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~ Traditional Eastern-European Easter Egg-Cheese ~

IMG_3986Growing up in an Eastern European family and attending a Russian Orthodox Church and Sunday School etched all sorts of time-honored family and religious traditions for both the Christmas and Easter holidays in the recesses of my mind.  Because I was born with a wooden spoon in my mouth, whenever my grandmother and mother were preparing the food for these two holidays, neither one of them had to coax me into the kitchen to assist.  As each year passed, my responsibilities increased.  By the time I was a new bride in my twenties, I was capable of preparing all of the dishes single-handedly.   Now, here I am, a food blogger with an entire archive of detailed, tested, traditional, real-deal ethnic recipes to share with you!

IMG_3979One of the first dishes I learned to make on my own was an egg-cheese which my family called "hrudka" (hur-UT-ka).  It's a custardlike cheese made by gently cooking eggs and milk until the proteins and liquids separate into curds and whey.  Slovaks, Ukranians, Carpatho-Russians and Poles all traditionally serve it for Easter and recipes, both sweet and savory, vary from household to household.  Depending on where in Eastern Europe one is from, this easy-to-make cheese is also referred to as cirak, ciruk, sirok, sirecz, syrek, etc.  I just call it egg cheese.  My family makes the sweet kind, flavoring it with sugar and vanilla (however, some folks add cinnamon and/or nutmeg too).  Savory versions, which are just as tasty, use salt and crushed black peppercorns!

PICT2721The hrudka is sliced and served for breakfast on Easter morning alongside other items from the traditional Easter basket:  ham, kielbasa, beet horseradish, pickled eggs, paska (Easter bread, which is pictured here), butter and kolache (nut and poppy seed rolls).  My recipes for baking ham, cooking kielbasa and pickling eggs have already been posted and can be found in Category 12.  I took this picture of my paska last year and will get this recipe posted soon!

IMG_3815This recipe is very simple and straightforward, but, getting the mixture to cook up "just right" requires carefully following the directions.  Here's what you'll need:

For the egg cheese:

15  large eggs, at room temperature

1  quart whole milk, at room temperature

1  teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2  tablespoons sugar

1 1/2  teaspoons sea salt

IMG_3819For the hardware:

hand-held electric mixer

12" chef's pan w/straight sides

slotted spatula

large colander & cheesecloth

kitchen twine or twist ties 

~ Step 1.  Open, drape and place the cheesecloth (generously overlapping the sides) in the colander.  Place colander in sink.

IMG_3833 IMG_3831~ Step 2.  In a large mixing bowl, on medium speed of hand-held electric mixer, beat the eggs, milk, vanilla extract, sugar and salt, until smooth, about 45-60 seconds.

~ Step 3.  Transfer mixture to chef's pan and place on stovetop over medium/medium-low heat.  Error on the side of the heat being too low.  

IMG_3846 IMG_3869 IMG_3878 IMG_3882




~ Step 4.  Stirring very slowly and constantly with a slotted spatula (to keep the mixture moving and flowing through the slots of the spatula at all times during the cooking process), gently cook, until the mixture literally resembles "watery scrambled eggs", about 11-13 minutes.  Reduce the heat during this process if the mixture begins to simmer or boil.  Do not allow to simmer or boil!  

IMG_3905The picture to the left illustrates the "watery scrambled eggs", better know as:  curds and whey.

IMG_3914Liquid will also be floating on the top of the egg mixture.   There should be no browning on the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat.

IMG_3925~ Step 5.  Transfer/pour the loose egg mixture into the colander.  

IMG_3934Using your hands, gather the overlapping cheesecloth up around the draining egg mixture, gradually twisting the top tightly closed, to form a ball with the egg mixture.

IMG_3939 IMG_3949~ Step 6.   Secure the top of the wrapped cheese ball with a piece of twine or an ordinary twist tie (I use twist ties).  Tie and hang the ball of cheese over the faucet of the sink and allow the cheese to continue to drain, cool and solidify, about 6 hours.

Note:  If you need your sink for other things, an alternative to this method of draining is to tie the cheeseball to the handle of a wooden spoon which has been placed across the top of a deep stockpot, and allow it to drain into the the stockpot.

IMG_3952Tip from Mel:  During the course of the next six hours,  I like to "tighten the noose" (so to speak) on my egg cheese.  Every 2 hours, I add another twist tie or piece of string. This tightening process ensures that it drains thoroughly, and, produces a better shaped ball!

IMG_3960~ Step 7. Remove the cheesecloth, wrap cheese in plastic and refrigerate overnight (or up to 3 days) prior to serving chilled:

IMG_3993Traditional Eastern-European Easter Egg-Cheese:  Recipe yields 1, 1 3/4 pound ball of egg-cheese.

Special Equipment List:  kitchens shears; hand-held electric mixer; 12" chef's pan w/straight, deep sides; metal spatula, preferably slotted; 2 1/2'-3' length of cheesecloth; large colander; kitchen twine or twist ties; plastic wrap

6a0120a8551282970b01538e17e98c970b-800wi 6a0120a8551282970b015435b4d00d970c-800wi 6a0120a8551282970b015391e844a0970b-800wiCook's Note:  To learn how I bake ham, cook kielbasa and pickle eggs, as I mentioned above, just click into Category 12!

"We are all in this food world togther." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)


J.J. -- Chopped fresh dill sounds wonderful, and, it would make sense too, since dill is a common and popular herb in Eastern European cooking. Both of my grandmothers flavored all sorts of food with dill!

Looks like what my mother use to make. She added fresh chopped dill and seasoned it with season salt. Very tasty!

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