Monday, December 27, 2010

Traditional Polish Christmas Eve (Wigilia) Dinner Recipes

Here are many of the traditional (and maybe some modern versions) of recipes and customs associated with a Polish American Christmas Eve in Detroit, Michigan in the 1950s and 60s. Over the years we have maintained some and let some go. Older generations talked about keeping the carp that would be served at dinner alive and swimming in the family bathtub. I remember that my Aunt Kay served fried perch until her family grew and she substituted frozen fried shrimp. She is also responsible for the apple and rice casserole recipe that is included here. I don't make it, but it has become traditional for my sister, Barbara's family. 
Christmas Wafer (Oplatek)

From oldest to youngest gathered around the table we shared bits of Oplatek (wafer) wishing each other health, wealth, and happiness and a special wish for the New Year. The wafer sat on a dish on a bed of straw in the center of the table. There was always an empty chair at the table to remind that that should a stranger enter "there would always be a place for Him". 

Twelve Fruit Compote

6-10 cups water
1 pound mixed dried fruit: pears, figs, apricots, and peaches
1 pound dried pitted prunes
1/2 cup dried raisins
Additional fresh fruit to total 12 different fruits: Sliced lemon, sliced orange, sliced apple, 1/2 cup cherries, 4 pitted plums. 10-12 grapes, (or any other fruit available)

Combine water, mixed dry fruits, prunes, and raisins in a pot large enough to hold all the ingredients. Bring to a boil, cover and then simmer for about 30-45 minutes (or until the fruit is plump and tender). Add fresh fruit. Simmer for about 15 minutes. Add water as needed. Our family would add enough water to serve 20 plus guests.

Optional: Stir in 1/2 -3/4 cup fruit brandy. Let stand 15 minutes. Strain juice. (Reserve fruit*) Serve warm in juice glasses at the beginning of the meal.

*My parents always enjoyed the stewed fruits during the holidays (serve warm or cold).

Pickled Herring

1 jar pickled herring with onion

Serve a couple of pieces to each guest.

I sometimes make this into a salad, putting a couple of pieces of the herring on a bed of lettuce with a couple of pieces of fresh orange, some red onion, sliced thin, and some toasted pine nuts on top. Serve with your favorite oil and vinegar salad dressing.

Barbara’s Mushroom Soup (Zupa Ze Swiezych Grzybow)

2 4 ounce packages dried Polish mushrooms, such as boletes (borowiki) or honey mushrooms (opienki), also known locally as "stumpers.
1/2 cup to 1 cup regular sour cream
1 egg
Salt and pepper
5-8 Tablespoons white vinegar
Boiled, diced potatoes

Cook mushrooms until tender in 2 cups water (about one hour). Remove mushrooms from pot, let cool, and then finely chop. You may need to discard tough stems. Take broth and pour through cheesecloth to remove silt. Return to large pot and add 8-10 cups water. Return chopped mushrooms to broth.

In a bowl, fork-blend 1/2 to1 cup sour cream with 3 tablespoons flour and one egg. Add 1cup broth stirring until lump-free, and add to pot. Simmer several minutes, salt and pepper, and add vinegar 1 tablespoon at a time to taste (should be slightly tart) and serve over diced, cooked potatoes. Polish mushrooms are getting harder to find, but dark Chinese mushrooms work the same!

This is an alternative version that I prefer as I can't always find dried Polish mushrooms. I've also thought about the fact that our ancestors couldn't find fresh mushrooms in the dead of winter. Since fresh mushrooms are readily available today, I have decided to use them.

Adam's Mushroom Soup

2 cups dried Chinese mushrooms (found in any Asian market)
1 medium onion (coarsely chopped)
1 medium carrot (coarsely chopped)
1 stalk celery (coarsely chopped)
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 package Baby Bella fresh mushrooms
1 tablespoon butter
2 cans Cream of Mushroom soup
Boiled potatoes

In large soup pot 2/3 filled with water, combine mushrooms, onion, carrot, and celery. Bring to boil and simmer for about 2 to 2 and 1/2 hours until mushrooms are very soft. Strain broth through cheesecloth. Discard vegetables and add vinegar. Allow to cool and refrigerate overnight.

Sauté Baby Bella mushrooms in butter until cooked through. Bring broth to boil. Reduce heat. Add 2 cans cream of mushroom soup. Whisk until smooth. Add cooked mushrooms. Simmer for about 15 minutes. Be careful not to let this soup boil over. Serve over boiled potatoes.


Aunt Mary’s Sauerkraut and Split Peas (Groch z Kapusta)



1 cup yellow peas
1 quart sauerkraut
1 small onion chopped fine
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms*
Salt and pepper

Soak peas overnight. Cook in same water until tender, about one hour. Rinse sauerkraut. Chop into smaller pieces. Mix sauerkraut, onion, mushrooms and peas. Season with salt and pepper. Cook about 1 hour on low heat. Serve with boiled potatoes.

*Mushrooms are pre-cooked Polish, or dark, mushrooms in water for about 1 hour. Drain and reserve liquid for a great gravy.


Pierogi (Stuffed Dumplings)
Plum, Potato and Cheese, and Sauerkraut and Mushroom
We liked both potato and farmer's cheese as well as sauerkraut and mushroom pierogies.


It would take all day to make dozens and dozens of Polish pierogies by hand.
Home-made Polish pierogies.

Dough:

2 eggs
1/2 cup water
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

Mound flour on kneading board or large mixing bowl and make hole in center. Drop eggs into hole and cut into flour with knife. Add salt and water and knead until firm. You may need to incorporate additional flour. Let rest for 10 minutes covered with a warm cloth. Divide dough in halves.

If making by hand:

Roll thin. Cut circles with large biscuit cutter. Place a generous Tbsp. of filling a little to one side on each round of dough. Moisten edge with water, fold over, and press edges together firmly.

If making by pasta machine:

Divide dough into thirds. Shape dough in thin rectangle. Flour generously. Gently feed through pasta maker at largest opening. Re-flour dough, set pasta maker at next largest. Repeat steps until at third smallest opening. Cut dough into squares. Put one Tbsp. of filling into center of square. Moisten edge with water, fold over, and press edges together firmly. Use pizza cutter to trim into semi-circle shape. Extra dough may be re-used.

Be sure the pierogi are well sealed to prevent the filling from running out. Drop pierogi into salted boiling water. Cook gently for 3 to 5 minutes. Lift out of water carefully with slotted spoon.

Never crowd or pile pierogi. The uncooked will stick and the cooked will lose shape and lightness. I have found that it helps to coat lightly the pierogi with cooking spray.

To serve, lightly fry in butter until tops and bottoms are lightly browned and the pierogis are thoroughly warmed through. Serve with sour cream.

Adam’s Potato Cheese Pierogi Filling


2 large potatoes, cooked and mashed
2 cups small-curd cottage cheese
1/2 large onion, minced
3 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper

Sauté onion until tender and golden.

Combine potatoes, cottage cheese, and onion, including butter. Salt and pepper to taste. Allow to cool before using.

Adam’s Sauerkraut and Mushroom Pierogi Filling


1 medium sized can sauerkraut, well rinsed
1/2 large onion, minced
3 tablespoons butter
12 medium Baby Bella or Shitaki mushrooms, chopped into about 1/4 pieces
Salt and pepper

Sauté onion until tender and golden. Add mushrooms and continue sautéing until mushrooms are cooked. Add sauerkraut and sauté uncovered about 30 minutes or until sauerkraut turns a golden color. Stir frequently as this can burn easily. Add additional butter if too dry. Salt and pepper to taste. Allow to cool before using.

Barbara’s Pierogi Recipe

2 cups flour
2 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup flour

Mound flour in a bowl. Make a well in the center. Drop 2 eggs into well. Add salt and sour cream. Fold together with your hands until dough is smooth. Handle as little as possible or the dough will be tough. Roll out onto lightly floured counter. Cut into circles (a glass works well). Place filling into centers. Fold in half, pinch edges completely. Cook in a pot of boiling water about 5-7 minutes or until they float to the top. Drain. To prevent sticking during storage butter each pierogi before placing in a container. To serve; fry in butter until golden brown on both sides.

Serve with sour cream.

Fillings:

Plums: Drain 1 large can of plums, remove pits, and use one plum per pierogi. Great Aunt Kay would dip them in melted butter, then into fine breadcrumbs and fry them in butter. Yumm, they will be extra crispy!

Sauerkraut: One large can/jar of sauerkraut drained; reserving liquid. Rinse kraut. Chop. Add ½ cup finely chopped pre-cooked Polish Mushrooms and one medium onion, finely chopped. Fry 15 minutes or until onion is golden. If kraut is not sour enough to your liking add a little of the reserved liquid. Cool. Use about 2 tablespoons per pierogi.

Potato and Cheese: Cook and smash (not super smooth) 5 pounds of potatoes. Cool. Add 2 and 1/2 pounds dry farmer’s cheese (or well drained cottage cheese). Fry one large onion with 2 tablespoons butter until golden brown. Add to potato mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste. Use about 2 tablespoons per pierogi.

If Farmer’s cheese is not available, you can drain cottage cheese over night using cheesecloth. You should be able to remove all the liquids if you place a weight on top of the cheese. It will be dry the next morning.


Aunt Kay's Rice Casserole

1 and 1/2 cups rice
5-6 Macintosh apples
1/4 cup milk, scalded
1/4 teaspoon, cinnamon
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/3 cups white sugar

Parboil rice about 6-7 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water.

Peel apples and cut into slices.

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray casserole dish with cooking spray. Start a first layer of apples, sprinkle with white sugar, and then a layer of rice. Drizzle 1 tablespoon melted butter over rice. Continue until you have 2 layers of rice and 3 layers of apples. Pour milk over layers. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake 45 to 60 minutes. Continue baking at 375 degrees  for one hour.

Aunt Sophie's Kasha (Kasza)

1 cup buckwheat groats
2 cups chicken broth (Vegetable broth or water may be substituted on Christmas Eve)
1 cup water
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup pitted dried prunes

Mix in pot. Bring to boil. Cook tightly over low heat, about 20 minutes. Add more water if necessary. The grits must be dry when done, not wet.

Barbara's Christmas Nut Roll

Dough:
1 package Active Dry Yeast 2 tablespoon lukewarm water
1/2 cup scalded milk
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
2 cups flour
2 tablespoons butter

Filling:
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cup walnuts, finely chopped
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons flour

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Dissolve yeast in water. Scald the milk and put in mixing bowl. Add butter, sugar, and salt. Cool. To the milk mixture, add beaten egg, and yeast. Stir in sifted flour. Grease top, cover and let rise for 30 minutes. While flour is rising, make the filling. Combine the filling ingredients in a small pot. Cook slowly until mixture boils. Stir constantly for one minute. Let cool. Now, knead dough on floured board 1 minute. Roll into 12” square. Spread with nut filling and roll. Place on greased baking sheet seam side down. Tuck ends under to prevent filling from seeping, then brush with milk. Cover and let rise 45 minutes or until soft to touch. Bake 30 minutes.

Makes one loaf.

*The bread machine works great! Use the Dough only cycle. Into the bread machine, add your ingredients in this order 1) flour 2) water 3) beaten egg 4) sugar 5) milk 6) butter 7) salt 8) yeast. Once the dough cycle is complete roll into 12” square and follow the instructions as above.



Aunt Hattie made the best angel wings (Chrusciki). They were light as a feather. We always watched to see if she was carrying a large rectangular cardboard box when she arrived as that signaled that she was bringing Angel Wings. We could not resist sneaking a sample, even before dinner.

Aunt Hattie's Chruscki

3 egg yolks
A pinch of salt
A pinch of brandy
A pinch of nutmeg
1 and 1/2 tablespoons sour cream
1 and 1/2 cups flour

Mix all ingredients, adding 1 and 1/2 cups flour. Add a little flour at a time until kind of gooey. Put on floured board. Add a little flour while kneading. Keep adding flour until it pulls easily—something like pie crust. Fry in Crisco shortening. Check a few while frying so the Crisco won’t be too hot. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle both sides with powdered sugar.



Poppy Seed Coffee Cake (Strucla z Makiem)


1 package yeast
1 tablespoon warm water
1/2 cup scalded milk
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 egg yolks
2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom


Cream butter with sugar. Add salt to egg yolks and beat until thick. Scald milk and cool to lukewarm. Add beaten yolks to butter and sugar mixture. Add yeast dissolved in 1 tablespoon warm water. Add flavoring and mix thoroughly. Add flour alternately with the milk and knead with hand until fingers are free of dough. Let rise for about 2 hours or until double in bulk. Punch down and let rise again for one hour. Place dough on floured board and roll to one-half inch thickness into rectangular shape. Spread with poppy seed or nut raisin mixture and roll like jelly roll, sealing all edges. Place on cookie sheet and let rise until double in bulk. Bake for 45 minutes in 350 degree oven.


Poppy Seed Filling:


1 cup ground poppy seed
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar or 1/3 cup honey
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla


Bring milk to boiling point and add poppy seed. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring carefully, until milk is absorbed. Add sugar or honey. Beat egg thoroughly. Mix 1 tablespoon of hot poppy seed with egg and pour into cooked poppy seed. Stir until thick. Add vanilla. Must be thoroughly cooled before using.


Uncle Adam’s Walnut Raisin Filling:


1 cup ground walnuts
1/2 cup white raisins
Substitute walnuts for poppy seeds and proceed as in poppy seed filling recipe above. When cool add 1/2 cup white raisins.




Barbara's Christmas Nut Roll

Dough:
1 package Active Dry Yeast
2 tablespoons lukewarm water
1/2 cup scalded milk
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
2 cups flour
2 tablespoons butter


Filling:
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cup walnuts, finely chopped
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons flour

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Dissolve yeast in water. Scald the milk and put in mixing bowl. Add butter, sugar, and salt. Cool. To the milk mixture, add beaten egg, and yeast. Stir in sifted flour. Grease top, cover and let rise for 30 minutes. While flour is rising, make the filling. Combine the filling ingredients in a small pot. Cook slowly until mixture boils. Stir constantly for one minute. Let cool. Now, knead dough on floured board 1 minute. Roll into 12” square. Spread with nut filling and roll. Place on greased baking sheet seam side down. Tuck ends under to prevent filling from seeping, then brush with milk. Cover and let rise 45 minutes or until soft to touch. Bake 30 minutes.

Makes one loaf.

*The bread machine works great! Use the Dough only cycle. Into the bread machine, add your ingredients in this order 1) flour 2) water 3) beaten egg 4) sugar 5) milk 6) butter 7) salt 8) yeast. Once the dough cycle is complete roll into 12” square and follow the instructions as above.

Polish Kolaczki (Filled Cookie)
Before dusting with confectioners' sugar.
1 (8-ounce) cream cheese, softened
12 ounces (3 sticks) butter, softened
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 (14-ounce) cans fillings of choice (I use Solo brand apricot, raspberry and almond)
Confectioners' sugar

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Add flour 1 cup at a time and mix well. Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate for at a couple of hours.least 1 hour.

Roll out dough 1/4-inch on a surface that has been dusted with sifted confectioners' sugar (not flour). Cut into 2-inch squares. Place 1/2 to 1 teaspoon filling on center of each square. Overlap opposite corners of dough to the center over filling. You have to work fast or the dough will stick.

Bake for 15 minutes or when corners start to brown. When completely cool dust with sifted confectioners' sugar.

Assortment of Christmas After Dinner Delights
From Noon clockwise: Magic Cookie Bars, Lemon Squares, Creamy Chocolate Fudge, Kolaczki (Fruit Filled Pastry), Apple Raisin Walnut Cookies and Mexican Wedding Cookies (center).





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