In Poland Christmas Eve supper begins Christmas time.
In Polish tradition it is a special and very important night.Families meet together and eat Christmas Eve supper. Before the supper everybody gives Christmas greetings and people break a Christmas wafer opłatek . Christmas Eve is a family day. It is love and reflection day. That day everybody quickly finishes work and goes home. After midday Polish town and village is quiet because everyone is at home and prepares Christmas tree, gifts and supper.It is a hard work day for women, because they must prepare many dishes.
The traditional Christmas Eve supper consists of twelve dishes representing the twelve months of the year or twelve apostles. No meat is served during the supper, only fish, usually herring, carp or pike. Other traditional dishes appearing on the table include red borscht, mushroom or fish soup, sauerkraut with wild mushrooms or peas, dried fruit compote and kutia, a dessert especially popular in eastern Poland. Boiled or fried pierogi, Polish dumplings with a wide variety of fillings, are among the most popular Polish dishes. For the Christmas Eve supper, pierogi are usually made with sauerkraut and mushrooms.
For me very traditional Christmas Eve dish is barszcz z uszkami. What is it?
Barszcz in English borsht is a soup with beetroot. The basic Polish borscht recipe includes red beetroot, onions, garlic, and other vegetables such as carrots and celery or parsley roots. The ingredients are cooked for some time together to produce kind of clear broth (when strained) served as boullion in cups or in other ways.
Other versions are richer as they include meat and cut vegetables of various kinds where beetroots aren't the main one (though this soup isn't always called barszcz, but rather beetroot soup). This variation of barszcz isn't strained and vegetable contents are left in it. Such soup can make the main course of obiad (main meal eaten in the early afternoon).
Barszcz in its strictly vegetarian version is the first course during the Christmas Eve feast. As other Christmas traditions, barszcz served at that time has its own symbolic meaning. Most of food served at that time isn't quite the food of the living ones, but of those that passed away. Dried fruit, mushrooms — all symbolise death of the old year as opposed to birth of the new one a day later. Change of food on December 25 (Christmas) is a visible sign that old traditions are still preserved in those little, sometimes unclear ways.
A key component to the taste of barszcz is acidity. Whilst barszcz can be made easily within a few hours by simply cooking the ingredients and adding vinegar, lemon juice or citric acid; the traditional way is to prepare barszcz several days before and allow it to naturally sour. Depending on the technique; the level of acidity required and the ingredients available, barszcz takes 3-7 days to prepare in this way.
Uszka it is small ravioli which look like small ears. They are small dumplings usually filled with mushrooms or minced meat. They are usually served with barszcz, though they can be eaten alone. They are a part of traditional Christmas Eve dish in Poland and Lithuania.
Every family has own recipe of barszcz and uszka, each dish tastes differently but the ingredients are the same.
My family recipe is below.
Beetroot Sour - kwas buraczany
1 kg beetroots
1 slice black bread
4 buds garlic
Peel and thinly slice beetroots and place in large crockery bowl or glass jar. Add 1 slice black bread, garlic, sugar, salt. Cover with pre-boiled lukewarm water and cover dish towel and let stand at room temp. 4-5 days until pleasantly tart.
Clear borsch - Barszcz
3 dired willd mushrooms
1 kg beetroots
2 cups beetroot sour
2 buds garlic
1 tbsp. sugar
salt and pepper
Soak dried mushrooms in water overnight and cook in the same water until tender. Bring vegetarian bouillon (carrot, parsley, cellar, onion, leek) to boiled, add the mushrooms water and simmer 20 minutes together. Peel and cut slice beetroots and add to bullion and simmer 1 hour. Add 2 cups beetroot sour according to the tartness you like and strain. Add 2 buds garlic, 1 t. sugar and half apple. Add salt and pepper if needed. Serve hot with uszka.
Mushroom filling for soup dumpling – Uszka
100 gram dried wild mushrooms
1 tbsp. butter
1 medium onion
2 tbsp. bread crumbs
Scrub dried mushrooms, soak overnight in water and cook until tender. (reserve mushrooms liquid for barszcz). In 1t. butter 1 slice onion until tender. Grind mushrooms and onion add 1 egg white, 2t. breadcrumbs or more, salt and pepper to taste and mix well. Use as a fill to uszka soup dumpling
Dough for Pierogi or Uszka
½ kg flour
pinch of salt
On a pastry board mix flour, egg and salt, slowly adding water and kneading.The dough is ready if it does not stick to the hand or pastry board. Divide dough into four parts, and roll each one out thinly. With a wine glass cut out circles that are 2 - 21/2 in. in diameter. (For Uszka, cut out small squares). Place a teaspoon of the filling on each circle, fold over and press the edges firmly. Cook for 5 minutes.
The Christmas Eve supper is usually held under candle light and starts in the evening after the first star appears in the sky. The star symbolizes the birth of Jesus in Christian tradition and a soul of deceased ancestors in pre-Christian beliefs. Quiet, dim-lighting, and a somewhat mystical atmosphere is characteristic for Christmas Eve supper. In Poland, an extra plate and seat are always left for anyone, such as a drifter, to be accepted as a guest. It is believed that he may be Jesus and should be welcomed.