April 10, 2009

Hrudka (Slovak egg cheese for Easter)

The Slovak traditions for Christmas and Easter have imprinted certain taste memories that I can't avoid craving every year. One of the things I wonder why I desire is hrudka. Hrudka is also called cirek, sirets, sirok, sirecz, as well as just Easter egg cheese (by those who have trouble trilling their Rs) and it is basically a ball of scrambled eggs served at Easter. Some people put a slice of it on sandwiches but I always ate it plain with salt.

My family is always generous and I know that there would be a ball of hrudka for me to take at Easter. But this year things are a little crazy with our move coming up and I don't know for sure what our plans will be. Plus, the hrudka my family makes has cow's milk and my son has never been able to taste it. So this year I asserted my independence and made my own. It was fairly easy and the flavor only barely changed with my soy milk substitution. That is it still tasted like a ball of scrambled eggs. What can I say, it's tradition and somehow makes sense to my springtime taste buds.

I also was inspired by the posts on Bittersweet, a vegan blog. There she made soy cottage cheese spread and used the soy whey in bread for the following post. It's probably terrible for me to un-veganize an idea but in this I'm trying to respect the gifts of the eggs and not let any part go to waste. So I used my whey in the traditional paska (Easter bread), now made non-traditional with my dairy-free soy milk. Using the whey is apparently common but it's not something my grandmother did so I didn't know about it before. I'm waiting to taste the bread until Easter morning but it looks gorgeous this year and has a richer smell than my previous versions with just soy milk. Now that I've had my hrudka fix I can start playing with homemade soy cottage cheese!

Hrudka (Slovak Easter Egg Cheese)
Adapted from the recipe found in "Our Best to You", the 1st edition Sacred Heart Byzantine Catholic Church cookbook of Livonia, Michigan. The original recipe was submitted by Mrs. Helen Rapasky. Hrudka is served for Easter along with ham, kielbasa, beet horseradish, and paska (Easter bread). Some people put it on a ham or kielbasa sandwich but I always eat a slice plain with a little salt. This savory version is what my family makes but sweet variations are common, some are listed at the end of the recipe.
Makes 1 large ball of cheese, ~1 3/4 pounds

1 dozen eggs
1 quart milk (dairy-free for us, I used soy)
1 teaspoon salt

-Set up a large double boiler or make one using two pans or a pan and a bowl. I used a large stainless steel bowl over a saucepan. Fill the lower pan with an inch of water. Bring the water to a boil and turn down the heat so that it is strongly simmering.
-Off the heat, beat the eggs in the upper pan or bowl and then add the milk and salt. Beat all the ingredients to combine and then place over the pan of simmering water.
-Cook the egg and milk mixture stirring frequently with a wooden spoon until the mixture curdles, this will take approximately 20-30 minutes. You'll see curds separated out and leave a thin, watery whey. Stop once it seems like no more whey is being produced, IE coming out of the curds.
-Line a colander with a square, double layer of cheesecloth and place over a large bowl or pot. Pour the curds and whey carefully onto the center of the cheesecloth.
-Gather the cheesecloth together to form a large ball with the curds. Twist the top and press to remove more whey and then tie with kitchen twine.
-Tie the ball to a wooden spoon and suspend it over a pot to drain further and cool. Other directions recommend tieing the ball to your kitchen faucet to drain.
-When the ball is mostly cooled and not dripping any more whey place it in the fridge to set overnight. You can save the whey to make paska (Easter bread), links to paska recipes follow.
-After chilling overnight, remove the cheesecloth. Store in the fridge wrapped with plastic or waxed paper. Serve slices on sandwiches or on their own sprinkled with a little salt.

Hrudka variations:
I have never had anything but the plain unsweetened hrudka but sweet recipes are common, just Google hrudka recipe. These recipes have anywhere from 1 tablespoon to 1 cup of sugar added to the one dozen egg recipe and most of the sweet versions also have vanilla extract. There are also recipes that call for any one of the following: cloves, caraway seeds, cinnamon, pepper or saffron. For a drier cheese you can bake the drained ball for 15 minutes at 350 degrees F. Baked ball of scrambled eggs sounds even more bizarre to me.

Paska bread recipes:
My grandmother never used the whey for her paska bread but I like the idea of not wasting it. Plus, since I'm using soy milk in place of the traditional cow's milk I'm hoping it will add more flavor to my bread. I used the paska recipe from the same Sacred Heart church cookbook but only made the plain dough. The plain dough gave me enough for three small loaves. Here is another simple paska recipe that is similar to others from my grandmother's church cookbook. For something different you could try this paska recipe using whey and whole wheat flour.

Cooking the hrudka (counter clockwise from top left): starting cooking the egg and milk mixture, curds begin to form, curds and whey
A closeup of the hrudka curds and whey
The colander and cheesecloth ready to strain the hrduka curds from the whey Hanging the hrudka
This year's paska bread

Crossposted on Michigan Lady Food Bloggers (MLFB)

31 comments:

VeggieGirl said...

Wonderful treat!!

Happy Easter!!

Sweetie Pie said...

I've never heard of this, and am so happy to have learned something new and interesting today! It looks really good. Aren't food traditions awesome?

Have a happy Easter!

doggybloggy said...

I am so compelled to try this...

Elra said...

I never heard of this before, I am glad to you give the recipe, now we all be able to make it ourself.
Cheers,
elra

Dawn said...

I would LOVE this. Would love to try this, sliced on a nice warm croissant.

Erica said...

Very interesting recipe.

Looks great!

joey said...

Food traditions are what holidays (and life) are about ~ true gifts that our children/family/friends remember. Easter Blessings!

Sarah said...

That is SO neat! Never thought of doing anything like this.

Marija said...

Such an unusual cheese! I'd love to try it!

lisaiscooking said...

Interesting. I hadn't heard of this before. Sounds like a great tradition. Happy Easter!

Cookiemouse said...

That looks really yummy! Quite a different kind of Easter egg. Enjoy the holiday.

lisamichele said...

That cheese looks incredible, as does the bread! I was going to try a paneer next weekend, but now I'm tbinking hrudka instead - so unique and creamy looking! Beautiful photos too!

Anonymous said...

I grew up eating Easter hrudka for 40 years. Mom never liked it but made it out of love for dad in honor of his Slovak mother. Now mom's developed dementia and doesn't remember what hrudka is. So I'm giving it a go for the first time this year! We always baked ours too but I couldn't remember how long at what temp, so thank you for the baking instructions! (We always made unsweetened hrudka too, and slather the beets and horsradish on top to give this otherwise bland dish some zing!)

Karen said...

We eat the same thing in our Polish family. It is called Sirok, but it is exactly what make. I never got why we call it cheese in English. It is not really Cheese-ish.

Len said...

This is EXACTLY how my grandparents made it (with Cow's milk though). I was unable to be with my grandfather this year for easter (he's 94 now), but was able to make it at home by myself for the first time. Whenever we made it, we always say we're going to make it at other times than easter, but it never happens. eh..,makes it more special that way. Hopefully, I'll be able to make it with my grandfather next year, God willing.

Michele said...

Thanks for posting this - it is always nice to find dairy-intolerant friendly recipes. Happy Easter!

Sara said...

Its always fun to read family recipes and traditions.

Daily Spud said...

You've piqued my interest, that's for sure! I'd never heard of hrudka and my one foray into cheese making has been paneer (indian cheese) which is similar but just milk-based. I would be very curious to try this out...

Anonymous said...

We have this year after year - never any flavor and well, it is just a tradition now. Quite to the dismay of my husband when he visits my family on EASTER - TASTE - BLAND SCRAMBLED EGGS THAT WERE LET TO GET COLD

All in all - I still like to see it on the Easter table with cold ham, cold keilbassa, horseradish slivers, and paska

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

Wow! I have never seen something like this - it looks great and I am glad that you were able to make a similar version that your son can also enjoy! :)

Allergy Mom said...

Thanks for sharing your family's tradition! It reminds me of the sliced egg served at sushi bars on rice, though the technique is entirely different. Libby

Marianne said...

It's always interesting to hear about other people's traditions at holidays. I'm glad you were able to share this with us :D

Jude said...

Loved reading about your easter culinary traditions. Always great to learn something new (even more so when it's food related).

Anonymous said...

My Grandmother made this every year for Easter....we always ate it with kielbasa, and horseradish mixed with grated beets. She passed away this past year so I am going to try to replicate her meal this Easter!

Carol said...

My Mother passed away this March 4th. We had all these food traditions growing up. I just made my hrudka per your receipe. Thanks much.. Happy Easter!

Anonymous said...

Growing up my grandmother always mde what my family affectionately called Egg Ball. It was always a favorite but as time passed things chasnge and it 's been missed at the holiday for years. My sister reqested it this year and in looking I found your recipe. I just finished making it and not only are we all looking forward to an old favorite but we're thrilled to know it's a part of our deep family heritage! Thank you so much!!

greg said...

Greg Easter Sunday 2012 I called my sister Natalie yesterday and asked her if she had my moms receipe for hrudka and she found it on you site. Well both of us made our hrudka and it looks just like my moms, she passed at age 87 four years ago , So this year will bring back memories of her at Easter. When we were young we would just eat it with salt. I did keep the water at a very hot temp when cooking and it did seam to curdle pretty fast . Happy Easter to everyone.

Chris Rawstern said...

Although I have never personally liked this dish, called sirets in my Grandma's family, I learned to make it to please my Dad. It is a warm and wonderful memory and I was so tickled to see this on Pinterest - I had to find where the recipe came from. Keeping traditions alive. Easter's coming, so the ham, kielbasa, and beets with horseradish and homemade bread and soon to be enjoyed. Thank you!

Stephanie said...

I make this every year for easter with my family, it's a tradition we've always looked forward to! And we add our own little twists to it :D We call it "Sidak" which I'm not 100% sure if that is correct, so please correct me if I'm wrong.

Anonymous said...

This was a tradition of my grandmother's. It has been 18 years since she passed, 20 since she was able to make an easter meal. This was my 1st year to attempt hrudka and paska, I was successful on my 1st try with both. As I tested both it brought tears to my eyes as all of the memories came back to me. Thank you for your recipe

Elizabeth Weeks said...

A friend (also of Slovak descent) and I decided to treat the gang to a Slovak Easter, complete with hrudka, paska, ham, beet and horseradish, kielbasa, kolache, etc. I assumed the hrudka would be sampled out of respect, but not really consumed, as my memories of it are that it's rather bland and more of a textural thing. There wasn't a scrap of it left, and I was shocked at how much *I* even liked it.

We live at >8,000 feet altitude, so we used the recipe from the FCSLA cookbook which calls for 15 eggs, figuring the extra eggs would help the mixture set. It also took nearly an hour to reach that 'scrambled eggs and whey' state. Thankfully we had one of those "as seen on TV" hands-free stirrers, so we could work on kolache at the same time.

Our grandmothers really knew how to put simple foods together to make some wonderful dishes, didn't they?