Easter in Czech Republic is longer by Monday. Easter Monday is the day of the big “Schmigrust” or whipping in Czech, while in Slovakia, girls and women get splashed with water, no matter how cold it is outside.
As with any holiday, the food is opulent even in modest households. The family pig, rabbits, fowl or poultry may get butchered for the festive occasion. Baking starts usually on Friday and goes into Saturday.
The recipes are passed from mother to daughter, at times to son. A lot of them have traveled across the Atlantic with their owners.
Traditional pastries for festive occasions are round kolache, small, medium or big. They can be made with various toppings and fillings. The small kolache are labor intensive, and the saying goes, “the smaller, the better.” So, I make the big round ones that look like pizza. I made them for my daughter’s open house, and a neighbor asked me, “Is that a Czech pizza?” It could be, the dough is probably the same, you just add sugar. Usually, they’re topped with plums and cinnamon, plum butter or marmelade. I like to experiment. so, this one I made with a mix of berries, and with cottage cheese. That’s how many recipes get changed through immigration into a different country. You mix the past and the old, with the new and better. This really reminded me of a great cheesecake.
During the era of communism, we were not allowed to travel, so we couldn’t learn anything new. Our version of pizza was with hard-boiled eggs and ripe tomatoes. Go figure. It was edible. Pizza is pizza, good or bad.
For Easter we colored eggs in onion skins, brown, yellow or purple. First we boiled the eggs and let them dry. Then we tied pieces of grass, leaves or flowers to them with wool, and dipped them in a solution made from onion skins and vinegar for stabilization. Once we unwrapped them and peeled off the leaves, we got beautiful rich brown color with white decorations. For exquisite shine, we polished them in butter.
Copyright (c) 2013 story and photos by Emma Palova