Tag Archives: Czech traditions

Czech holiday traditions

This is our 32nd Christmas living on the North American continent. We have kept most of the Czech Christmas traditions. Let me start with the oldest ones. The no. 1 undisputed Czech holiday tradition is baking. Recipes are passed from one generation to the next, sometimes perfected, sometimes left at their best.

Most women and girls start baking at the beginning of December and the reason is simple; cookies like Linzer and marzipan have to soften over time for the best taste.

I usually bake the third week in December, this year was an exception as I baked with our granddaughter Josephine for the first time ever. So we started early last Saturday before the power went out due to high winds. I passed on the baking tradition to our kids, Emma and Jake, now it’s our grandkids’ turn.

Somewhere in an old shoebox, I have print photos of Jake standing on a stool wearing black sweatpants and a blue shirt making Christmas cookies long before Facebook’s existence. I remember buying him a baking tool set the next year for Christmas.

And cook books is where I start no matter how long I’ve been baking. That’s the sacred rule no. 1. Like most women I have hundreds of recipes in hundreds of different formats and hiding in hundreds of different places. You name it, I have it. From original cookbooks in Czech and Slovak languages to Czech cookbooks in English from the ZCBJ Lodge in Bannister, magazines in Czech and English to priceless hand-written recipes in Czech from my best friend’s mother and even from my own grandmother Anna.

Baking recipes from the Czech Republic.

Not to mention the greatest baker of all my mother Ella whom I consider baker extraordinaire. Mom has baked for weddings and for any occasion you can think of, all the way to Sunday afternoon desserts. Now, in her 80s, mom Ella still bakes to this day. As of this year, mom has again baked Czech kolache for us before my parents left for Florida at the beginning of December. I froze them for Christmas Eve. I have just found out that we are celebrating Christmas at our house. That’s good. I don’t have to transport all the food to Hastings.

A long time ago when I first baked in the Czech Republic as a kid, my uncles always cracked the walnuts for us for hours before we started baking. We harvested our own walnuts and had to peel them from their thick green skins, which left our fingers brown and with a bitter smell. My favorite recipes are made with nuts. I like nuts either in the filling or in the dough. The best recipes have nuts in both- the cream and the dough.

So this year I made Russian nuts and nutty baskets filled with a nutty creme. My daughter-in-law Maranda says that Czech cookies are a lot of work. Yes, they are, but the result is what I call “Unicorn Heaven” when you’re floating on the sweet taste of love. BTW, I still have to finish baked batches of both desserts.

For the Russian nuts, I use the following recipe (in metric measures) from Libuse Sustalova’s “Cookbook: Baking with Success.”

Don’t forget to buy the forms that look like nutshells. The refrigerated dough goes into the forms, bakes for 22 minutes at 350 Fahrenheit.

Recipe for dough

500g of flour, 350 g of butter, 150 g of powdered sugar, 150 g of ground walnuts

Recipe for creme filling

10 dkg butter, 3 yolks, 8 dkg powdered sugar, 6 dkg nuts, 3 dkg breadcrumbs

Beat the yolks with the sugar, add butter and nuts. Spread the filling on the baked nuts and stick two together. Cover with chocolate. Inspired by my mother Ella, I add vanilla pudding to the buttery creme to lighten it. It is optional. If you choose to use it buy instant vanilla pudding.

You can buy the forms at Czech and Slovak Ed. Center and Museum by going to their website:

http://czechandslovakmuseum.org

Czech traditions to be continued……the bizarre live carp tradition.

Copyright (c) 2021. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.


Czech traditions in the US

Czech traditions continue in the US

By EMMA PALOVA

EW Emma’s Writings

Bannister, MI- Always held on the first Sunday in August, the Czech Harvest Festival in Bannister is by far the best kept secret around.

I discovered it while writing for the Ionia Sentinel-Standard, I received a press release from an insurance agency in Owosso about 13 years ago.

The one-paragraph press release was simple, but it did entice me to explore the “Dozinky” Harvest Midwest style.

Czech dances in Bannister, MI in traditional costumes custom made in Czech and Slovak republics.
Czech dances in Bannister, MI in traditional costumes custom made in Czech and Slovak republics.

“Come and sample traditional Czech fare of dumplings, pork and sauerkraut. Dance the afternoon away with polka. Watch the dancers in their colorful costumes,” the press release read.

Since then, we’ve been going to the festival at least every two years.

Following is a video interview by Brianna Prochaska with some of the younger participants of the “Dozinky” Harvest Festivals held all over the USA.

My personal favorite is the accordion music by mostly local people. As the old Czech saying goes, “There is a musician in all Czechs.”

What amazes me is that the language is the hardest to keep alive for  more than 100 years of Czech immigration to the US.  Most festival organizers and women chefs do not speak Czech. But other than that, a small group of people has preserved everything from costumes, dances, music to food.

The universal word here in Bannister is “kolacki.” Kolacki are traditional Czech, Slovak, and Lithuanian pastries filled with cottage cheese and raisins topped with plum butter. Kolacki are a festive dessert used at celebrations such as weddings.

Festive kolacki
Festive kolacki

 

The food is a complete Czech feast consisting of dumplings, sauerkraut, pork, ham and chicken. The ham and breaded chicken are American changes. But the cucumber salad with sour cream is as Czech as it gets.

Traditional Czech fare of pork, sauerkraut and dumplings
Traditional Czech fare of pork, sauerkraut and dumplings

And as I watch the dancers in Bannister every year or so, listen to the accordions, enjoy Czech food, and check out the old paintings in ZCBJ Lodge in the middle of nowhere, I admire the people behind this event. Most of them have never been to Czech Republic let alone at a classic “veselka.”

The men carry ladies up in a traditional Czech dance.
The men carry ladies up in a traditional Czech dance.

What the Dozinky organizers  have recreated, preserved and continue to pass on to next generations is almost a miracle. I can safely say that most people in the old country don’t know how to dance polka, czardas, or mazurka. The Czech Harvest in Bannister is a testimony that human spirit and determination will always prevail.

The lead dancers are Tom and Diane Bradley. Diane also teaches the youngest troop of dancers.

One of all time favorites for the little ones is the song, “Mela babka ctyri jabka a dedousek jen dve,” or in English: Grandma had four apples, while grandpa had only two. “Give me an apple, grandma, and we’ll be equal.”

According to  the chairman of the festival Tom Bradley’s “Pamatnik” published for the 100th anniversary of the ZCBJ Lodge in 2011,the Czechs and Slovaks immigrated to Central Michigan around 1904 from Chicago and Cleveland. They were recruited to work the sugar beet fields. Eventually they worked on their own farms. And the recruiters had to look for different workers from big cities.

The Dozinky Harvest Festival will be held on Aug. 3, 2014 with dinner served from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. for $10 for adults and $3 for children. Get in early, the food does run out.

Authentic gifts such as garnet jewelry and Czech cookbooks are also available.

The program begins at 2:30 p.m. with Bill Nemanis. The dance starts at 4 p.m. at ZCBJ Lodge.

The dinner is preceded by a mass with polka arrangements at the Chuch of Cyril and Methodej.

For more information go to : http://www.czechevents.net/events

Copyright © 2014 story and photos by Emma Palova, video by Brianna Prochaska