Today, we did the final preparations for our Easter basket. Which required an extra trip into town to get more eggs!
We eat a lot of eggs.
I see chickens in our future.
We tend to do eggs at least 2 ways. This year, with the pickled pink eggs, we have 3 varieties.
First up, here is how the pickled pink eggs turned out.
Of the 12 eggs we pickled, I went over them and picked the 8 best, leaving 4 for us to taste test.
They are quite delicious. The pickling gives the eggs a very solid, dense feel, and the tang after 3 days in the pickling liquid is just right.
We then got two pots of 18 eggs each going. One included the onion skins I’d been setting aside for the past few months, along with a splash of vinegar and a dash of turmeric, for extra colour, in the water. Onion skin dyed eggs for the Easter basket are called kraszanki (kra-SHAN-kee) in Polish. The turmeric is my own addition. The eggs are hard boiled until they reach the desired colour; these were boiled for probably 45 minutes.
Of the 18 eggs, 6 broke, leaving an even dozen for the basket. It’s unlikely we’ll be able to fit all of them in.
The other batch of eggs were boiled for 10 minutes. The hot water was replaced with cold until they reached a temperature where they could be handled. Using the back of a spoon, the shells were cracked all over. After that, they were returned to the stove to boil again, this time with 3 Tbsp black tea leaves, 1 tsp sugar, a tsp of five spice mix (or, as we did today, the equivalent spices I had on hand) and 1/2 cup soy sauce. They were then cooked for another 45 minutes or so – again, it’s until the desired colour is reached. The original recipe I’d found for these said to cook them for 3 hours! We’ve never cooked them that long.
Here is what they looked like, after being drained and rinsed.
Once they were cooled down, it was time to peel them.
Out of the 18, 7 got damaged while being peeled.
And that is why we cook so many extra eggs! 😀
In all the years we have done these eggs, including years when we’d cooked them for much longer, the coloured parts have never looked this intense!
I wonder if our well water has something to do with it?
Meanwhile, I dug out some of my collection of little bowls (I adore little bowls, so I’ve got quite a few) and other pretty dishes to hold the other basket ingredients. Some of the vinegar and olive oil were transferred to small pitchers with liquid tight stoppers. For the butter, we whipped some with parsley and fresh garlic. The salt we’re using this year is Himalayan sea salt. We are including a mustard this year, too.
Each item in the basket has symbolic meaning.
The bread symbolizes Jesus, who is the “bread of life.” Eggs symbolize the resurrection and new life. Kielbasa (sausage) represents God’s favour and generosity. Ham is a symbol of joy and abundance. Bacon (which we don’t usually include, though sometimes we include prosciutto, instead) represents God’s mercy, as well as generosity. Butter is a reminder of the good will we should have to all. The butter is traditionally shaped into a lamb, but we usually have plain or herbed butter decorated with a cross made of cloves. Some years, we’ve had a lamb made out of marzipan. The lamb, of course, symbolizes Jesus.
Horseradish, with its strong, bitter flavour, reminds us of the Passion of Christ. When made into a spread sweetened with beet juice, it represents both the pain of Christ’s crucifixion and the sweet joy of resurrection. Salt is a reminder for us to be the “salt of the earth” and symbolizes prosperity and justice. Cheese symbolizes moderation.
We’ve included olives and olive oil in our baskets, symbolizing peace, wisdom and hope. Vinegar is there to remind us of the crucifixion, when Jesus was given vinegar (also translated as sour wine) on a sponge to drink. We sometimes include mustard – preferably a type in which the seeds are still visible – to represent faith.
A candle can also be included, to symbolize Christ as the Light of the World. The baskets can be decorated with spring flowers, greenery and ribbons to represent new life and the resurrection. A bottle of red wine is also appropriate to include, to symbolize the blood of Christ. Then the whole thing is covered with a fine embroidered or lace cloth.
The blessing of the baskets, called Święconka (shvye-CHONE-ka is a rough approximation of how it’s pronounced) in Polish, happens on Holy Saturday. The blessing of the baskets is one of my fondest childhood memories. Some years, I would have my own tiny little basket to carry (okay; tiny is a relative statement in our family…) for the blessing. They would all be laid out at the front of the church, on the steps leading up to the altar. I loved looking at all the different ways people did their baskets, and the different things they would include. There is plenty of room for variety in this tradition! I saw all kinds of breads, fruit, and eggs decorated in all sorts of ways. With so many baskets, the church was soon smelling so good! There was such a sense of anticipation – so very appropriate, as we anticipated celebrating the resurrection of Christ.
Whatever traditions you have for Easter, I hope that it brings you much joy and peace.