This is a traditional Slovak Easter cheese that is served Easter Sunday. It is traditionally served with baked ham, beet horseradish and is great on sandwiches. It is also very mild in flavor and not like other cheeses.
Easter (Veľká noc)
During the weeks preceding Easter, Czech and Slovak cities have street markets selling kraslice, gingerbread lambs and other Easter items.
But Easter Monday practices, involving boys pouring water over girls and lightly whipping them with braided branches, are the most controversial of Easter traditions. As The Foreigner’s Guide to Living in Slovakia explains, “if you are not Slovak and didn’t grow up around these traditions, you might find them at best—odd, at worst—barbaric.”
The Foreigner’s Guide to Living in Slovakia explains why willow branches are used to make the pomlázka (which is called korbáč in Slovak): “It is the first tree that ‘wakes’ in spring and, according to folk tradition, the fertility and vitality from the branches were thought to flow into the woman during this act.”
In addition to whipping, Easter Monday also involves dousing. According to The Journeys of Captain Oddsocks, in some regions the girls get their revenge on Tuesday when it’s their turn with the whips, while in other regions they return the rejuvenation with a bucket of ice-cold water. In Slovakia, however, it seems that it’s the girls who get watered on Easter Monday.
Excerpts from an article by Elia Varela Serra – originally published by Global Voices Online, a website that translates and reports on blogs from around the world.
Posted 23 March 2008
Slovak Easter Cheese – Veľká noc Cirák
I remember when I was in my early teens, during the afternoons of Good Friday, my older brother and I would help my mother in the making of this cheese. My mom is Polish and my father was Slovak but mom always combined both of the ethnic traditions. We would take turns stirring the liquid of milk and eggs.
As the liquid would begin to make curds that resembled scrambled eggs my mom would take over. She had the right touch and the experience to know when the cooking process was complete. While we were stirring, mom was preparing the cheesecloth-like sown bags inside small bowls and Pyrex measuring cups so the finished curds can be added easily.
But the hardest part was when we each had to take one of filled bags and constantly twist the top of the bags with dry towels helping to protect our hands from the hot liquid. We’d squeezed out as much of the liquid from the bag while twisting, forming the solid round balls of Cirák. Then mom would hang them from the cabinets over the sink until they were cooled and no additional liquid was extracted. Afterwards they were put in the fridge overnight so we can put them in a big basket with the other food to be blessed at our church on Holy Saturday.
Mom, if you are reading this, I want you to know that I love all of the traditions you passed down to us. I hope that we make you proud knowing how much we loved and appreciated the holidays more so because you included us in the preparations.
- 2-3 Medium piece of cheesecloth
- White twine
- 2 Cups WHOLE milk
- 6 Eggs
- 1 Tsp Salt
- Prepare cheeseclothes by placing them into a small bowl or a 4cup Pyrex measure.
- Measure milk into a large saucepan (or a double-boiler). *SEE ALTERNATE METHOD BELOW
- Heat until warm to the touch and add the salt
- Then gradually start cracking eggs into the milk while stirring almost constantly (this mixture will scorch very easily).
- Whip the mixture well with an electric handheld mixer or a whisk.
- Continue to stir with a wooden spoon or large spatula until the mixture resembles scrambled eggs.
- Immediately fill each cheesecloth bag.
- Before the mixture settles and using 2 thick dishcloths twist the open end of the cheesecloth - squeezing out as much of the liquid you can while forming into a ball
- Tie a piece of twine to secure the cheesecloth close to the cheese ball
- Hang from the sink faucet or over a bowl and allow to finish draining and to cool for about an hour.
- Carefully remove the cheese from the cloth and place in a clean bowl
- Set in the refrigerator for about an hour
- Remove and wrap each cheese ball with plastic wrap
- Leave in the refrigerator overnight before serving.
- 1a. In a large enough microwaveable glass container mix all the ingredients well together with a hand-mixer or whisk making sure the egg yokes are broken and incorporated in the mixture.
- 2a. Depending on the wattage of your microwave oven, microwave the mixture on high for 3 to 5 mins intervals and for a total of about 15 to 20 mins. But be sure to interrupt EVERY 3-5 mins to stir with a whisk and continue cooking.
- 3a. After each 3 to 5 mins, remove the mixture from the microwave oven, stir well with whisk or large spoon, and continue cooking.
- 4a. Microwave on high for another 3 to 5 mins - less if you are seeing the mixture getting close to finishing.
- 5a. Repeat the above steps 3a and 4a until the mixture resembles curds of scrambled eggs.
- 6a. DO NOT Overcook! Watch mixture in the final heating and interrupt or reduce microwave cooking times when you see the final results.
- 7a. Return to line 7 in the INITIAL Instructions above and complete the remaining steps 7 to 14.
- Remember that the cheese in the cloth is very hot.
- Use dry towels to twist the loose end of the cheesecloth and change if necessary.
- Be sure to squeeze out as much of the liquid (whey) to form the cheese into a ball. It is important that all the liquid is removed.
- The cheese ball should be near room temperature before removing from the cheesecloth
- Serve chilled with your Easter breakfast with paska, kielbasa, hard boiled eggs and ham
- Some include horseradish as part of their tradition. I just season with salt (and maybe pepper).