Christmas is right around the corner. It’s snowing in the mountains – which is sure to put us all in a holiday mood. Our thoughts are focused on the Christmas Eve supper and all the delicious things we hope to find there. So, we’d like to present to you a few ideas for dishes and sweets straight from Poland!
The history of gingerbread goes back to medieval times when spices from India began to be brought to Europe. We owe them the aroma and the flavor of gingerbread, which always evokes memories of Christmas. The city of Toruń, which is situated by the Vistula River in central Poland, is especially famous for typically Polish gingerbread.
The process of baking traditional gingerbread from Toruń is very time-consuming. According to the old recipes, the ingredients should include: caramelized sugar, buckwheat honey and wheat flour. And of course, we mustn’t forget to add some spices: nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and ginger, among others. The only problem is that, according to the tradition, the dough must mature in a cool cellar for at least three months. So, we need to be patient!
A curiosity is that in the folk beliefs gingerbread symbolized prosperity and was related with higher social status.
Polish pierogis are a must-have on every Christmas Eve table! Traditionally the dough, made from flour and warm water, is filled with a sauerkraut and mushroom stuffing.
As the old legend tells us, pierogis came to Poland from Ukraine, but nowadays they are considered a traditional, typically Polish dish. Even the oldest Polish cookbook, Compendium Ferculorum from 1682, does not say a word about the recipe. Apart from its Christmas version, the dough can be filled both with sweet (quark or berries) and savory (meat, lentil or potatoes) stuffing.
Kutia is a traditional dish from the old-time Polish cuisine from the Eastern Borderlands. It is a dessert included in a twelve-dish Christmas Eve feast that is served in the whole country, but especially in the region of Podlasie where we find a lot of families that belong to the Orthodox Church.
Kutia is made from bruised and boiled wheat, poppy and honey. Then we add dried fruit, for example: raisins, cranberries, almonds and walnuts. It is also possible to add a more modern element: candied orange peel.
Among all the traditional twelve dishes that are served during Christmas Eve, we mustn’t forget about stewed fruit. We need a few ingredients to prepare it: dried plums, apples, pears and apricots. In order to enrich the flavor, we may add a cinnamon stick, a few cloves, anise seed and orange peel. This dish is very easy to prepare. We only need to put all the ingredients into warm water for about half an hour and then just boil them all until they become soft.
And let’s not forget the symbolism: According to tradition, the pears provide longevity, apples love and health, and dried plums ward off evil powers.
To get to know Polish Christmas traditions better, it’s worth your while to visit some of the Christmas markets where you can try pierogis, drink stewed fruit or mulled wine 😊 and listen to beautiful Polish Christmas carols.