Monday, April 5, 2010

Polish Easter Soup (Adam's version)

Polish Easter Soup
We had a tradition of everyone getting their own Easter egg. We would then partner with someone and try to crack the other person's egg. We would continue until there was only one person left with an uncracked egg. That person would have good luck for the rest of the year.
Polish Easter Soup
I like to make my own red horseradish as shown in the picture above. I cook one small beet, puree it, then add it to white orseradish. It has a much better flavor than buying a jar of red horseradish.
Polish Easter Soup
Polish Easter Soup
The pictures above are from my Easter table. The soup is more traditionally served on the Monday after Easter in Poland. Following that tradition I had it for lunch today (Monday) and it was absolutely delicious.

I always had trouble with the original version curdling on me. As I got older I also found it too vinegary for my taste. After a little experimentation I found that Cream of Mushroom Soup will work as a thickener and it doesn't curdle! Here's my version.

Polish Easter Soup (Adam's Version)

2 links smoked Polish sausage (Polska Kielbasa)
1 baked ham
1 3" piece of salt pork (optional--but I always include it)
1 dozen hard-boiled eggs (dyed)
1 loaf seeded rye bread
1 jar horseradish red or white (see note below)
1 3" piece of feta cheese (see note below)
3 tablespoons white vinegar
3 cans of mushroom soup
In a large soup pot, place sausage and add water to cover, about one quart. Bring just to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for about an hour. Every few minutes puncture sausage skin to allow juice to flow.
Remove sausage, allow broth to cool, add vinegar, and refrigerate overnight.
Bake ham. Do not add an cloves or other spices or sweet glazes and refrigerate overnight.
Cook salt pork in water until tender, about one hour and refrigerate overnight.
Cover feta cheese with milk and refrigerate overnight.
The next day skim the fat off the broth. Add mushroom soup. Whisk together until well blended. If desired, strain to remove mushrooms (I don't even worry about them any more). Bring soup just to boil, reduce temperature to low and simmer for about 15 minutes. Whisk from time to time. Taste it and if too salty or vinegary you may add a can of whole milk.

Cut about 2 cups each of sausage, ham, rye bread and eggs into 1/2 inch cubes.

Rince, dry, and cut feta cheese into 1/2 inch cubes.

Cut salt pork into 1/4 inch cubes.

Arrange meats on one platter, bread, cheese and eggs on another.

In soup bowls, allow guests to combine meats, bread, cheese and eggs as desired. Add hot soup. Add 1 to 2 teaspoons horseradish as desired.

Note: I like to make my own red horseradish. I cook one small beet until soft, peel it, coarsely chop it, then put it in a blender and blend until fairly smooth. I mix the beet with a fresh jar of white horseradish. It gives the soup a pretty pink color and the beet cuts the intensity of the horseradish.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Polish Easter Basket Blessing

On Saturday morning I took my Easter Basket to St. Leo's for a blessing traditional especially for folks of Polish ancestry. One person had a dish with nothing but seven Easter butter lambs. Another had a can of Bud Lite in her basket along with the food. Many had beatiful decorated eggs. Hope you enjoy the pictures of my basket. Last year Publix, the local supermarket, carried butter lambs, but not this year so at the last minute I carved my own!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Traditional Polish Easter Soup

People from Poland probably would not consider this as the basis of an Easter meal, but rather as a meal for Easter Monday--a time to use up the leftovers from Easter Sunday! It is, however, our family tradition because our Polish ancestors in Michigan had to go to work on Monday. It was not a holiday as it is in Poland.

This recipe comes from my sister, Barbara

Traditional Easter Soup - White Borscht (Monday Soup)

2 links smoked Polish sausage (Kielbasa)
1/2 smoked baked ham
1 quart water
3/4 cup sour cream
1 raw egg
2-3 tablespoons flour
Salt and pepper
5-8 tablespoons white vinegar
10 hardboiled eggs, diced
1 loaf light rye bread, cubed
Farmer's white cheese, cubed
White or red horseradish

In large pot, cook kielbasa with enought water to cover. Cook about one hour piercing skin to release juices. Remove sausage. Reserve stock. This borscht is made from the water in which the smoked kielbasa was cooked. In a bowl, fork-blend 3/4 cup sour cream and raw egg with 2-3 tablespoons flour. Season to tast with salt and pepper. Blend 1 cup of warm broth and cream. Blend that into pot of stock. Cook until a gentle simmer. Do not boil (this will cause the cream to curdle). Add vinegar to taste. This soup should definitely be on the tart side so be sure to use enough vinegar. The white barszcz should be served over a bowl of diced ham, the kielbasa from which the stock was made, hard-boild egg slices, diced farmer's cheese, cubed stale rye bread, and a little freshly grated or prepared horseradish to taste.

A Polish Easter in Detroit, Michigan

Top row l. to r. - Vincent Wacht, Lillian (Wacht) Janowski, Edward Wacht.
Bottom row l. to r. - Adam Janowski, Jr., Marie Wacht.
Having been raised Catholic, the many traditions associated with Easter were almost more significant than Christmas.

On Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, palm leaves were distributed at Mass and afterwards were often woven into intricate braided shapes and hung inside homes, usually on a crucifix or religious picture. After Palm Sunday all of the statues in the church were covered in purple tunics indicating that the disciples of Christ had fled Jerusalem.

On Holy Thursday we went to church to commemorate the Last Supper of Jesus and his disciples and for the blessing of the feet ceremony where the priest washed the feet of the poor. On the following day, Good Friday, we spent the hours from 12 noon to 3 in church or in silence at home. It was a double torture as mom used that time to cook all of the meat for the Easter Sunday meal. No meat would be eaten Good Friday, so the smell of ham baking and keilbasa cooking was excruciating!

On Saturday we took an Easter basket lined in linen and lace to the church to be blessed. It contained pieces of all of the food--ham, sausage, salt pork, rye bread, farmer's cheese, dyed hard-boiled eggs, horseradish and salt and pepper, that would be served on Easter Sunday. It also often included a butter carving in the shape of a lamb. The basket would be blessed so that we would have food in abundance throughout the following year.

Easter Sunday service was a glorious celebration! Everyone was dressed in new clothes and the church smelled of Easter lilies and incense. As you can see from the picture above I (the little boy with the fedora) was always a snappy dresser!

The service was followed by a festive and filling breakfast. We ate a white, slightly sour, soup, with cubes of meat, bread, cheese and eggs in the soup. Horseradish was often added to spice it up. If red horseradish was used the soup would turn a pretty pink color.

We almost always went to my visit my grandmother on my mother's side in Detroit. The dinner meal was another serving of the same type of soup followed by cake. The cake was often made by my Aunt Hattie and would be in the shape of a lamb covered in white icing and coconut. If she wasn't bringing the cake someone would by a cake from Sanders Bakery in Detroit. It would be yellow cake with buttercream icing garnished with crushed hazelnuts. We'd often add an Easter "nest" of green colored coconut with a couple of chocolate malted milk "robin's eggs".

In my next post I will be providing you with a few recipes--my sister Barbara's recipe for a traditional Easter soup, my own interpretation of it, and a recipe for an as close as I can get version of Sander's buttercream icing which did not include butter or cream.

About me

I grew up in the glory years of Detroit and its surrounding area of southeastern Michigan. World War II was in the past, and the boom times were in full gear. I was born in 1950, on a farm, part of an 80 acre plot my father's mother and stepmother, my grandparents, acquired after working in the factories in Detroit. We lived on two acres of the plot where my father built a solid two-story red brick house in mock-Tudor style, with a detached garage, also of red brick. In a small farming community of mostly wood clapboard farmhouses, our brick house stood out: It spoke of middle class and success. It was an age of anticipation, of transition; we wanted to hold on to the past, but we were looking forward to the future.

The 1950s were glory years for me and a booming Detroit. But as the decade waned, people started leaving Detroit for bigger and better things in the suburbs. The elderly and those who did not have the resources to leave Detroit were left behind. With rising unemployment and crime the city began to die. But for me the 1950s were golden years and figure large in my story.

The Polish recipes I remember reflect our origins as Polish peasants. Many of the recipes include cabbage, potatoes, mushrooms, and smoked meats. These were hearty recipes that could sustain a family through hard times. My ancestors fled Poland in the early 1900s for the promise of a better life in America. They found jobs in the autombile industry in Detroit. Then the Depression came, followed by World War II, lean and difficult times.

I was born in a lucky time. Life was good and food was plenty. My first plan for this cookbook was to include only Polish recipes that were associated with our family and for the most part it will be just that.

As I build upon the blog, however, I will also include recipes that have become favorites of mine through my world travels. As an adult I spent many ears living overseas as a teacher for the U.S. Department of Defense Dependents Schools (DoDDS) and also working for the Arabian American Oil Company in Saudi Arabia for a number of years. So many recipes from those times have become part of my own life. They are not always Polish recipes, but I have decided to include them because I continue to make them or if there is a story attached to a recipe.

To all who enjoy my contribution to the tradition of Polish recipes, embellished with my lifetime of travel, I wish you "Smacznego - Bon Appetite"!