Saturday, March 01, 2003

March/April 2003- Czech Easter Foods and Customs

Some Czech Easter Foods

Colored eggs - Barvene Vejce – (Eva Zimova) Materials needed
Raw eggs - brown-shelled eggs are fine
Greenery to make the decorations
A small bowl of water to wet the greenery
Old nylon stockings to hold greenery fast & strong thread to tie it
Onion skins to color the eggs
These are the dried, brown, outer onion skins
One year we used red onion skins - the effect was only slight
A pot and water for simmering the eggs
Some cooking oil to polish the eggs after they are cool

Cut the stocking in lengths to cover an egg. Tie one end tightly with thread.
Collect some greens - garden plants or weeds you know are harmless, or chives, parsley, or other herbs.
Use only things you know are not poisonous! Although you discard the greenery, egg shells are porous. If you have dandelion plants or violets in your yard, you may use them. If you have lilies of the valley, DO NOT use those!

Put the greenery in a small bowl of water. Wetness makes it stick to the egg. Chose pieces of greenery for your patterns and arrange on an egg. Cover the decorated egg with a nylon stocking sack and tie the other end with thread.

Put it in the pot on some of the onion skins and continue decorating other eggs. Tuck more onion skins on and around eggs and add water to the pot. Bring to a boil and then simmer seven minutes. Lift eggs from the water with a slotted spoon and rest on a rack until cool enough to handle. Gently snip the piece of nylon stocking and remove the greenery.When eggs are completely cool, you may put a little cooking oil on a small rag to polish them.

The eggs in a basket are a lovely table decoration. You may eat them for breakfast, lunch, supper, or a snack! But, put the eggs in the refrigerator overnight, and when you're gone all day.

Fried lamb or kid and spinach - Smazeny jehneci nebo kuzleci a spinat - Rina Homolkova
In older times this was the typical lunch on White Saturday, the Saturday before Easter. The pieces of meat were breaded and fried. And what do you do with the little head? Well, you make, to eat on Easter day:

The Little Head - Hlavicka The "Little Head" has two meanings, one secular, one religious. Long ago the small animal head was simmered and the meat used in the following recipe. However, already 80-90 years ago, most cooks had switched to using smoked meat. The Easter meaning is that the Risen Christ is head of the church, and this dish is a small symbol of that.

Hlavicka - by Eva Zimova
Smoked meat. Simmer. Remove the elastic net at once, while the meat is still hot.
I find I can remove the elastic net easily if I cut the meat in half with a big knife, and then pull on the strings. Cut into bite-sized pieces.
10 rolls, cut or tear
Dried garlic, salt, pepper
BABY nettles - wash & cut up. You don't have nettles in your garden?! How strange. Use chives or parsley.
One cake of yeast
Three tablespoons, or one large handful,
EACH of the following four ingredients -
1.Hladka, 2.Poloruba, 3.Hruby flours (mouka), 4.children's porridge
(detsky kase) (I guess in USA, just use flour & porridge)
10 eggs

Turn the oven on to high heat. [400-425 F.] Mix everything together, put in a greased baking pan, and let sit 15-20 minutes.
Bake 20 minutes on high. Turn to medium [350 F.] and bake about 25 minutes more.
You can test as for a cake.
I do recommend making a third or fourth of this recipe the first time. It is extremely hearty food, and not everyone will eat much of it. [Don't worry about trying to use half or third of an egg. Just put the whole one in - it's a flexible enough recipe.] Cut in squares. May be eaten warm or cold.

Easter Bread - Mazanec - Barbara & Rina Homolka

The meaning of the word mazanec is the 'thing that is spread', as it's painted with an egg glaze before baking. The round loaf represents the stone rolled away from the tomb when Christ arose.

Bakeries and grocery stores carry this bread year round, but at Eastertime there will be better loaves with lots of sliced almonds and raisins. If you wish to make it yourself, use a recipe for sweet bread.

Knead in the raisins and nuts after the first rising. Before baking, spread with an egg mixed with a little water, and mark a cross on the top with a sharp knife.

You may make small snail buns with some of the dough before you shape the round loaf. These are "Judases" - "Jidase", because Judas was twisted.

Another food, very typical for Easter, is the lamb cake you see in the grocery stores. It's made from the usual babovka dough. I surround mine with other Easter decorations. If you should wish to bake it yourself, look for ceramic molds in a kitchen supply store.


Some Czech Easter Customs

Easter in Czech is Velikonoce, The Great Night

What our family calls Palm Sunday, Czechs have named Flower Sunday. In church, rather than palm branches, pussy willows are blessed. You may take a piece or two from the array, or you may bring your own to be blessed.

Setting grain or grass seeds to have fresh living greenery with your Easter decorations.
Courtesy Eva Zimova.

Where do you get seeds? Often pet food stores have sacks of grain, from which you might buy a little. The drogerie near me is selling special little packets of a seedling mixture for Easter. Maybe you have a bag of grass seeds for sprinkling on your lawn.

Line a dish or a tray with paper towels; add water; spread out the seeds; set in the light.
Always keep your seeds wet and you will be rewarded with fresh green life.

An Easter egg tree.
Hang a sturdy branch with the hollow decorated eggs you get in handicraft stores.
Wooden noise makers which you see pictured on Easter postcards.
Children run around with them outside on Good Friday and White Saturday to scare away evil spirits. These are sometimes for sale in souvenir shops.
[Babicka saw me thinking about buying Charlotte one. "Don't. Don't.] A decorated whip plaited from willow shoots.
During caroling for eggs on Easter Monday, boys try to whack girls with whips if girls do not hand out eggs fast enough. On the other hand, girls often fling handfuls or cups of water on the boys.

Easter Caroling

Caroling days are Saturday, Easter Sunday, and Monday, but only on Monday do carolers knock on doors asking for gifts of colored eggs.

In a small village all of the children might go caroling, but in a larger place, just the boys go, demanding eggs of the girls. Every fourth year girls go caroling. [On leap year?? I don't know.]

Here is one of the favorite songs.

Hody, Hody do pro vody
Date vejce malovany
Nedateli malovany
Date aspon bily
Slepicka vam snesa jiny