This post was supposed to be about coloring Easter eggs. When I was a kid, we made the coolest swirled Easter eggs. I had every intention of recreating them and blogging about how I did it but, apparently, the company who made the dye we used went out of business.
Who remembers Ruby’s Egg Deco Egg Dye by Tootsie Toy? It came in little glass bottles with bunny heads for tops. When dropped into a mix of water and vinegar, the dye suspended in little droplets and you could swirl your egg down into the water, swirl it back up, and your eggs would come out with beautiful designs that looked like pretty sunsets. By the time you were done, your fingers and the surrounding surfaces were covered in dye that had to be sandblasted off.
It was awesome.
So, armed with a dozen eggs and no dye , I decided to recreated another childhood memory. Using a recipe that was handed down from my grandmother, and who knows how many generations of Slovakian women before her, I decided to tackle the strange, sweet ball of goodness known as the Easter Egg Cheese Ball, also known as Hrudka.
Folks, this recipe is not for the faint of heart. Seriously, if you have heart issues, stay away. There’s enough cholesterol in this thing to drop a horse. But, as far as traditions go, this is one of my favorites.
In researching the origins of this Slovakian treat, I learned that it’s traditionally made on Holy Saturday, blessed with a basket of other Easter food and then eaten on Easter Sunday. I was surprised to learn that this is often eaten on a sandwich made with ham, beet and horseradish relish and something called paska bread. My family made a sweet version with cloves and sugar and we ate it plain. That’s how we rolled. It seems there are as many ways to make and eat this as there are Slovakian families.
Easter Egg Cheese Ball
12 jumbo eggs
1 quart whole milk
3 T. sugar
3-4 whole cloves broken up or a pinch of ground cloves
Get your cheesecloth ready to go. It’s easiest to spread it out over a large bowl in the sink.
Beat the eggs in a separate bowl. You can beat them with an egg beater or by hand. Transfer the eggs to a large pot and add all the other ingredients.
Cook the mixture over medium heat and stir constantly for about 30 minutes. Don’t get impatient and try to speed it along by turning up the heat or you’ll burn it. And for the love of all that is good, do not stop stirring. Get a helper with strong arms. If you stop, the mixture overheats and sticks to the pan and then Easter is ruined! You’re looking for the mixture to start curdling. After about 3o minutes, it will start to look like wet scrambled eggs and the liquid will start to separate out.
You might want to wear rubber gloves to protect the skin on your hands from being burned off in this next step. When your mixture looks like wet scrambled eggs, carefully pour it into the cheesecloth.
Gather the sides of the cheesecloth together and let the majority of the liquid drain out of it. Holding the excess cheesecloth gathered at the top, start to twist, shaping the eggs into a ball as you go. This will squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Keep twisting until the dripping slows. Using a piece of twine, tie up the cheese like a bundle and hang, with a pot underneath it to catch the rest of the dripping liquid. Keep it hung up for several hours while it cools and dries out. If you are worried about little things like bacteria and disease, you can tie the ball around a large wooden spoon, suspend it over a pot, then refrigerate the whole thing. My mother hung hers up in the basement with a pot underneath it. I hung mine from a cabinet door handle over the kitchen sink.
After a few hours, you’ll notice the cheese has hardened a bit. Take it down and refrigerate it overnight.
The next day, remove the cheesecloth, slice and serve.
What are your favorite Easter traditions? Please share them in the comments section and if you’ve blogged about it, share your link!
P.S. If you have found a suitable substitute for Ruby’s Egg Deco Egg Dye, please let me know!