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Hrudka (Veľkonočné Syr) Starej Mamy

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TasunkaWitko View Drop Down
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    Posted: 29 January 2010 at 16:53
Hrudka (Veľkonočné Syr) Starej Mamy
Grandma's Easter Cheese
 
I'm not 100% sure of the translation up there, but I hope that it is close to something like "Grandma's Easter Cheese." If anyone happens to know better, please advise me.
 
NOTE - Scroll down this page a bit for a full, step-by-step pictorial on making Easter cheese, with photos, tips and other useful information!
 
This recipe is from the kitchen of Maria Macejko Milot, my wife's grandmother, and enjoys a long history in the family with happy memories. Mary emigrated to the United states from a village called Žakarovce. This village was in the Slovak region of the Austro-Hungarian empire, which became Czechoslovakia right around the time she left the country. She occasionally called it hrudka, and I've seen it called that on other Slovak cooking sites - but I believe another name for it might be syr or syrets.
 
This pictorial is part of a series that I am compiling in her honour, which includes her halušky (potato dumplings), her holúbky (cabbage rolls), and her koláče (poppy seed or walnut rolls) (a work in progress).
 
Easter Cheese is very easy to make and this is an authentic, Old-World recipe. From what I've read, it was and still is made throughout central and eastern Europe, including Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Poland, Ukraine, Slovenia, Romania and Hungary. I am sure that it is made elsewhere, as well.
 
Here is the recipe that my wife's grandmother used:
 
1 dozen eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla (I like to use 2)
1 quart whole milk
1 cup sugar
 
I've never had a scale handy, but this recipe seems to make about a pound of hrudka, give or take....

Combine all ingredients in a white, enameled or stainless steel pan, whisking until well-blended. Cook over medium-low heat (never turn the heat past medium), stirring and whisking gently and constantly, until the mixture curdles - be sure to keep the bottom and edges of the pan scraped out, so that the mixture doe not clump up in there and possbily burn! It is better to have the heat on the low side - about 33% is my maximum, although the Beautiful Mrs. Tas makes it a little hotter, maybe about 45%.
 
This will take a long time, but keep with it. When the curds start forming, continue stirring and whisking in order to keep everything in motion as the process continues. There is no set time for this: it will be ready when it is ready!
 
You will know you are getting close when the curds start breaking up into a consistency like oatmeal or porridge, but you are still not done yet, and must keep going, even after this point - it takes longer than you think! Even when you think it is ready, chances are it will still need another 5 or 10 minutes of whisking and stirring. I prefer a wire whisk for this because it really breaks up the curds well and fine, which I believe helps the final texture of the cheese. If the mixture starts boiling and spitting at you, reduce the heat a little.
 
Eventually, everything will sort of "break loose," and the curds and whey will suddenly be definite and separate things in the pan, each with its own characteristics. The curds will seek out each other and will sort of clump together as you stir; the whey will turn from white to the color of broth as the cream from the milk is used. At this point, it will be just about ready! Stir and whisk it for another couple of minutes, just to be sure.

Pour the mixture into a colander that is lined with at least two criss-crossed thicknesses of cheesecloth; be sure that there is a bowl beneath the colander to catch the whey.* Once the mixture is drained, pick it up, cheesecloth and all, and it shape into a ball by twisting the top part of the cheesecloth. Use a pencil or the handle of a wooden spoon as a tourniquet to squeeze out the whey.

Tightly tie the cheesecloth with string as close to the top of the cheese ball as possible to keep it tight. CAUTION! The cheese will be hot! After you tie it off, the cheesecloth always seems to un-twist a bit; this is normal, but if it un-twists too much, you may need to twist it up and tie again. You want the ball as tight as you can make it in order to help the formation and appearance of the final product. Hang the cheese in the cheesecloth over the sink or a bowl to drain and cool for a few hours, then wrap and refrigerate it until you are ready to serve it.

Easter cheese is best enjoyed fresh within a day or two of making it. To serve, slice into serving-sized portions and enjoy.
 
*The whey from the hrudka can be saved and used when making pascha (paska) or other breads. To conserve the whey, place the colander over a large pot before pouring mixture into cheesecloth.
 
Here is a picture of our efforts in 2009, which turned out very well:
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote technogypsy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 March 2011 at 15:17
Wow. Very similar to our recipe. We add a pinch of turmeric to make yellow - just a little so the vanilla hides the taste.  A lot of ethnic Ukrainians in our church make it without sugar and eat it as a breakfast food during the fast free period after Pascha.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Hoser Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 March 2011 at 03:17
I loved this stuff when I made it....it is that time of year again right?

We have slightly more than 40 days to get going on some Easter cheese.
Go ahead...play with your food!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote technogypsy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 April 2011 at 18:21
Finished mine yesterday. Used some saffron instead of the tumeric I mentioned and heavy cream instead of milk. Too bad it's a fast day :-(
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Margi Cintrano Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 March 2013 at 09:50

Wow .. Easter Cheese ...

Sounds right up this cheese-holic´s alley Tas ...
 
Thanks for posting ... Sounds very tasty.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote DIYASUB Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 March 2013 at 18:09
 In the neighborhood and thought that it's a good time to bump this thread.Wink
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote africanmeat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 March 2013 at 12:03
Thanks for bumping it up it looks great .
i decided to give it a try and i got one hanging almost ready:
 
 
but what do i do with the whey ?
it looks like you can add it to bread .
i will post photos when i'll cut a slice .
Ahron
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 March 2013 at 07:20
Ahron - the whey is perfect for breads; in Slovakia they use it to make an easter bread called paska. I've never tried this recipe for paska, so I can't vouch for it, but here it is:
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote MarkR Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31 March 2013 at 18:23
Originally posted by TasunkaWitko TasunkaWitko wrote:

Ahron - the whey is perfect for breads; in Slovakia they use it to make an easter bread called paska. I've never tried this recipe for paska, so I can't vouch for it, but here it is:

http://foodsoftheworld.activeboards.net/paska_topic53.html

 
Ron and Ahron, I have made that recipe and it is wonderful bread. I'm not sure if I posted it or not. I'll go look.
Mark R
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Rod Franklin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 April 2013 at 08:29
I used whey to soak some of the wheat berries you sent me before I cooked them. I've used whey mixed with buttermilk powder, then used the buttermilk to make fried chicken and biscuits. I think most any batter wouldn't suffer for using whey instead of water. I haven't done it, but I wouldn't hesitate to use it as the liquid in your next batch of dumplings. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 April 2013 at 09:17
It looks like there are all kinds of good uses for the whey - experimentation will always lead to interesting things!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 May 2013 at 14:21
Alright - here is how my wife's grandmother would make Easter Cheese, which she would also call hrudka. She passed this tradition down to my wife, and I am sharing it with you in honour of both of these Slovak women. Making Easter cheese is very easy to do, with only 4 ingredients and no complicated procedures; however, you do need to pay attention to what's going on, or you might have a few problems.
 
To begin with, here's what you need to make hrudka:
 
 
Whole milk (not pictured), eggs, sugar and vanilla - it doesn't get much easier than that!
 
From what I can see, the literal translation of the Slovak word hrudka is "blob," "nodule" or "nub;" another word that can be used is "cake," but not like a birthday cake - it's more like a "cake" or lump of soap. Thus, "hrudka syr" would be "lump of cheese," and that's how each batch of Easter cheese is made. To make one hrudka syr, you will need 1 quart of whole milk (mlieka) and 1 dozen eggs (vajcia):
 
 
First, break the eggs into a bowl:
 
 
During the Middle ages, and for centuries afterward, The Catholic Church had many various dietary prohibitions; among them was a prohibition against consuming meat, cheese, milk and eggs during Lent.
 
 
Easter, of course, marks the end of this 40-day fasting period, and Easter cheese is a beautiful Slavic celebration of the return of these wonderful foods.
 
Once all of your eggs are cracked into the bowl, mix them up with a whisk or a forK:
 
 
Then, add a quart of milk:
 
 
Give the contents of the bowl another good stir with a whisk or fork; it doesn't have to be perfect, because you're going to be doing plenty of whisking and stirring in a few minutes. It's also a good idea to run a rubber spatula around the edge of the bowl, just to make sure everything is in one place:
 
 
Next, add a teaspoon of vanilla (vanilka):
 
 
I like to add a little extra vanilla, because I like what it does to the flavour profile.
 
You're almost ready to begin the actual process of making the hrudka, but first you want to make one final preparation; lay two criss-crossed thicknesses of cheesecloth in a colander over a big bowl, so that you can separate the whey from the curds:
 
 
You want a bowl underneath the colander so that you can conserve the whey for use in any Easter bread-baking project that you might be doing.
 
You're now ready to turn this milk-and-egg concoction into Easter cheese! Simply pour it into an appropriately-sized, non-reactive pot or pan of some kind:
 
 
Stainless steel, enameled, it doesn't matter, as long as it isn't cast iron or aluminum, it seems.
 
Next, stir in 1 cup of sugar (cukor):
 
 
And begin heating over medium-low heat.
 
There is some leeway where the heat is concerned; the Beautiful Mrs Tas usually makes Easter cheese at closer to medium heat (about 45%), and I usually make it closer to low heat (about 33%). Something in-between is probably a good place to start, and then as you make this more and more, you will find a level that is comfortable for you. I scorched a batch once, and since then, I've taken a more cautious, conservative approach.
 
Of key importance is that during this process, no matter how long it takes, you want the mixture to be constantly in motion, either by stirring or whisking:
 
 
The length of time required for this can and will vary; I'm going to take a shot in the dark and say that you will be standing in front of the stove for at least half an hour. Having said that, my advice is to not go by time, but rather to rely on observing what the mixture is doing as it heats and transforms; you should let these visual cues be your guide as the process goes through several stages. I will re-cap these stages once we get the cheese made, so no worries for now - simply read on!
 
First, it will be thin and runny, as shown above; however, before too long, the mixture will just start to thicken up a little and resemble a sort of custard:
 
 
If you are whisking, it's a very good idea to occasionally sweep the bottom and edges of the pot once in a while with a paddle or spatula, in order to move around anything that might be in the corners:
 
 
I've often thought that a cinnamon stick added to the mixture as it heats would really be something good with this; just be sure to remove it before you strain the curds out! I plan to give it a try next year and will report on results.
 
As you continue heating the mixture, it will eventually get thicker and start to resemble pudding; also, lumps will start to form as the curds begin to develop:
 
 
Keep whisking or stirring - you've got a ways to go!
 
The custard will continue to thicken and get lumpy as time passes:
 
 
As the curds form, the action of stirring or whisking will cut them up and keep them small, which is what you want. Eventually, it will begin to resemble oatmeal or porridge:
 
 
Keep going! You will think you're getting close, but not yet!
 
After a while, you will come to a point where the curds really start to become a separate thing in the pan, and will start to pull away from the whey, which will begin to get liquidy. It will seem almost like you have scrambled eggs swimming in milk, but not quite:
 
 
Don't even think that you're finished yet! Experience tells me that you've got maybe another 7 or 10 minutes to go, maybe a little longer - it will be ready when it's ready, so have patience, keep stirring and do not relax in your vigilance!
 
Sooner or later, before you even realise it, there will come a clearly-defined moment when everything just sort of "breaks loose," and you will see a defnite change: 
 
 
The whey will cease being thick and milky, and instead become almost clear and watery; the curds will seem thicker and more solid. Unlike the previous, "scrambled egg" stage, you won't wonder if it's ready, you'll know it's ready. When this happens, give it a few more stirs for a minute or so, just to make sure everything is ready, and then pour the entire thing into the cheesecloth:
 
 
As you stare down into the mass before you, you will immediately ponder the notion that I might be insane, or that I could be playing some sort of sick, twisted joke on you: 
 
 
But I'm not! Believe me, this blob (hrudka!) of coagulated eggs and milk will indeed become cheese!
 
To see for yourself, simply take up the corners of the cheesecloth:
 
 
Then gather the curds up into a ball, and begin twisting the ball in order to form the cheese as you press out the whey:
 
 
CAUTION: This will be hot! Be careful, and try to use only the tips of your fingers, if that helps.
 
Once you have a tightly-twisted cheesecloth, have a helper (or grow a third arm so that you can) tie a piece of string or yarn at the base of the twist:
 
 
I never have much luck with this step, because when I let go of the cheese after tying, the cheesecloth always seems to unwind a bit, depending on how close I got to the lump of cheese and how well I twisted and tied the cheesecloth. If this happens, twist it up again and tie it again, until it is as tight as you can make it without actually squeezing curds out of the cheesecloth:
 
 
Even then, it will probably still unwind a little bit, but do what you can. The idea is to squeeze the very last of the whey out of the cheese and to compress the curds together so that it forms correctly. Once you have the cheesecloth tied as well as you can, hang it up somewhere so that gravity and time can finish the work for you as the cheese compresses and cools:
 
 
You can hang it anywhere - over a sink, from some rafters - it really doesn't matter. We usually hang it out in the cold front porch that is usually still sealed off from the rest of the house because of winter. We usually tie it to a broomstick between two chairs so that it is suspended over a bowl, so that we can catch the last of the residual whey as it weeps out.
 
Speaking of the whey - save all of it!
 
 
If you're taking the time to make this, then you will probably be interested in using the whey for other Easter baking projects, such as bread or pastries. This whey will provide good colour and great flavour for those projects, and will produce something that really and truly announces that it is Easter - yet another way to celebrate the end of Lent fasting!
 
After about an hour or so, your Easter cheese will be formed and you can put it into the refrigerator until Easter morning. We keep it wrapped in the cheesecloth until we are ready to open it, but will cover it in the refrigerator (in a ZipLock bag or TupperWare bowl) in order to keep it fresh and moist.
 
To re-cap, when you are making your hrudka, it will go through several stages over time until it is ready:
The "thin-and-runny" stage
The thicker, "custard-like" stage
The thicker, "pudding" stage as the curds begin to develop
The "oatmeal-or-porridge" stage
The "scrambled-eggs" stage
And finally, the "breaking loose stage
 
Be sure to keep your whisk, spatula, wooden spoon or whatever in motion at all times, in order to help get the best final product possible.
 
On Easter morning (or whenever you're eady to eat it), simply take out your lump of cheese, still in the cheesecloth:
 
 
And cut this beautiful package open directly underneath the place where it is tied, releasing the cheesecloth:
 
 
This "top" is actually going to be the bottom, but it's always interesting to see what shape it takes as a result of the cheese-making process.
 
Flip your Easter cheese over, and take a look at it - no two are exactly the same! For the most part, your hrudka will be a creamy-yellow colour; a few white flecks here and there are normal, and if it appears a little bit mottled between light and dark yellow, that is also fine. One characteristic I've always liked is the pattern of criss-crosses that will form on the surface from the pressing of the cheesecloth:
 
 
Alright, enough looking at it, let's eat it! Usually, it is simply sliced to a desired thickness and served; sometimes, I also slice the slices in half, like this:
 
 
Easter cheese is unique and wonderful stuff - the perfect thing to enjoy on a bright morning as you are celebrating renewal and new life. The texture is firm, soft and silky; with a sweet, vanilla-tinted flavour that will remind you of French toast. Many people will absolutely love it, and a few will hate it; and a good number will simply appreciate it for what it is: a beloved, time-honoured Easter tradition. A very lucky few will also enjoy some very fond Easter memories at Grandma's house, as my wife does.
 
Up until this year, we've always simply sliced and served Easter cheese as it was, and it was always very good this way; however, this year I learned a new way to serve it. Shortly after Easter, I was browsing through my Culinaria Spain book and came across something that looked interesting: leche frita. This name translates literally as "fried milk," but as I quickly learned, there's more to it than that; in fact, as I read the recipe, the first part of it seemed a lot like making Easter cheese! I took a closer look, and confirmed that the ingredients and method were similar - not exactly the same, but very close. The Spanish specialty, however, takes it a step further; once the "cheese" is made, it is sliced and then fried in olive oil, producing a wonderful little treat that is creamy on the inside and crispy on the outside. I decided adapt this concept by slicing some Easter cheese and frying in butter, as would be the custom in Slovakia. When it was finished, I dusted it with cinnamon and served it:
 
 
Pretty good stuff!
 
Thank you for taking the time to read this, and I hope that it has inspired you to give it a try. As you can tell, the tradition of Easter cheese is near and dear to our family; I've shared it before and will always share it with anyone who wants to try it, and I invite you to see for yourself what it is about. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask.
 
Enjoy ~ or, as they say in Slovakia, Dobrú chut!
 
Ron
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 May 2013 at 15:48
Another fantastic job, Ron. I especially like the shot of the milk being added to the eggs. Great job!

Stainless steel, enameled, it doesn't matter, as long as it isn't cast iron, it seems.

I would eschew aluminum, too, as it's likely to react with the ingredients. If nothing else there will probably be a color change to the worse.

Have you considered working over a double-boiler set-up? Seems to me that would eliminate any problems with the heat setting.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Hoser Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 May 2013 at 03:37
Excellent tutorial Ron....did the fried hrudka get creamy like a grilled cheese inside? 
How would you describe the texture?

Sure must have been a nice dessert....way to go!Clap
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 May 2013 at 08:33
Thanks for the comments, guys -  thisd one is near and dear to me.
 
Brook - thanks for reminding me; I knew I was missing something, and will add aluminum to the post! It didn't occur to me at the time, but I have that flame-tame, which for all intents and purposes converts a pot to a double boiler; it's definitely worth a try, in lieu of an actual set-up.
 
Dave - you know how good this stuff is! When I fried it, it didn't really get creamy inside - I think that the differences between the Slovak and the Spanish versions preclude hrudka from getting creamy. Having said that, it was really good, with a firm texture reminding me of French toast!
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote judyvandy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 May 2013 at 11:02
My family is from eastern Slovakia, just a few miles north of Bardejov, and cyrek is familiar Easter food to me. However, we didn't use sugar and vanilla. Instead we add about a teaspoon of salt to the egg and milk mixture. It was always eaten chilled, at any meal, but usually for breakfast during Easter week.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 May 2013 at 11:15
Hi, Judy ~ and thanks for sharing your memories!
 
I've been wanting to try this with a little salt instead of the sugar and vanilla; it looks to me like it would make a great addition with any meal ~ Thumbs Up
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 January 2014 at 20:50
Bringing this up as part of this week's virtual progressive dinner:

http://foodsoftheworld.activeboards.net/progressive-dinner-for-jan-9_topic3971.html

Take a look and see how turned this Easter treat into dessert! Tongue
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote africanmeat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 January 2014 at 08:46
O Boy  Ron.
you put me in BIG problems . my wife saw this post and straight away she said .
you did not do this cheese for long time . last time it was very good cheese .
and she rocked here head .
now i will have to do it .
but this time i will put a spin on the recipe and mix in some Cherries   .
Ahron
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 January 2014 at 21:14
ahron, my friend - i suggest you listen to your wife and do as she says... make this again! Wink

i'd love to see this with some cherries; i think it is a perfect fruit to go with it, and can't wait to see how it turns out!
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