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slovak easter cheese

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TasunkaWitko View Drop Down
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    Posted: 14 April 2006 at 17:42

This recipe is from the kitchen of Maria Macejko
Milot, my wife's grandmother.


SCROLL DOWN FOR A COMPLETE STEP-BY-STEP PICTORIAL ON
THE PROCESS!


Hrudka (Sirets - Egg Cheese)



  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 1-2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 quart milk
  • 1 cup sugar

Combine all ingredients in a white, enamled pan. cook
over medium to low heat, stirring constantly, until
mixture curdles.


Pour mixture into a colander that is lined with
several thicknesses of cheesecloth. once mixture is
drained, pick it up, cheesecloth and all, and shape into
a ball by twisting the top part of a cheesecloth.


Tightly tie open end with string, placing string very
close to the top of the ball. CAUTION! this will be hot!
hang over sink until cool.


remove cheexecloth when cool; wrap and refrigerate.


*the whey from the hrudka can be saved and used when
making
TID=10561&PN=1&TPN=1">pascha (paska). to conserve
the whey, place the colander over a large pot before
pouring mixture into cheesecloth.



Edited by TasunkaWitko
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 April 2009 at 12:33

here's a picture of this year's easter cheese hanging in order to set and cool:

the flavor is totally unexpected yet perfect for spring.

when heating it up on the stove, it's best to use a whisk and have it in motion the whole time. just when you think it's ready, try to hold on a few more minutes and then the curd and whey really spearate and it will DEFINITELY be ready.



Edited by TasunkaWitko
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 May 2013 at 09:25

Alright - here is how my wife's Slovak grandmother would make Easter Cheese, which she would also call hrudka. She passed this tradition down to my wife, and I am sharing it with you in honour of both of these Slovak women. Making Easter cheese is very easy to do, with only 4 ingredients and no complicated procedures; however, you do need to pay attention to what's going on, or you might have a few problems.

To begin with, here's what you need to make hrudka:

 
Whole milk (not pictured), eggs, sugar and vanilla - it doesn't get much easier than that!
 
From what I can see, the literal translation of the Slovak word hrudka is "blob," "nodule" or "nub;" another word that can be used is "cake," but not like a birthday cake - it's more like a "cake" or lump of soap. Thus, "hrudka syr" would be "lump of cheese," and that's how each batch of Easter cheese is made. To make one hrudka syr, you will need 1 quart of whole milk (mlieka) and 1 dozen eggs (vajcia):
 
 
First, break the eggs into a bowl:
 
 
During the Middle ages, and for centuries afterward, The Catholic Church had many various dietary prohibitions; among them was a prohibition against consuming meat, cheese, milk and eggs during Lent.
 
 
Easter, of course, marks the end of this 40-day fasting period, and Easter cheese is a beautiful Slavic celebration of the return of these wonderful foods.
 
Once all of your eggs are cracked into the bowl, mix them up with a whisk or a forK:
 
 
Then, add a quart of milk:
 
 
Give the contents of the bowl another good stir with a whisk or fork; it doesn't have to be perfect, because you're going to be doing plenty of whisking and stirring in a few minutes. It's also a good idea to run a rubber spatula around the edge of the bowl, just to make sure everything is in one place:
 
 
Next, add a teaspoon of vanilla (vanilka):
 
 
I like to add a little extra vanilla, because I like what it does to the flavour profile.
 
You're almost ready to begin the actual process of making the hrudka, but first you want to make one final preparation; lay two criss-crossed thicknesses of cheesecloth in a colander over a big bowl, so that you can separate the whey from the curds:
 
 
You want a bowl underneath the colander so that you can conserve the whey for use in any Easter bread-baking project that you might be doing.
 
You're now ready to turn this milk-and-egg concoction into Easter cheese! Simply pour it into an appropriately-sized, non-reactive pot or pan of some kind:
 
 
Stainless steel, enameled, it doesn't matter, as long as it isn't cast iron, it seems.
 
Next, stir in 1 cup of sugar (cukor):
 
 
And begin heating over medium-low heat.
 
There is some leeway where the heat is concerned; the Beautiful Mrs Tas usually makes Easter cheese at closer to medium heat (about 45%), and I usually make it closer to low heat (about 33%). Something in-between is probably a good place to start, and then as you make this more and more, you will find a level that is comfortable for you. I scorched a batch once, and since then, I've taken a more cautious, conservative approach.
 
Of key importance is that during this process, no matter how long it takes, you want the mixture to be constantly in motion, either by stirring or whisking:
 
 
The length of time required for this can and will vary; I'm going to take a shot in the dark and say that you will be standing in front of the stove for at least half an hour. Having said that, my advice is to not go by time, but rather to rely on observing what the mixture is doing as it heats and transforms; you should let these visual cues be your guide as the process goes through several stages. I will re-cap these stages once we get the cheese made, so no worries for now - simply read on!
 
First, it will be thin and runny, as shown above; however, before too long, the mixture will just start to thicken up a little and resemble a sort of custard:
 
 
If you are whisking, it's a very good idea to occasionally sweep the bottom edges of the pot once in a while with a paddle or spatula, in order to move around anything that might be in the corners:
 
 
I've often thought that a cinnamon stick added to the mixture as it heats would really be something good with this; just be sure to remove it before you strain the curds out! I plan to give it a try next year and will report on results.
 
As you continue heating the mixture, it will eventually get thicker and start to resemble pudding; also, lumps will start to form as the curds begin to develop:
 
 
Keep whisking or stirring - you've got a ways to go!
 
The custard will continue to thicken and get lumpy as time passes:
 
 
As the curds form, the action of stirring or whisking will cut them up and keep them small, which is what you want. Eventually, it will begin to resemble oatmeal or porridge:
 
 
Keep going! You will think you're getting close, but not yet!
 
After a while, you will come to a point where the curds really start to become a separate thing in the pan, and will start to pull away from the whey, which will begin to get liquidy. It will seem almost like you have scrambled eggs swimming in milk, but not quite:
 
 
Don't even think that you're finished yet! Experience tells me that you've got maybe another 7 or 10 minutes to go, maybe a little longer - it will be ready when it's ready, so have patience, keep stirring and do not relax in your vigilance!
 
Sooner or later, before you even realise it, there will come a clearly-defined moment when everything just sort of "breaks loose," and you will see a defnite change:
 
 
The whey will cease being thick and milky, and instead become almost clear and watery; the curds will seem thicker and more solid. Unlike the previous, "scrambled egg" stage, you won't wonder if it's ready, you'll know it's ready. When this happens, give it a few more stirs for a minute or so, just to make sure everything is ready, and then pour the entire thing into the cheesecloth:
 
 
As you stare down into the mass before you, you will immediately ponder the notion that I might be insane, or that I could be playing some sort of sick, twisted joke on you:
 
 
But I'm not! Believe me, this blob (hrudka!) of coagulated eggs and milk will indeed become cheese!
 
To see for yourself, simply take up the corners of the cheesecloth:
 
 
And begin twisting the bottom in order to form the cheese as you press out the whey:
 
 
CAUTION: This will be hot! Be careful, and try to use only the tips of your fingers, if necessary.
 
Once you have a tightly-twisted cheesecloth, have a helper (or grow a third arm so that you can) tie a piece of string or yarn at the base of the twist:
 
 
I never have much luck with this step, because when I let go of the cheese after tying, the cheesecloth always seems to unwind a bit, depending on how close I got to the lump of sheese and how well I twisted and tied the cheesecloth. If this happens, twist it up again and tie it again, until it is as tight as you can make it without actually squeezing cheese out of the cheesecloth:
 
 
Even then, it will probably still unwind a little bit, but do what you can. The idea is to squeeze the very last of the whey out of the cheese and to compress the curds together so that it forms. Once you have the cheesecloth tied as well as you can, hang it up somewhere so that gravity and time can finish the work for you as the cheese forms and cools:
 
You can hang it anywhere - over a sink, from some rafters - it really doesn't matter. We usually hang it out in the cold front porch that is usually still sealed off from the rest of the house because of winter. We usually tie it to a broomstick between two chairs so that it is suspended over a bowl, so that we can catch the last of the residual whey as it weeps out.
 
Speaking of the whey - save all of it!
 
 
If you're taking the time to make this, then you will probably be interested in using the whey for other Easter baking projects, such as bread or pastries. This whey will provide good colour and great flavour for those projects, and will produce something that really and truly announces that it is Easter - yet another way to celebrate the end of Lent fasting!
 
After about an hour or so, your Easter cheese will be formed and you can put it into the refrigerator until Easter morning. We keep it wrapped in the cheesecloth until we are ready to open it, but will cover it in the refrigerator (in a ZipLock bag or TupperWare bowl) in order to keep it fresh and moist.
 
To re-cap, when you are making your hrudka, it will go through several stages over time until it is ready:
 
The "thin-and-runny" stage
The thicker, "custard-like" stage
The thicker, "pudding" stage as the curds begin to develop
The "oatmeal-or-porridge" stage
The "scrambled-eggs" stage
And finally, the "breaking loose stage
 
Be sure to keep your whisk, spatula, wooden spoon or whatever in motion at all times, in order to help get the best final product possible.
 
On Easter morning (or whenever you're eady to eat it), simply take out your lump of cheese, still in the cheesecloth:
 
 
And cut it open underneath the place where it is tied, releasing the cheesecloth:
 
 
This "top" is actually going to be the bottom, but it's always interesting to see what shape it takes as a result of the cheese-making process.
 
Flip your Easter cheese over, and take a look at it - no two are exactly the same! For the most part, your hrudka will be a creamy-yellow colour; a few white flecks here and there are normal, and if it appears a little bit mottled between light and dark yellow, that is also fine. One characteristic I've always liked is the pattern of criss-crosses that will form on the surface from the pressing of the cheesecloth:
 
 
Alright, enough looking at it, let's eat it! Usually, it is simply sliced to a desired thickness and served; sometimes, I also slice the slices in half, like this:
 
 
Easter cheese is unique and wonderful stuff - the perfect thing to enjoy on a bright morning as you are celebrating renewal and new life. The texture is firm, soft and silky; with a sweet, vanilla-tinted flavour that will remind you of French toast. Many people will absolutely love it, and a few will hate it; and a good number will simply appreciate it for what it is: a beloved, time-honoured Easter tradition. A very lucky few will also enjoy some very fond Easter memories at Grandma's house, as my wife does.
 
Up until this year, we've always simply sliced and served Easter cheese as it was, and it was always very good this way; however, this year I learned a new way to serve it. Shortly after Easter, I was browsing through my Culinaria Spain book and came across something that looked interesting: leche frita. This name translates literally as "fried milk," but as I quickly learned, there's more to it than that; in fact, as I read the recipe, the first part of it seemed a lot like making Easter cheese! I took a closer look, and confirmed that the ingredients and method were similar - not exactly the same, but very close. The Spanish specialty, however, takes it a step further; once the "cheese" is made, it is sliced and then fried in olive oil, producing a wonderful little treat that is creamy on the inside and crispy on the outside. I decided adapt this concept by slicing some Easter cheese and frying in butter, as would be the custom in Slovakia. When it was finished, I dusted it with cinnamon and served it:
 
 
Pretty good stuff!
 
Thank you for taking the time to read this, and I hope that it has inspired you to give it a try. As you can tell, the tradition of Easter cheese is near and dear to our family; I've shared it before and will always share it with anyone who wants to try it, and I invite you to see for yourself what it is about. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask.
 
Enjoy ~ or, as they say in Slovakia, Dobrú chut!
 
Ron


Edited by TasunkaWitko
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Irish Bird Dog Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 May 2013 at 18:09
Great job Ron.....very well done with the instructions....
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 April 2014 at 17:05
Here's our 2014 Easter Cheese (hrudka):

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 March 2016 at 03:36
It is that time of year again, so I am bringing this to the top!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote olyeller Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 March 2016 at 15:35
Thanks for bringing this back up. I'm gonna give this a try.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 March 2018 at 15:30
We're going to be making a bunch of this soon, so I am bringing it up to the top, just in case anyone wants to give it a go ~
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote BEAR Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 March 2018 at 17:09
Ron, too much work for me.  i'm always on a diet, but that much time in prep would have me eating for 2 hours.

Looks good, but even the pic made me ad an olive to my present food source.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 March 2018 at 10:45
I definitely understand; this one is very easy, but can be labor-intensive, because of the constant stirring (so that it doesn't scorch on the bottom).
 
I am thinking that a double-boiler might help. We just purchased a 3-quart double boiler, so I might have to try it for this and see if it reduces the work, a little.
 
It's a busy week ahead of us, so we might not be able to make the Easter Cheese until AFTER Easter. Cry If we do try using the double boiler, I'll report on results.
 
This stuff is good, and I'm learning that it is experiencing a bit of a revival among the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the Slovaks, Ukrainians, Hungarians and other Eastern-Europeans who came to America.


Edited by TasunkaWitko - 29 March 2018 at 14:43
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote BEAR Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 March 2018 at 14:25
It looks like interesting stuff...just thinking about the flavor.

I'd try it but to much sugar for this diabetic!  Enjoy.

it killed me wanting that final version; I like pan frying things in a half butter-half extra virgin  olive oil.  yummy.
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The taste is interesting - it reminds me of French toast, but not exactly the same. The bit of vanilla and the sweetness play very well together.
 
My wife, (diabetic) has made this with one of the sugar substitutes (maybe Splenda but don't quite me on it) the last couple of years. Good results...as far as I can tell, it tastes the same as if using sugar. Also nearly carb-free, as well; it takes 3 eggs to make 1g of carbohydrates.
 
Another option is a little salt, rather than the sugar, for a savory Easter Cheese.


Edited by TasunkaWitko - 29 March 2018 at 14:46
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might try it with splenda.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 March 2018 at 10:16
I think you will be pretty happy with it, if you do. I always add a little extra vanilla, and last year I dropped in a couple pinches of cinnamon, as well. I think steeping it with a cinnamon stick and then fishing the stick out at the end would be a great thing to try. It was good!
 
Also, if you have any Slovak friends or neighbours, they will love you for it!
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