Just in time for Easter!
The scratch version of Ukrainian Easter Bread (Paska) that was posted earlier in the month is now available. Head to the recipes to give it a go.
Paska is the traditional Ukrainian Easter bread. Its golden colour and distinct flavour are attributed to the addition of saffron, orange and lemon zest and golden raisins. This is the way Baba made it. Saffron is expensive and not easy to find. It is, however, what makes this bread unique.
The golden colour of Paska is symbolic of spring, the return of the sun, rebirth and the rising of Christ. It is customary to decorate the top with a scrolled cross. Those more creative would add dough birds and more elaborate dough ornaments. On Easter morning, the Paska, and decorated Easter eggs (pysanky) would be taken to church to be blessed.
In the Fall, Baba and Gedo would make sauerkraut from the cabbages they grew. An over-sized mandolin (shredder) was placed over a wooden barrel. The cabbages would be shredded, and layers of salt added. A wooden lid would be placed on top, weighted down with a large rock. By Ukrainian Christmas the cabbage was well fermented and ready to use.
Kapusta was traditionally served as one of the twelve dishes on Ukrainian Christmas Eve. Unlike this recipe, it would be prepared using oil and would include split peas, in observance of the meatless fast.
There is nothing as comforting as a hot bowl of chicken soup; especially, when it is accompanied by homemade egg noodles. This was one of Baba’s specialties. She would make it throughout the year. It was and still is a favourite of mine. (“Homemade Egg Noodles” recipe listed separately.)
Makivnyk is a sweet roll with a poppy seed filling traditionally made for Ukrainian Christmas.
Baba grew poppies in her garden. In the Fall, the dried pods would be broken, and the seeds collected for baking. As a little girl, it was a treat for me to go into the garden, break open a pod and eat the seeds.
Mashed White Beans with Garlic was one of the vegetable dishes often selected to be included in the twelve-course Ukrainian Christmas Eve meal. Baba’s recipe contained a healthy dose of garlic mashed in with the beans. Ukrainians are not shy with garlic.
I remember helping Baba make Khrustyky (pronounced “hroo-sle-key”) for Ukrainian Christmas. This is her original recipe. We all looked forward to eating them. Best made with two people: one to roll the dough; another to fry.
It is said that there are as many variations on making pedaheh dough as there are Ukrainian cooks. Some say use warm water; others say use cold water, or, instead of water use milk or buttermilk. Regarding eggs, some say no eggs; others say use whole eggs; others, yolks only. Whatever recipe you choose, the challenge is to make the pedaheh dough soft and, when cooked, it should be tender to eat. For filling, everyone has their favourite.
After fasting all day, and after the first star was sighted, the Ukrainian Christmas Eve (“Sviata Vechera”) meal could begin. Kutia was the ritual first dish of the twelve-course meal. It was a time to reflect on those members of the family that had departed. Its origin predates Christianity.
Pampushky are round doughnuts with a filling; usually prune or plum. They have been a part of Ukrainian celebrations for centuries, most notably Ukrainian Christmas.
For our family, these were cut into regular doughnuts with the hole in the center. They were known affectionately as Baba’s doughnuts. They were and are a real treat. The best way to eat these is when they are still warm, sprinkled with sugar. One granddaughter confessed that she had eaten 12 of Baba’s doughnuts in one day. They don’t stay fresh long, but that isn’t much of a problem as they are usually gone by the next day.
Patricia Caine (nee Rusnak) is originally from Thunder Bay, ON. Both her parents came to Canada from the Ukraine. She has put these recipes together as a tribute to her parents, for her family and Canada's 150th.