I always like preparing for any holiday, and I love the seasonal changes throughout the year that bring meaning to the holiday preparations. Each season reminds us we are creatures who live in a universe with which we have a symbiotic relationship. To recognize that relationship, and to respect it, is to be happy.
Springtime brings Easter, and the traditional meal handed down to us from my husband's mother's family, the Slovak meal. We have learned the family is more Carpatho-Russin/Austro-Hungarian, but the really important thing is we have this great "Easter cheese" called hrutka, of which I had never heard before I met JS. The meal also includes ham, kielbasa, fresh lettuce salad, boiled eggs, chicken soup with egg noodles (which my mother-in-law said can be from the store, their usual method, but I love the home made ones!), horseradish, and mustard. Over the years we've added babka, paska, deviled eggs, hammentaschen, and pickled beets. Traditionally nut rolls and poppy seed rolls are on the dessert menu, and we've dabbled with poppy seed cake, but the hammentaschen seem to be most popular. This year we also had a very tasty carrot casserole contributed to the meal by our dear friend AH...so good I think it will become part of the tradition.
In bygone days, the traditional meal was all ready by Easter Saturday, then was taken to the church in a basket to be blessed by the priest. The only thing eaten hot on Easter Sunday was the soup, everything else was served cold. We stick to that tradition, and it's nice to not have to do too much to put the meal on the table on Easter Sunday.
Hrutka is not difficult to make, it's fun, and it smells like Easter when it's cooking. If you're watching your cholesterol or if you eat vegan, you may have to find alternative ingredients and experiment to find a successful substitute. Here's the recipe:
1 dozen eggs
1 quart milk
cotton kitchen string
some versions add salt, sugar, raisins....I don't.
Place the cheesecloth over a strainer, place the strainer over the sink or over a dishpan large enough to catch the liquid contents of the double boiler you are using. Have a piece of sturdy cotton string ready to tie around the cheesecloth, long enough so the cheese can hang to drip.
Break all the eggs into the top portion of the double boiler and whip them with a fork until the yolks are broken. Add the quart of milk and lightly whip some more until the mixture is well blended. Put about an inch of water in the bottom portion of the double boiler and set the upper portion in place. Cook over medium high heat until the eggs start to coagulate, constantly stirring the sides and bottom of the pan. The eggs will coagulate to the point of looking scrambled, and the whey will lose its white milky appearance. When you dip the spoon to catch the whey, its appearance will be more watery than milky. Dump the curds into the cheesecloth lined strainer. Draw the corners and sides of the cheesecloth together, being careful not to burn your hands (I wear rubber gloves), this action creates a ball of curds. Tie the string around the cheesecloth, double knot it, then tie a knot at the top so you can hang the cheese from a cupboard knob. Place a bowl under the cheese to catch the dripping whey. After about 30 minutes, cover the ball, cheesecloth and all, with wax paper and place in the fridge. Next day remove the wax paper and cheesecloth, slice, and serve! Leftovers are good on toast.
I was having such fun with my family, I forgot to take pictures as diligently as I had planned, I'll make another hrutka and update this blog with better instructional photos, probably before the middle of May.
Didn't want to waste the dye used to color the deviled egg whites, so CM made home made napkins! CM, JM, and JD made the hammentaschen.
Flowers courtesy of B's
HB also brought lovely truffles, but again, I was preoccupied and didn't get a photo...my bad!