Generations of tradition
For many of us in the Coal Region who have Eastern European roots, the making of hrudka is among our favorite traditions of the Easter season. Hrudka is often included in a basket of food taken to church to be blessed on Holy Saturday.
This Catholic ritual of blessing the baskets has been cherished for generations among many Coal Region area families. The roots of this tradition date back to the 12th century early history of Poland, however, the Eastern Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians, including Czechs, Croatians, Hungarians, Lithuanians, Russians, Slovaks and Ukrainians, also participate in this holy ritual. The blessed food is not eaten until after mass on Easter Sunday.
The basic process for making hrudka is simple: it starts with mixing eggs and milk, adding salt, and cooking it while continually stirring until curds form. Once the ingredients are cooked, the contents of the pot are poured into a strainer that is lined with cheesecloth or a porous towel. When the liquid drains, the cheesecloth is gathered and the remaining liquid is squeezed out by hand to form a ball. The cheesecloth is tied to keep the ball shape, then hung over a container or the sink to allow remaining liquid to drain for a few hours or overnight.
The stove-top cooking method
Sweet or savory
Families have their favorite version of hrudka and many include sugar and vanilla in their recipes for a sweet rather than savory cheese. Memories of draining balls of hrudka in family kitchens are embedded in many a Coalcracker’s mind; stories of hrudka tied to cabinet door knobs or to a wooden spoon left to drip into a strategically placed bowl or pan set underneath or, even hanging from the kitchen sink faucet, abound.
The easy modern cooking method
Hrudka has a reputation for scorching while cooking. Although our grandmothers might not approve, many of today’s cooks prefer to prepare hrudka in the (gasp!) microwave. Don’t brush this method off…it is easy, shortens cooking time, and yields great results! All you need in equipment is a heat-safe bowl and a fork to “fluff” the mixture throughput cooking. Microwave instructions are included in my recipe.
The hrudka is stored in a refrigerator for the Easter feast. Some use the leftover liquid from straining in other recipes, such as paska bread.
Hrudka (Egg Cheese)Course: Appetizers, Snacks, SidesCuisine: Eastern European, Coal RegionDifficulty: Easy
Hrudka is a simple custard cheese that’s essential for many Eastern European Easter tables. It can be made sweet or savory.
4 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon salt
OPTIONAL (for sweet hrudka). 1 teaspoon vanilla and 4 Tablespoons sugar (or to suit your taste – some people add up to a cup)
- Stove top Cooking Method
- Beat eggs. Add milk, salt, (and if using) sugar and vanilla and beat well.
- Cook in double boiler, stirring constantly, until the mixture turns to curds and “white water” appears. Cook the mixture for a few minutes after the white water appears. Be careful not to allow the mixture to scorch.
- Pour the mixture into a strainer lined with a cheesecloth or a porous kitchen towel. Squeeze out the liquid, being careful not to burn yourself.
- Tie the cloth tight and hang it in a place where it can drip dry. (Some use a kitchen faucet for this purpose, others use a wooden spoon placed across the top of a pot.
- Allow the hrudka to cool, squeezing it a few more times to really squeeze the water out of it.
- Allow it to hang to set for 3 to 4 hours, unwrap from cloth.
- Store well wrapped in the refrigerator.
- Modern Microwave Cooking Method
- Cook in the microwave in heat safe bowl on high, fluffing with a fork between rounds of cooking as follows:
4 minutes, fluff
4 minutes, fluff
2 minutes, fluff
2 minutes, fluff
1 minute, then continue fluffing until it looks like watery scrambled eggs (the fluid will be clear).
- Follow steps 3 thru 7 above
- Cracked black pepper or herbs of your choice may be added to the savory version per your taste.