 2 cloves garlic into a paste with 1 t salt and rub into 3 lb boneless pork loin. Place in roasting pan, cover and let stand at room temp 2 hrs. Remove loin, dust with flour (through sieve) and brown in hot fat on all sides to seal in juices. Place in loin in roaster fat side up on rack and sprinkle with caraway seeds, pepper and marjoram. Roast uncovered at 450° 15 min, then reduce heat to 350°. Add 1 c water to pan and baste occasionally with drippings that form. Roast about 90 min or until liquid that comes out of meat when pricked is white, not pinkish. Remove from oven and cool to room temp. Refrigerate over night and slice when cold. Serve cold on your cold-meat platter or as a hot entrée, using pan drippings as a gravy base
HOME-MADE FRESH KIEŁBASA (biała kiełbasa domowa): Coarsely grind 4.5 lbs pork butts and combine with 1 lb ground veal (or raw hamburger). Sprinkle with 3 T salt and ½ to 1 t pepper, 2-3 buds crushed garlic and (optional) add 1 T marjoram. Work by hand, gradually adding ½ c cold water and continue working until it is completely absorbed. Stuff hog casings with mixture (either by hand or using meat-grinder with sausage attachment), twisting into 12” links and tying them with white twine. Hang up in cool place to air dry several hrs or overnight. To cook, (boil or bake), see below.
FRESH BOILED KIEŁBASA (biała kiełbasa gotowana): Place fresh home-made or store-bought kiełbasa in pot of cold water which should cover it by at least 1”. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer under cover at a gentle boil. Add 1 bay leaf and 1 large quartered onion and cook 30-40 min or until no longer pink on the inside. Let stand in hot liquid another 10 min before serving.
FRESH BAKED KIEŁBASA (biała kiełbasa pieczona): Arrange fresh kiełbasa in a single layer in uncovered baking pan. Drench with a 12 oz bottle of beer and add enough water to just cover. Bake in 350° oven. Turn sausage over when half the water has evaporated. Scatter wafer-thin onion slices over top and sprinkle with caraway seed. It is ready when all water evaporates and sausage begins to sizzle.
KIEŁBASA & SAUERKRAUT (kiełbasa z kapustą): Drain 2 qts sauerkraut. If very sour, rinse in cold water and drain again. Press out moisture in colander, chop coarsely, place in pot, scald with boiling water to cover, add 1 bay leaf and cook uncovered 45 min. Intersperse about 2 lbs smoked or cooked fresh kiełbasa cut into 2½ ” - 3” pieces, sprinkle with ½ t caraway seed and cook covered at least 1 longer hr on low. After switching off heat, let stand at least 20 min before serving. It’ll be even better reheated the next day!
BOILED BACON (boczek gotowany): Place 2¼ lb lean slab bacon into pot, add 1 portion soup greens, 1 bay leaf, several peppercorns and 2 grains allspice and water to more than cover. Bring to boil, reduce heat, skim off scum and simmer 80-90 min or until fork tender. Remove bacon, pat dry and refrigerate overnight. Serve cold sliced thin with rye bread and typical Easter go-togethers. Some like it with brown Polish-style mustard. (Note: The degreased stock makes a good soup base.)
EASTER BABKA (babka wielkanocna): Mash 1 cake yeast with 1 T sugar, stir in 1 c lukewarm milk and 1 c flour. Mix, cover with cloth and leave in warm place to rise (about 15 min). Beat 5 egg yolks with ¼ t salt on low speed, add ¾ c confectioner’s sugar and ½ t vanilla extract) and beat on high speed until thick and fluffy. Sift 3 c flour into bowl, add yeast and egg mixtures, mix to blend and work by hand until smooth and glossy. Gradually add ½ c melted butter and keep kneading until air blisters appear and dough no longer sticks to hands. Add 1½ c rinsed, dried raisins, floured raisins and knead in to distribute them evenly. Cover with clean dish towel and let rise in warm place until doubled in bulk (about 1 hr). Fill generously buttered and flour-dusted babka pan only ½ full, cover with cloth and let rise again. When doubled, bake in 375° oven about 45 min. When cool, remove from pan and glaze with icing or dust with confectioner’s sugar.
POLISH WHEEL CAKE (kołacz): Prepare dough as in the babka recipe (above). When dough rises, roll out on floured board with rolling pin into two 1” thick circles. Transfer to 2 round greased and flour-dusted cake pans, cover with clean dish towel and let rise again in warm place. With a saucer make a depression at the center of each dough round and fill it with Polish plum butter (powidła). Other thick jams can also be used. Brush cakes with egg wash (1 raw egg beaten with 1 jigger water) and bake in preheated 350°F oven about 55 min or until wooden pick comes out clean.
POLISH LOG CAKE (sękacz): Beat 1 slightly heaped c unsalted butter with 1⅛ c sugar until fluffy (app. 5 min), Add 7 egg yolks 1 at a time, beating until fully absorbed before adding the next, and beat until fluffy and lemony. Stir in 2 t vanilla extract. Separately, combine 1⅛ c instant flour, ¾ c potato starch and 2 t baking powder and stir into egg mixture. Beat 7 egg whites until they peak and carefully fold into batter. Heat overhead broiler in oven. Grease a tube pan and sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Ladle some batter into the pan to cover bottom and place under broiler 2 min or until golden brown. Ladle in another portion of batter and repeat process. Keep repeating until all batter is used up. Check for doneness with wooden pick. If it does not come out clean, bake in hot oven a while longer.
CHEESECAKE (sernik): Sift 1½ c flour onto board and cut in ¼ lb cold butter. Beat 4 eggs with 4 T confectioner’s sugar and add to flour mixture. Sprinkle with 2 T milk and 2 t baking powder, quickly work ingredients into a dough and chill in fridge 30 min. Meanwhile grind or process 1½ lbs farmer cheese and blend together with 2 med cold, well-mashed potatoes. Cream ¾ c butter with 1 c confectioner’s sugar. Add 1 t vanilla extract, continue beating, gradually adding 5 egg yolks and cheese mixture a little at a time. When fully blended, sprinkle with 3 T potato starch, add 1 c plumped raisins and 2 T finely chopped candied orange rind. Mix ingredients and fold in 3 stiffly beaten eggs whites. Roll out ⅔ of the dough ¼” thick to fit lightly greased pan. Top with cheese filling and smooth the top. Roll remaining dough into pencil-thick strands and arrange latticework on top of cheese. Brush top with beaten egg and bake in preheated 350° oven about 50 min.
EGG-YOLK MAZURKA (mazurek z gotowanych żółtek): Cook 6 egg yolks in a little boiling water to cover until fully cooked (several min), remove with slotted spoon and, when cool, mash very fine or force through sieve. Combine with 1 confectioner’s sugar, 1 c blanched almonds, ground, and scant ½ c flour, mixing well until mixture is uniform. Fold in 6 beaten egg whites. Transfer to baking pan lined with baking paper and bake about 20 min in pre-heated 360° oven. Cut cake in ½, spread one half with thick apricot jam and cover with the other cake half, pressing down gently. When cool, spread with home-made or store-bought white or chocolate icing of choice.
VANILLA-WAFER MAZURKA (mazurek biszkoptowy): Combine 1½ c vanilla-wafer crumbs (obtained by grinding about 36 vanilla wafers) with 6 T melted butter. Press into bottom of 9” square baking pan and smooth surface. Chill in fridge until set, at least 1 hr. Spread with thick fruit filling of choice (powidła, apricot jam, drained cherry preserves, etc.). Cut into serving squares. A dollop of whipped cream may be added to each portion. (Also see below.)
APPLE-RAISIN MAZURKA (mazurek jabłkowo-rodzynkowy): In saucepan combine 1 c canned apple pie filling and ½ c raisins. Simmer until cooked down somewhat and stir in ½ grated lemon zest. When cooled to room temp, spread over chilled vanilla-wafer-type mazurka base (see above).
WAFER-TYPE MAZURKA (łatwy mazurek na waflu): If you don’t do much baking, this is the mazurka for you! You will need about 4 large, plain square or rectangular golden wafers (available at a pastry-supply, gourmet, speciality or European import shops). Spread 1 sheet thinly with thick jam (powidła, apricot, cherry), cover with another wafer, press down gently and spread thinly with canned or home-made chocolate of white frosting, cover with another wafer, spread it with jam and continue alternating. Cover last layer of filling with a plain wafer, cover with clean dish towel, weight down with a heavy book and refrigerate overnight. Just before serving spread top and sides with frosting and sprinkle top generously with ground or coarsely chopped walnuts or almonds. Cut into squares and serve.