Saturday, April 3, 2010

My Traditional Polish Easter Basket

A Traditional Polish Swieconka Easter Basket
I thought I would share with you some of my favorite Polish Easter holiday traditions and foods. One of my favorite times of the year is the Easter season. I look forward to having "Polish Easter Soup" all year!

Traditionally we would prepare the Easter Basket on Saturday morning and take it to church to have the foods blessed. These foods would not be eaten until Easter morning. The origins of preparing the basket comes from medieval times.The blessing of the basket was meant to insure that there would be sufficient provisions for your family in the upcoming year. The Polish traditions have roots in the foods found in the Passover meal; lamb,bread, wine and bitter herbs.

Here's what's in my basket:
Maslo/Butter: Shaped into the form of a lamb. The Paschal Lamb reminds us the goodness of Christ that  we should have towards all things. Jesus is our Paschal {Passover} lamb, by whose blood we are saved.

Chleb/Easter Bread: A round rye loaf of bread, often topped with the shape of a cross. Symbolic of Jesus, the Bread of  Everlasting Life.

Chrzan/Horseradish: Symbolic of the Passion of Christ. May be white or red (with beets).It reminds us of the bitter herbs in the Passover meal, which symbolizes the harshness of life.

Jajka/Eggs: Indicates new life and Christ's Resurrection from the Tomb.Easter eggs are the crowning touch of the Easter basket. Intricate and elaborate designs show the creativity of the maker. Polish Easter eggs can be decorated with intricate beeswax designs or religious inscriptions, pisanki, painted, malowanki, , or colored with natural dyes, called kraszanki. Egg decoration is an art form in Slavic cultures. Pisanki is a method known to have been used in Poland since the 10th century. The Easter eggs, duck or chicken, were washed. Then artists used a wax stylus to inscribe an Easter greeting or Easter symbols on the eggs before boiling. The wax was removed only after coloring the egg, leaving an elaborate pattern or script visible on the shell.Painted eggs are also popular in Poland. The malowanki, vibrant with the colors of spring, are often intended for gifts and not consumption. The naturally dyed eggs, called Kraszanki, are often dyed with onion skins or beet skins. Just as a chick breaks out of the shell,  Jesus emerged from the tomb Easter morning.


Szynka/Ham: At the time of Jesus, following Jewish law,pork was a forbidden meat to eat. Ham celebrates the freedom of the New Law which came into effect through Jesus' resurrection.

Kielbasa/Polish Sausage: This spicy mixture of coarse pieces of pork products, reminds us on God's favor and generosity. The links of the sausage remind us of the chains of death that work broken by the resurrection of  Jesus, and the chains that bind us as a family.

Slonina/Smoked Bacon: A symbol of the over abundance of God's mercy and generosity. In our family we traditionally use a piece of salt pork.

Sol/Salt: A necessary element in our physical life, that Jesus used it symbolism; "You are the salt of the Earth."

Ser/Cheese: The Farmers' cheese we use is a salted white cheese-made from milk, salt and soured, then pressed thru a cheesecloth to form a small slab of cheese. This fresh cheese symbolizes  the moderation that Christians should have.

I also use a sprig of boxwood to decorate my basket, In Poland, on Palm Sunday,  Christians would bring boxwood sprigs and pussy willow to be blessed, as Palms would not naturally be found in Poland.

I also include some sweets in my basket, more traditionally, a small yeast cake called a babka, would be served as part of the Easter meal.

Easter Soup:
Bialy barszcz/White Borscht recipe:
2 links smoked Polish sausage (Kielbasa)
2c sour cream
2 eggs-slightly beaten
2-3 Tablespoons white flour
White Vinegar
Salt

Soup Additions:
Cubed kielbasa, ham and saltpork
Cubed Farmers Cheese
Cubed Rye bread-light and dark
Hard boiled eggs-diced
White or red horseradish

To make the soup:

In a large pot cover the links of kielbasa with water. Cook on low simmer about 1 hour, piercing the skins of the kielbasa to release the juices.  I simmer my salt pork at the same time in the same water. Remove the meats. Reserve the stock. The Borscht is made from the stock from the meats. In a bowl slight beat the eggs, sour cream and flour. Blend about 1 cup of the warm stock with the sour cream and egg mixture, this will temper the mixture to help prevent curdling. Blend the stock and sour cream mixture back into the stock, bring to simmer-do not boil-to prevent curdling! Add vinegar to taste-I add about 6-8 Tablespoons of white vinegar-tasting after each addition until the soup is slightly tart..

Serve this soup over the additions-and add a bit of horseradish to taste
Years ago, my daughter one day in the middle of summer, asked me if I could make her Easter soup! I think my jaw hit the floor-In all my years I had never had Easter soup at any time of the year except for Easter! I would have never asked my mother to make it at any other time of the year-it was that special to us! But now occasionally I'll make it for her, and it's every bit as special to us no matter when we serve it. Sometimes, it's just good to get back to the traditions that make each one of our families special, and to remember our roots.

I hope you will share some of your comments with me. WesoĊ‚ego Alleluja!

2 comments:

  1. Interesting post! I've always been curious about polish food since there are some polish bakeries and supermarkets in my town but I've never been in.

    Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment on my blog!

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  2. Just came back from St. Patrick's Church. Got our Easter Basket blessed. There has to be over 200 baskets getting blessed. The priest said the church never smelled so good.

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