Apologies go to Lake Michigan Chapter Treasurer Fr. John Lucas for the omission of his hrudka demonstration in the April 8th posting about the chapter’s Pysanky Workshop. The demonstration was recorded by Board Member Tom Sedor and shown in DVD format for those interested in making the traditional Rusyn “Easter cheese”.
In his presentation, Fr. John noted that hrudka, though called "Easter Cheese", is not actually a cheese as it is not cured and because the ingredients--eggs and milk--more closely resemble those of custard. He also related that the word translates as clod, ball or clump, coming from the appearance of the egg and milk mixture after it is finished and removed from the cheesecloth.
As a special treat for workshop attendees, he brought several hrudky with different flavors for sampling. Below is his recipe.
FR. JOHN’S HRUDKA RECIPE
Before starting to cook, line a colander with cheesecloth so that 6-8 inches hang over edge all around. Place the colander in a bowl to catch whey draining from the hrudka. For the end of the process, about 2 feet of heavy string for tying the cheesecloth and a quart glass jar for saving the whey to use for making paska (Easter bread) are needed.
In the top of a double-boiler (a single 3-quart sauce pan will also work), place:
· 1 dozen eggs
· 1 quart milk (for lactose intolerant, use soy milk)
· pinch salt
· optional: I tsp vanilla extract; 1 Tbs sugar
Bring water in bottom of double-boiler to a boil then turn down to a strong simmer. If a sauce pan is being used over a medium heat, constant stirring is needed.
Use a whisk, hand-held electric beater or wooden spoon to combine eggs, milk, salt and optional ingredients, making sure yolks break and albumen is evenly distributed. A carefully combined hrudka has no yellow or white blotches but is uniformly colored throughout.
Cook the mixture, stirring continuously with wooden spoon until it begins to curdle (approximately 20 minutes). There will be some resistance of the mixture to the spoon as the curds separate from the thin watery whey. Stop when no more whey is being produced—just before it becomes scrambled eggs.
Quickly pour the curds and whey mixture into the cheesecloth-covered colander. Gather the corners of the cheesecloth together to form a large ball with the curds. The mixture will be very hot. Twist the top and squeeze to remove as much of the whey as possible and then tie with the string. Save the whey to use as the liquid in your paska recipe.
To further drain and cool, tie the ball to a wooden spoon and suspend it over a pot deep enough so that the hrudka does remains above the whey as it drips into the pot. The ball may also be tied to the kitchen faucet.
Let the hrudka sit several hours (or overnight) before refrigerating. When the ball is firm and not dripping any more, remove the cheesecloth and place it in the refrigerator. If this step is done too soon before all the whey is gone, the hrudka will be mushy.
Hrudka will last 2-3 days if wrapped in plastic and refrigerated. Serve slices on sandwiches or alone. As it tends to be bland, Rusyns traditionally serve it with chrin, a mixture of grated beets and horseradish which can be found on grocery store shelves today.
Hrudka variations: Some variations use only salt, no vanilla or sugar. Other versions use from 1 tablespoon to 1 cup of sugar for this one-dozen-eggs/one-quart-milk recipe as well as or instead of vanilla extract. Others may call for one of the following: cloves, caraway seeds, cinnamon, pepper or saffron. Others choose lemon extract, almond or hazlenut flavoring or add white raisins or anise. Experiment with any ingredient that strikes your fancy. I have even used caramel syrup.