After the strict fasting of Lent, Poles are more than ready for a feast. In Poland, the storks are once again on the rooftops and the flowers have started to bloom. On Good Friday night, hard-cooked eggs are colored and decorated with traditional designs. On Easter Saturday, swieconka baskets filled with salt, hard-cooked eggs, butter, sausage, ham, bread, babka and other foods are taken to a church to be blessed by the priest. On Easter morning, the feasting begins with a breakfast taste of... everything in the basket.
01 of 08
After breakfast, the table is set with the best linens, finest china and silver, and decorated with pussy willow branches and garlands of leaves. The Easter lamb cake takes center stage. Then the appetizer buffet is laid out. Appetizers are mostly of the zakaski or przystawski type -- substantial small plates of cold dishes requiring a knife and fork -- rather than the przekaski type which are more like canapes. In the former category, anything goes -- stuffed hard-cooked eggs, sausages, smoked... fish, caviar, aspics, creamed vegetables and more. When all is ready, guests are welcomed by the head of the house with a wedge of hard-cooked egg (jaja na twardo) and wishes for health and happiness.
02 of 08
White borscht soup is either eaten on Easter Sunday morning or served for dinner after the appetizers. It's made with most of the foods from the swieconka basket and with the flavorful kielbasa cooking water. There are as many recipes for this soup as there are cooks. Some make it with a kwas when it becomes zurek wielkanocny, others with sour cream or buttermilk. Some use smoked sausage, others use fresh white sausage or ham or bacon. This is a version my family enjoys.
03 of 08
Baked ham, roast suckling pig, roast leg of lamb, roast beef, roast turkey, roast goose, duck or chicken, and fresh white Polish sausage or biała kiełbasa all make an appearance on the buffet table. The variety is staggering and there's something for every meat lover. Leftovers go into bigos, smigus-dyngus casserole, sandwiches and ham and fruit salad on Easter Monday.
04 of 08
This meat orgy is fleshed out with an assortment of vegetables like sweet-and-sour braised red cabbage. It comes together in a snap, especially if you use a food processor to shred the cabbage and onion. Czerwona Kapusta Zasmazana goes great with just about any dish but is a favorite with ham, pork, and sausage.Continue to 5 of 8 below.
05 of 08
Some type of potato -- be it boiled potatoes or mashed potatoes or potato salad -- are a given for Easter dinner. Boiled potatoes with caramelized onions and chopped dill were a favorite at my mother's table. We made a meal of them, especially during Lent, washed down with a cold glass of buttermilk. This starch goes well with pork, chicken, beef, ham and fish.
06 of 08
My mother always grated beets into her chrzan for color and a touch of sweetness. In fact, the first time I saw plain white horseradish, I thought it was something else entirely. One taste told me differently! It's called ćwikła and is a traditional Easter relish. I have memories of my father and brother grating fresh horseradish root by hand with tears streaming down their faces. But they loved it so much, they put up with it. Today, food processors have made things easy.
07 of 08
Polish chalka is a slightly sweet, eggy braided raisin bread. Chalka is served for breakfast or with a meal. It's especially great for ham sandwiches -- the sweet and salty combination is unbeatable. But some type of rye bread, like Polish sourdough rye or another type of rye the family likes, is also served.
08 of 08
As one might expect, there are plenty of meat leftovers from the Easter buffet. But they all go into one dish or another on Smigus-Dyngus Day, also known as Wet Monday or Easter Monday. Bigos, Smoked Sausage with Kraut and Ham with Fruit Salad are just a few. Here are more ideas: and Leftover Easter Egg recipes.