Posts Tagged ‘Polish food’

darker2aMy maternal grandmother was a no nonsense woman.  That came from raising seven children and being able to hone the day’s activities down to what was necessary.  Her cooking was basic, hearty and delicious.  She always had a large vegetable garden along with apple, pear and peach trees.  Summer meant lots of canning jars being filled.  It also meant Rhubarb Meringue Pie made with rhubarb from her garden and fresh eggs from her chickens.

To remember Bapka, Mom would make at least one Rhubarb Meringue Pie in the summer.  Now I make one to remember Bapka and Mom.


Heat your oven to 375 degrees

Line a pie pan with raw pie crust, then brush the bottom with a small amount of egg white.   Mom said it keeps the crust from getting soggy.

Cut unpeeled rhubarb stalks into ½” to ¾” pieces.

You’ll need 4 to 5 cups of cut up rhubarb depending on the size of your pie pan.

Separate 3 to 4 eggs.   The yolks are for the pie,  the whites are for the meringue.

¾  cup sugar.  Use more sugar if you want your pie less tart.

2  tablespoons cornstarch

Toss the cut up rhubarb with the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch, then spoon the mixture into the pie shell.  Place the pie into the oven and bake until the rhubarb is fork tender and the custard is bubbly.  Cover the pie with foil if the rhubarb starts to brown  and isn’t tender enough.

As the rhubarb becomes tender, whip the egg whites to stiff peaks with a dash of Cream of Tartar and a heaping tablespoon of powdered sugar for each egg white.

Remove the pie from the oven, lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees, and spoon the meringue over the top of the hot pie.  The hot pie will cook the meringue from the bottom.  Put the pie back into oven.  The lower temperature cooks the meringue through and gently browns  the top.  You may have to turn the pie to evenly brown the top.

When the meringue is golden brown, remove the pie from the oven and cool the pie completely before cutting.   John Hink

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My Polish grandmother immigrated to New Castle, Pennsylvania in 1905 when she was 19 years old. She never saw her parents or her homeland again, but at Christmas she was able to go home for a moment.

Her Christmas Eve Borscht required reconstituted dried mushrooms. I remember her receiving an envelope of dried mushrooms in the mail each summer. They came from a relative in Poland who had collected them in the fields and woods around the area in Poland where she was born. They were always saved for Christmas.

Her Borscht is a fermented, sour soup which comes from a poor peasant cuisine. The recipe is odd. It isn’t the holidays for me unless I have at least one bowl.

Bapka’s Christmas Eve Borscht

The initial fermentation requires 1-½ to 2 weeks.

In a 2 quart jar place:

1 cup of Old Fashioned Oatmeal
2 heaping tablespoons of flour
3 to 4 slices of sourdough rye bread with caraway seeds

Fill the jar about 2/3 full with lukewarm water, stir the contents, then set the jar aside in a warm place to ferment.

Do not screw the jar lid tight. Leave the lid loose so the fermentation gasses can escape. You may want to set the jar on a plate or shallow bowl in case the contents bubble over a bit.

Every other day stir the contents.

After 1-½ to 2 weeks the contents should have a decided sour smell.

Use a sieve to strain the contents into a saucepan. Use a spoon to press the contents against the sieve so most of the liquid is extracted. Discard the sieve contents once the liquid has been extracted.

Reconstitute some dried mushrooms for about 20-30 minutes in a couple cups of hot water. Cut up the reconstituted mushrooms a bit and save the soaking liquid. Dried Shitake mushrooms work well.

Bring the saucepan to a gentle boil and add salt, butter, the cut up mushrooms, and some or all of the mushroom soaking liquid. The soup should thicken a bit.

Bapka put a scoop of mashed potatoes into each bowl then ladled the soup. I add diced, cooked potatoes and sometimes I also add thin slices of cooked Keilbasa.

With my first spoonful I’m back home in New Castle, Pennsylvania for a moment.     John Hink

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file01011file0102Kolache was always a staple of our Christmas celebrations.  There was nut, poppy seed, prune, apricot, and cherry nut.  Poppy seed was always my favorite and Mom liked cherry nut.  But now I make the cherry nut ones so I can reminisce about Mom and Christmases past.  The only change I make to her recipe is using butter rather than oleo or margarine.  I don’t know where she got her recipe or of anyone else who makes kolache with a filling of whipped egg whites, sugar, chopped nuts, and chopped Maraschino Cherries.  John Hink

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