Easter Traditions

Aloha friends!

I hope everyone had a lovely long Easter weekend. Easter was always one of my favourite holidays (next to Christmas) because it signified that spring was around the corner...errr well maybe not this year with the ice storm we just had. I always looked forward to the weekend to see family and friends, and of course enjoy delicious food. In particular, a traditional soup that is served every year. But it's not just any soup, there is something a little special about the ingredients -- the Easter egg blessing.

Usually when I tell people that I am going to an egg blessing they literally think I am taking a carton of eggs to get blessed, and I can see the curiosity and confusion on their faces. Święconka "the blessing of the Easter baskets" is a Polish tradition on Holy Saturday. Everyone comes to the Polish church with their beautifully decorated Easter baskets (out come the doilies), filled with certain foods each with their own symbolic meaning:

  • eggs - symbolic of the life and Christ's resurrection
  • bread - symbolic of Jesus
  • lamb - represents Christ
  • salt - represents purification
  • horseradish - symbolic of the bitter sacrifice of Christ
  • ham - symbolic of great joy and abundance

You will also find other foods in the basket like cheese, kielbasa, decorated eggs, and even chocolate (might as well right?). The lamb is actually just shaped out of salt, butter or bread, and sometimes it's not even used for the basket but instead it's displayed on the dinner table.

Baranek, meaning lamb -- always keeping an eye on you. My cousins and I used to to send this pic to each other as a friendly reminder that Baranek is always watching.

Baranek, meaning lamb -- always keeping an eye on you. My cousins and I used to to send this pic to each other as a friendly reminder that Baranek is always watching.

Everyone arrives at the church and places their baskets along tables. The priest recites the blessing and then goes around and sprinkles the holy water on the individual baskets; at our church he also likes to sprinkle, or I should say spray, the people in the crowd (everyone gets a good kick out of it). Once the food is blessed, you wait to eat it on Saturday afternoon or Easter Sunday. In my mom's family they saved the food until the next day for the soup, and ate it for breakfast after church.

Easter basket ready for the blessing.

Easter basket ready for the blessing.

It's a nice tradition that I enjoy being a part of, and it's also been really nice that my bestie has always been a part of the tradition too. Even though she isn't Polish or Catholic, she always came along with us. However, we probably made my mom want to pull her hair out dealing with our childhood antics. One year my mom bought this nicely wrapped chocolate rooster for the basket. On the way to the church she stopped at a store and left us in the car. She should have known better. Steph and I thought we would be sneaky and peel back some of the wrapping to break off a teeny tiny piece for each of us. Then we reconstructed the wrapping to try to make look like nothing had even happened. Genius, right? I'm sure you can guess what happened next. We had no self control and kept doing that repeatedly until...whoops there was nothing left. Safe to say my mom wasn't impressed when she got back to the car, but it's still something we laugh about so many years later. So this year, just like all the others, my bestie drove down to join us for the egg blessing.

Blurry selfie. Forgot to ask my parents to take a pic before they went out for the afternoon.

Blurry selfie. Forgot to ask my parents to take a pic before they went out for the afternoon.

But now let's get down to business. The soup that I eagerly await for every year. Now that the foods have been blessed they get used to make the traditional soup, known as Żurek (a sour rye soup). It might sound like a weird mix of ingredients, but most people who scoff at the sound of it end up really enjoying it (unless of course you don't eat meat, cheese or eggs).

The recipe varies from region to region, and also from family to family. But here is how my mom makes it, just like my grandmother did:

  1. Rinse back ribs and soak very well.
  2. Cook ribs with celery, peppers, onions, parsley root, salt, pepper, and a beef stock cube (you could use whatever you want for flavouring)
  3. Cook the ribs until tender. Take ribs out and shred off the meat to be used later in the soup.
  4. Cook a piece of ham and add the water from that to the broth as well to give it a nice flavour.
  5. Strain the broth and add sliced horseradish and let sit over night.
  6. The next day, beat sour cream and ~ 4 egg yolks  and add a bit of broth to the mixture to dilute it. Add the sour cream/egg yolk/broth mixture to the broth as you heat it up (just make sure you haven't brought the broth to a boil or else it will curdle).
  7. Add vinegar to taste, depending on how sour you want the soup.
  8. Throw in hard boiled eggs, smoked sausage, shredded ribs, and dried cottage cheese (this is where we include the blessed foods).
  9. Enjoy with a piece of rye bread.

My mom doesn't use any particular measurements for the ingredients, just by taste. So if you want to try this recipe you will need to play around with it depending on your preferences and how many people you are making it for. Also, many other people make the soup a bit differently. They ferment rye flour with water in a jar for about 4-5 days beforehand to get the sour taste, and they don't use sour cream or egg yolk. The sourness in my family recipe just simply comes from the vinegar. This family recipe might be a variation, but we have had some incidences where my cousins have asked to take home some of my moms soup because they like it so much (one cousin once said it was better than their moms in a low whisper to me....shhhhhh).

Mmmmmm.....the finished product!

Mmmmmm.....the finished product!

Enjoy, and happy belated Easter!

xoxo Michelle

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