Monday, December 23, 2013

Old school...

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve! Child #1 said "I think this has been the quickest Advent ever" and I have to agree. I don't know where it went exactly but here we are.

When I was growing up, Christmas Eve was a great day. Lots of fun traditions and, most of all, a trip to our grandmother's house (aka "Bub") for the traditional Slovak meal. If you'd like more background, go read this first.

Since my dad's death, my siblings have been gracious enough to travel here to celebrate his life, including the traditional Christmas Eve meal. Sort of, anyway. Enough people have been added to the family that the meal is now quite watered down from the soup, pagach and bobalki of my youth. We now have pierogi, fish, shrimp, cheese and crackers...all sorts of yummy stuff. I can't help but think it's making my children soft ;0)

So, now that we've braved Slovak culture for a full week and learned to eat non-traditional fare (they have always been game for Indian, Chinese, etc. anyway) it's time to go old school. Tomorrow, on the actual day, we will enjoy the actual meal along with my mom, aunt, and Uncle D. I'm really hoping to continue this every year so that they can one day carry on the tradition (and if not, at least they will have fun memories).

Today, in preparation, was a day of cooking. My aunt is kind enough to make the mushroom soup tomorrow, my mom was kind enough to take #s3&4 for the day and #5 was kind enough to take a long nap so I grabbed my two sous chefs and we were off.
I love this meal because there are a lot of "repeat" things - make once, use twice. First I browned some butter (this is also a great meal to teach kids some awesome cooking skills) and then fried up some sauerkraut. While that was frying, I cooked some rice and added butter and sugar when it was finished cooking. The rice and some of the sauerkraut will be used for two types of pagach, which will be made tomorrow.

Never really considered how much butter goes into this meal but "a lot" is a good estimate

Always fry your sauerkraut...much better that way!
Here is a pagach photo I got off the Internet. This is what it's supposed to look like.

Mine will not look all flaky and good like this. My only goal is that it be edible. This is my first time and there are lots of little people around ;0)
Next comes the bobalki (or "sweet" and "sour" balls as they were known in our time)

First you make little balls of dough (yes, I used frozen bread dough since I was short on time. I do hope, one day, to actually make it from scratch). Then you bake them and there is this crazy thing about dumping boiling water on them and then adding the topping, poppy seed or sauerkraut. Get the nicknames now? I'm not a huge fan but, since we're going old school, they have to be there!

Raw dough organization, just like the old days!

The cooked balls and some boiling prunes (stay tuned for the latter)

So, here's the end result. The individual balls are too large because I always forget how much the dough will rise but otherwise, a decent attempt.

If you look at the first picture, you see a can of poppy seed filling. For some reason we have two of these in our basement. As such, I didn't buy plain seed to mix with honey but that's pretty much what you would do.
Next come the pierogi. No, we didn't have these at the meal growing up (I vividly remember only eating pagach and feeling very hungry until we got home). I am willing to add these, though, because the book says it's included in the traditional meal so that's good enough for me. I know why Bub didn't include them, though, because they are a good bit of work added on to the other stuff. It's definitely a labor-intensive meal!
See? There is actually a "book" ;0)

Filling and sealing the potato. I did the prune myself because they are troublesome things. You have to work up to that kind of skill. ;0)

Thankfully there are only 10 of us so 4 dozen should be just about right.
The meal will be wonderful because of the food but, most of all, because of the history and tradition. That is so important to me. Everyone has good memories of certain times during the year and this definitely stands out for me. I am so blessed to have this opportunity to share this part of my life with my kids and I do believe that my dad and Bub are happy as well. I just feel the peace when we're working together on this meal.
I said as much to child #1 and told her that Bub would have really loved her. She looked sad so I said, "well, Bub was born in 1903 so how old would she be now?" Her eyes got big, she swallowed and said, "110??!!" Yes, little girl...110.

We are blessed. Have a quiet and blessed Christmas Day!

Bub and me. Trust me, polka dot pants were in style in the '90's ;0)


  1. My husband would really like fried sauerkraut - I should try that for him sometime. Also - sugar in rice? it a sweet dish?

    1. The sugar in rice is a filling for pagach...a stuffed bread. There is also a savory version, stuffed with sauerkraut.