Easter Food Blessing, an ancient Polish custom
Holy week customs that go back at least 1000 years are still being observed in the Delaware valley. Many people of Polish or other Eastern European descent make a basket of Easter foods to be blessed on Holy Saturday and take it to their parish priest. This custom is a very important part of a Holy Week rich in traditions passed on from one generation to the next. This basket was called Swieconka and usually has food symbolic of the Easter holiday.
A Paschal Lamb, representing the Lamb of God can be made from cake, bread or butter and is often centerpiece of the food brought to the church. Eggs, both decorated and plain are a symbol of new life or rebirth. Meat, usually ham or sausage (kielbasa), Horseradish, bitter herbs that signify the bitterness of the suffering of Christ, and salt a Polish sign of hospitality are all found in this basket. Greenery, usually in the form of boxwood or branches of pussy willow represents the awakening and gringo of the earth. Bread is always in the basket, both a symbol of communion, the bread of the last supper and the traditional sweet breads or Babe.
This basket is often taken to the local church on Holy Saturday around noon, but in old times the Parish priest often visited each home and thus blessed the food and the house. Today many local parishes still observe this custom, but probably the most traditional and well attended food blessing is at one of the oldest Polish parishes in the south Jersey area, St. Joseph's in south Camden which is at 1010 Liberty St. Call for times on Holy Saturday. Directions can be obtained by calling the Parish office at 963-1285. This beautiful old church is visited by many people who drive long distances to revisit the church of their grand parents and parents and keep the tradition. Ted will play the organ at 9 AM on Easter Sunday at a Polish mass at this church.
There will also be a food blessing at my parish , St. Michael the Archangel . This will be at the Clayton site at 3 in teh St.Catherine chruch on Delsea Dr.
More information of this and other customs may be found in The Polish Traditions or country cookbooks by Sophie Hordorowicz Knab and many of the recipes are also in the Church of the Nativity cookbook. Both are found locally at Triple Oaks Nursery and Herb Garden in Franklinville N J www.tripleoaks.com. Call Lorraine Grochowski Kiefer at 856-694-4272 if questions.
Also is the butter mold to make your own butter lamb.
my babka recipe
Easter Babka Recipe
Makes 3 med/ or 2 large Breads
2 c Milk
1/2 lb (2 sticks) butter
2 pk (2 T) dry yeast
1/4 c Warm water to which 1 tb. Of sugar has been added
5 lg Eggs
3 lg Egg yolks
1 c Sugar
1 ts Salt
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 ts Vanilla extract
1 tb brandy or Orange-flavored liqueur
9 c unbleached flour
1 c raisins
1 c Golden raisins
3 tb Confectioners' sugar
make crumb topping before baking ( optional)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
5 tablespoon of cold butter
cut butter into dry ingredients until crumbs are formed
glaze , mix
1 1/4 c Confectioners' sugar mixed
with 1/2 stick of melted butter and a few drops of milk
In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat or microwave, scald milk. Add butter and stir until melted. Remove pan from heat and let mixture cool to lukewarm. In a small bowl, stir yeast into warm water; let sit for 10 minutes, or until foamy. In a large bowl, beat eggs, yolks, and sugar until thick. Add salt, zest and juice, vanilla, and liqueur. Stir to combine. Stir in milk mixture, then yeast.
Add flour, a cupful at a time, until dough is moist but not sticky, mixing with a dough paddle on electric mixer , a wooden spoon or your hands. Stir in almonds and raisins. Knead dough on a floured board, adding more flour if dough is too sticky, until dough comes away from your hands, about 6 minutes. ( some folks use a dough hook on electric mixer, i often do this too )
Place dough in a very large buttered bowl. Cover dough with a damp cloth and let rise until doubled, about 1- 1 1/2 hours. Punch down and let rise again until doubled, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Heat oven to 350'. Butter three 9-or 10-inch kugelhopf or angel-food-cake pans or large loaf pans prepared ( greased and floured ) . Divide dough into 3 portions and arrange in pans , sprinkle with crumb topping and cover loosely. Let dough rise to tops of pans, about 30 minutes. Some folks keep dough in the refrigerator over night at this stage , but rising time would be doubled when it is taken out.
Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until cakes are golden brown and tops make a hollow sound when tapped with knuckles. Cool for 5 minutes in pans; turn out onto racks and cool for 20 minutes more. Spoon glaze onto babka, allowing it to drip over sides.