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May 23, 2024

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Swiecone – Hallowfare
Polish Easter Treats

The Polish term “Święcone” has been variously translated into English as hallowfare, blessed food, consecrated repast or holy meal. Literally meaning “that which has been blessed”, it is the name given to both the Easter foods brought to church to be blessed on Holy Saturday and the brunch shared with loved ones after mass on Easter Sunday. Here then are some ideas of what might be served at such a festive family gathering or a community Dyngus Day celebration or organized Święconka.

SHARING BLESSED EGGS (dzielenie się jajkiem): After grace, wedges of blessed hard-cooked eggs are shared by all present to signify the end of the Lenten fast with the symbol of New Life. The host may bring a plate round to each family member who impales a wedge with his fork and all consume their egg after expressing wishes of “Wesołego Alleluja” of “Wesołych Świąt” (Happy Easter).

EASTER RYEMEAL SOUP (żurek wielkanocny): In pot combine 2 to 2 ½ c diced smoked kielbasa, ham and/or roast pork, 6 c water, 1 quartered onion and several peppercorns. Simmer on low under cover 1 hr. Stir in 1 c ryemeal sour* (żur liquid – available bottled at Polish delis), 1 c water in which 1 heaping T flour has been dissolved and ¼ of a mushroom bouillon cube. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer 2-3 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 cold water. 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 or more vinegar.

EGGS, HARD-COOKED (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 10-12 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. Another way is to arrange halved eggs on lettuce-lined platter and dress with sauce of choice. Garnish with chopped chives.

EGG & MEAT SAUCES (sosy do jaj i wędlin): 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: 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: to 1 c basic sauce stir in 1 heaping T prepared horseradish;

— Tartar sauce: stir into basic sauce 1 grated onion, 1 chopped dill pickle, 2-4 pickled mushrooms and 1 t lemon juice;

— mustard sauce: fork-blend 1 heaping T prepared brown Polish mustard with 1 c basic sauce.

BEETROOT & HORSERADISH (ćwikła z chrzanem): Drain 1 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). Note: Use the beet liquid to dye several shelled hard-cooked eggs by keeping them submerged 1 hr. Pat the red eggs dry with paper towel and intersperse them among the white shelled eggs for a colorful accent.

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.

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), boiled slab bacon, boiled beef tongue and/or smoked turkey breast. decorate platters with parsley sprigs, radish roses and/or spiced plums. An Easter egg may be placed in a bed of greenery at one end of the platter.

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 the drippings as a gravy base

HOT STUFFED EGGS (IN SHELLS) (jaja faszerowane w skorupkach): Although a bit involved, this is a fantastic Easter dish well worth the effort! 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.

FRESH HOME-MADE 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 and 2-3 buds crushed garlic. (Variation: For West Poland kiełbasa [Poznań region], add 1 T marjoram.) Work by hand, gradually add 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 kiełbasa in pot of cold water which should cover it by at least 1”. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer under cover cook at a gentle Add 1 bay leaf, 1 beef- bouillon cube 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. Optional: Instead of cooking the sausage in plain water, feel free to add a large quartered onion, a bay leaf or a beef bouillon cube to enhance its flavor.                             FRESH BAKED KIEŁBASA (biała kiełbasa pieczona): Arrange fresh kiełbasa in a single layer in uncovered baking pan. Cover with cold water and 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. Variation: At the start of cooking, replace 1 c of water with beer.

KIEŁBASA & SAUERKRAUT (kiełbasa z kapustą): Drain 2 – 3 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 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 2 ¼ lean slab bacon (smoked or uncooked) 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 typical Easter go-togethers. (Note: The degreased stock makes a good soup base.)

EASTER BABKA (babka wielkanocna): Dissolve 3 envelopes (3 T) dry yeast in ¾ c warm (110°F) water, stir in 1 T sugar and ½ c flour, cover and let stand in warm place until it foams (5-10 min). Heat 1¼ c milk and 1¼ c unsalted butter until it melts and set aside to cool to lukewarm. Separately, beat 6 whole eggs and 2 extra yolks with 1 c sugar until creamy. Add the warm milk & butter, yeast mixture, 1 t vanilla and 1 t salt and beat until smooth. Beat in 4½ c flour a little at a time until it is absorbed, adding another 3¼ c or less (enough to get a soft, manageable dough). Knead on floured board until smooth and pliable. Transfer dough to 2 greased babka pans, cover with cloth and let rise in warm place until doubled (app. 2 hrs). Bake in preheated 350°F oven about 55 min or until a wooden pick comes out clean. Remove from pans and cool on racks. Dust with powdered sugar or drizzle with plain white icing.

EASIER EASTER BABKA (babka wielkanocna łatwiejsza): Mash 1 cake yeast with 1 c sugar. Add 3 whole eggs, beaten, 3/4 c butter dissolved in 1 c very warm milk, 3 c flour, 1 t vanilla extract and ½ c raisins. Mix well to blend ingredients, but do not knead. Fill well-greased babka pan with dough, but it should be only ⅓ full. Cover with cloth and let stand in warm place until doubled in bulk (about 2 hrs). Bake about 1 hr in preheated 350° oven. It is fully baked when a wooden pick comes out clean. Dust with confectioner’s sugar or glaze with icing (mix together ⅔ c confectioner’s sugar, 1 t rum or vanilla extract and 2-3 T boiling water).

POLISH WHEEL CAKE (kołacz): Prepare dough as in either of the first two babka recipes (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 tea 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 beaten egg and bake in preheated 350°F oven about 55 min or until pick comes out clean.

POLISH KNOT 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 1 stick 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.

CRUMBLE-TOP FRUIT MAZURKA (mazurek owocowy z kruszonką): Cut ½ lb butter into 3 c flour, add 4 egg yolks and 1 scant c confectioner’s sugar. Quickly work ingredients into a smooth dough, wrap in foil and refrigerate several hrs. Divide dough into 2 parts. Roll out one half and fit it into square or rectangular baking pan. Spread with powidła or other thick jam. Coarsely grate the remaining dough, evenly covering the entire surface. Bake in preheated 390°-400° oven about 20 min or until nice and golden. When cool, cut into squares.                                                  HAZELNUT MAZURKA (mazurek orzechowy): Mix 1½ c uncooked rolled oats with ½ c ground peeled hazelnuts (filberts) and brown in hot, dry frying-pan, stirring constantly. When cool, stir in 4 T sour cream. Separately, beat 3 raw egg yolks with 1 c confectioner’s sugar until white and combine with oat-nut mixture. Add 1 level t baking powder, several drops almond extract and a pinch of salt. Mix well. Beat 3 egg whites to a stiff froth and gently fold into mixture. Transfer mixture to greased baking pan and shape into ¾” tall square or rectangle. Smooth top and even out sides. Bake in preheated 375° oven about 20 min or until golden. After cake has cooled, glaze with icing, made by combining ⅔ c confectioner’s sugar, 2 T cocoa, juice of 1 lemon and 1 T boiling water. Decorate top with hazelnut halves

EASY WAFER-STYLE MAZURKA (łatwy mazurek na waflu): If you don’t do much baking, this is the mazurka for you! You will need several (4-5) large, plain square or rectangular wafers (available at a pastry-supply, gourmet, speciality or European import shops) or large sheets of opłatek (Christmas wafer). 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.

EASTER CHEESE DESSERT (pascha): Soak 1 heaping T raisins in a jigger of cognac or brandy. Grind 1¼ lb farmer cheese or dry cottage cheese twice or whirl it to a powder in food-processor. In saucepan beat 5 raw egg yolks with 1½ c confectioner’s sugar until white and fluffy, gradually adding ½ c coffee cream. Place saucepan on low flame and heat mixture, mixing constantly, but do not boil. Set aside to cool. Combine cheese with yolk mixture, add the drained raisins and about ½ c chopped blanched almonds and/or walnuts, 1-2 T finely chopped candied orange rind and 1 t vanilla extract. Mix ingredients well and place in sieve lined with 2 layers of cheese-cloth. Cover with plate and weight down with 1 qt jar filled with water. Refrigerate overnight. Next day, turn out onto serving plate. Decorate top with whole almonds, walnut meats, raisins and strips of candied orange rind. Optional: Top may first be decorated with grated chocolate.

By Robert Strybel – “The Polish Chef”