Holy Week has been noted as a busy one from generations to generations of Orthodox families. I have never really heard anyone say they are truly exhausted from it – tired yes of being in church sometimes three times a day on top of cooking dinner, cleaning and raising a family but never flat out exhausted of the experience. In fact, most would say it’s been the happiest time of year and then there’s such glee in these Easter ethnic recipes.
Orthodox don’t do fancy brunches or chocolates or the Easter Bunny. Instead, Easter dinner is shared from our picnic baskets that we take to church on Easter to have blessed (usually out on the church lawn, weather permitting) full of all of the foods we’ve been fasting on. After this is done, we may offer some of our favorite foods to share with our parish family and our priest and his family and/or we go home to share Easter dinner with our family. The day is joyous, relaxing and yet peaceful spent among our loved ones.
During the week (with the exception of Good Friday for strict Orthodox), the women of the household would focus on food prep that are prepared with time, skill and love. A family of Slovak descent, for example, would prep sweet and/or dry paska breads, a variety of sausages and bacon, horseradish and cheese. The cheese was always my favorite part. Before your tongue hangs out for the thought of a good Roquefort or just Cabot, it’s not that simple as in a trip to Wegmen’s. Some Orthodox will make their own cheese – and then there’s Easter egg cheese or hrutka which is a little more common and easier to make in Russian parishes.
Growing up in a Russian parish, I grew to seeing egg cheese on the table every Easter. I wondered how it was made or how my mom and grandma made it taste so rich and savory. For the longest while, I made the mistake of not wanting to know for otherwise because sometimes I felt the tastiest recipes deserve to be kept top secret.
It wasn’t until I grew older when my senses kicked in a bit where I realized that if I want to see hrutka in mine and the Orthodox Gentleman’s basket each Easter, I would have to learn this secret. My mom and grandma, like your mom and grandma probably, have been making their own hrutka for decades and years. And then for awhile, other parishioners in their church would ask them if they could make hrutka to give to them. It isn’t hard to make but lack of time, space or means can make it challenging to keep to tradition, and according to my mother, what other parishioners would do is ask others they knew who made hrutka to make it for them. Some charged for these requests, my mother and grandma did not as they made various amounts of parishioners.
And here’s the original recipe so you can one day too keep to tradition.
3 cups whole milk
1/2 teaspoon pink sea salt
1/2 teaspoon of sugar
few drops of vanilla
Prep Notes… Hrutka is great if prepped a few days in advance and keep refrigerated.
Beat all ingredients well and add to a double boiler. Cook until the mixture is cooked completely and looks like scrambled eggs. Pour into a clean cheese cloth, tie top and squeeze excess water away. Let hang for a while to hang bowl and keep refrigerated overnight. Serve warm.