I had always wanted to learn how to make Polish Easter recipes. I found them interesting as well as other other holiday recipes from around the world. When I was much younger, I had an elderly lady friend who was such an inspiration; especially when it comes to food. Ingrid immigrated to the United States in the late 1940s with her husband and two children. She loved to cook; between cooking and cleaning, she worked so hard all day long.
When I talked to Ingrid it was always about food and cooking. Holidays were very important to my friend, both at home in Poland and here in the United States. We often talked about the different holiday recipes particularly and I especially wanted to learn how to make Polish Easter recipes. She explained to me that Easter is the most important of all holidays; it represents our resurrected Lord. In their home when she grew up as a child and in her home as a wife and mother, they observed a very strict fasting during the season of Lent. They would not dare touch any meat, sweets or any foods which were eliminated from their diets for this observance of Lent. Even at very young ages, the children know and understand the importance of this season. Adults understand the importance of learning how to make Polish Easter recipes.
At Easter time all families observe rigid guidelines in observing this special holiday. Families prepare a basket of food called a swieconka basket; this basket is filled with staple foods from the kitchen. The basket is taken to the church and the priests bless the food in the baskets from each home. Ingrid’s traditional breakfast both as a child herself and as a wife and mother was made from these ingredients in the basket which the priest gave his blessings. This is not always the case with all families she explained but it was their tradition.
Ingrid loved going to church; she would not think of missing. During Lent she went to church almost every day. There were services at various times during the day so all the members could fit it in their schedules. After mass on Easter Sunday the feasting would begin so cooking Polish Easter recipes had to begin on Good Friday. Can you imagine cooking while still on a fast; after fasting nearly forty days? Ingrid said, “No tasting”! I talked to her about the children being around all this cooking and the good smells. She said they knew not to touch the food.
There is not a set menu for the Polish Easter recipes; just lots of food and all those foods which could not be eaten during Lent. Ingrid said they would cook and bake all day on Friday and all day on Saturday. As in her family, this was often done by all the women in the family. This truly is a time for feasting! The large table was adorned with the best linens and china; it was decorated for the occasion with spring flowers. All was prepared for a massive feast.
As in many countries, including here in the United States, eggs play a significant part in the Easter season signifying rebirth in Christ. Polish homes spend Friday evening boiling lots of eggs and coloring them. Many of the Polish Easter recipes include boiled eggs; like stuffed eggs or pickled eggs.
With a large sharp knife cut eggs in half; scoop eggs out of the shells saving the shells.
Chop egg whites fine; minced egg yolks with a fork.
Combine eggs, parsley, butter, salt and paprika; blend well.
Fill egg shells with egg mixture; sprinkle tops with cheese.
Bake 10 minutes ate 400F degrees or until cheese melts.
Whenever Ingrid and I started talking about food, it always started with desserts, both Polish and American. It seems that was the favorite recipes of both of us but I will get to that in a moment. For the main entrees of Polish Easter recipes, my friend said her family had either ham, lamb or roasted guinea hens. Usually they had ham but often throughout the year they would have guinea hens for dinner.
For eight people cook four guinea hens. Rub each one inside and out with lemon and salt; insert onion inside of each one. Place hens breast side down in roasting pan and place strips of bacon over the backs. Roast in oven at 325F degrees for 40 minutes; turn hens over and rearrange bacon on the breast of the hens; cook for another 35 to 40 minutes or until fork tender. Place on warm serving platter.
Another fond memory my friend, Ingid had of her childhood and in Poland was that all the men in the family gathered together in one of the homes and made Polish sausage for this day of feasting. This was one of the parts of the preparation that the women were not allowed to participate in until the finished sausage was brought to them. They would add this in there recipes to make things like this crusted kielbasa.
Combine flour, cream cheese and butter into a soft dough; divide dough into 14 equal parts and roll out.
Wrap each sausage link in 1 part of the dough; placed on greased baking sheet.
Cut remaining dough into crescent shapes and place on top of wrapped sausages; press to secure.
Brush tops of sausages with beaten egg yolks; bake at 425F degrees for 10 to 12 minutes.
Traditional holiday meals always included mashed potatoes, which were often seasoned with dill, onion or both. They also had some type of cabbage and most of the time dinner included cauliflower. Ingrid’s favorite cabbage dish was this sautéed red cabbage which was always one of their Polish Easter recipes.
Melt bacon fat in a large skillet; add remaining ingredients and stir to blend.
Simmer vegetables 1 hour or until tender; add a little water as needed to keep from sticking.
Mash egg yolks in small bowl; add parsley, sour cream; 1 teaspoon of salt and white pepper and blend well.
Reserve yolk mixture for later; wash cauliflower and remove outside leaves.
Place cauliflower in pan and cover bottom with 1 to 2 inches water; add 1 teaspoon of salt and bring to boil.
Cover pan and cook cauliflower until fork tender and drain immediately.
Break cauliflower apart with fork into serving dish.
Melt butter, stir in bread crumbs and pour over cauliflower; spoon egg yolk mixture over cauliflower.
Back to the Polish Easter recipes for one of Ingrid’s favorite desserts. She said almost every home baked an Easter Lamb using a favorite pound cake recipe for a dessert. It was baked in a lamb mold or you can bake it without a mold, then frosted and decorated like a lamb. This lamb cake or paschal lamb (pascal lamb) represents the Lamb of God so fitting into the Easter celebration. Her mother also always made the following Easter cake along with many other yeast and sweet breads.
Scald ½ cup milk and stir in sugar, salt and butter; cool to lukewarm.
Pour warm water into a large bowl; sprinkle yeast over top stirring until dissolved.
Beat in milk mixture, beaten eggs and flour; cover and let rise until double in bulk.
Stir batter down and beat in almonds, raisins and lemon peel; place in greased and floured 1 ½ casserole.
Bake in preheated oven at 350F degrees for 50 minutes; after 15 minutes, remove from baking dish.
Beat together powdered sugar and 1 tablespoon milk for glaze; drizzle over top of cake.
Garnish with candied cherries.