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A 1230 AD Christmas and New Year Polish Feast for Commoners and Nobles



In the 1200s, Christmas meals in Chwarszczany, Poland, were uncomplicated but filling. Rich folks and nobles had fancier foods, but the common people had simpler, though still satisfying, dishes.

A regular Christmas dinner for a peasant might have had:

  • Hearty rye bread - Rye grain was abundant and made into dark, dense loaves.

  • Beet soup (Barszcz) - Beets were pickled or cooked into a hearty soup with vinegar, honey, and sausage.

  • Pierogi dumplings - Filled with potato, sauerkraut, ground meat or fruit.

  • Roast pork - Pork was the predominant Christmas/New Year meat for peasants. Roasted with herbs and root vegetables.

  • Bigos - A rich cabbage and meat stew with sausage, pork, sauerkraut and prunes.

  • Mushroom and barley side dishes - Dry mushrooms and barley extended meals.

  • Compote of dried fruits - Stewed apples, prunes, cherries and pears for a sweet finish.

Nobles dined on fancier stuff like wild birds, oysters, smoked seafood, and fancy sweets. Yet the peasants' Christmas/New Year feast was charming in its own way, with plenty of local tastes. 

 

This feasting was triggered by the story: Templars and The Spear of Destiny


Peasants' Christmas/New Year feast


Here are some example recipes:

Beet Barszcz Soup:

Ingredients

For the Beet Sour (Kwas):

  • 3 1/2 pounds beets, peeled, rinsed, and sliced

  • Served with 1 slice rye bread

For the Beet Soup:

  • 1 pound beets, peeled, rinsed, and sliced

  • 1/2 pound vegetables, such as carrot, parsnip, celery root, leeks, peeled and sliced

  • 2 teaspoons unsalted butter

  • 1 clove garlic, mashed with a little salt

  • 2 cups beet sour (kwas)

  • 1 dried mushroom, soaked, 1/4 cup soaking liquid reserved

  • Salt, to taste

  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  • 1 teaspoon sugar, or to taste

  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley

 

Potato Pierogi:

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

  • 1/2 cup butter, divided

  • 1/3 cup sour cream

  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 2 eggs

  • 1/2 cup warm water

Filling:

  1. Place the potatoes in a saucepan and cover with cold salted water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat and simmer until very tender, about 15 minutes.

  2. Drain potatoes and return to the pan. Mash with butter, sour cream, salt and pepper until smooth and combined. Set aside.

Dough:

  1. Mix together flour and salt in a bowl. Create a well in the center.

  2. Whisk eggs with water and pour into the well. Mix together, adding more water if necessary to form a soft, pliable dough.

  3. Knead dough on a floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes.

Assembling pierogi:

  1. Roll out dough into a 1/8 inch thick sheet. Cut out 3-inch rounds using a cup or biscuit cutter.

  2. Place 1 tbsp filling in the center of each round. Fold dough over into a half-moon and pinch edges to seal.

  3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Boil pierogi 3-5 minutes until they float to the top.

  4. Melt remaining butter and toss pierogi to coat. Season with more salt and sour cream if desired.

Yield: 25-30 pierogi

 

Roast Pork with Vegetables:

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs pork shoulder or pork roast

  • 1 tbsp salt

  • 2 tsp black pepper

  • 1 tsp marjoram

  • 1 tsp rosemary

  • 1 tsp thyme

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 1 onion, quartered

  • 4 carrots, peeled and halved

  • 2 parsnips, peeled and quartered

  • 6 small potatoes, halved

  • Chicken or goose fat for basting

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 175°C/350°F.

  2. Pat pork dry and rub with salt, herbs and garlic. Place pork in roasting pan.

  3. Surround pork with onion, carrots, parsnips and potatoes. Drizzle with fat or oil.

  4. Roast uncovered for approximately 90 minutes, until internal temperature reaches 60°C/140°F.

  5. Baste pork and vegetables with pan juices every 20 minutes while roasting.

  6. Once done, remove roast and let rest 15 minutes before slicing and serving with roasted vegetables.

  7. Gravy can be made by simmering pan juices with flour or breadcrumbs to thicken.

Cooking time may vary depending on size of pork roast. Use a meat thermometer to ensure pork reaches a safe internal temperature.

 

Bigos Stew:

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch cubes

  • 1 lb Polish sausage or kielbasa, sliced

  • 1 head green cabbage, cored and chopped

  • 1 onion, diced

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 3 cups chicken or beef stock

  • 1 lb sauerkraut, rinsed and drained

  • 10 oz can diced tomatoes

  • 2 tbsp tomato paste

  • 1 tsp marjoram

  • 1 tsp caraway seed

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 1 apple, cored and chopped

  • 10 prunes, chopped

  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. In a large pot or dutch oven, brown pork cubes in batches over medium-high heat. Remove and set aside.

  2. Reduce heat to medium, add onions and garlic and cook for 2 minutes until fragrant.

  3. Add cabbage and sauerkraut and stir frequently until cabbage starts to wilt, about 5 minutes.

  4. Stir in stock, tomatoes, tomato paste, herbs and spices. Add browned pork and sliced sausage.

  5. Bring to a simmer, then cover and cook on low heat for 1.5-2 hours, until meat is very tender.

  6. In the last 30 minutes, stir in chopped apple and prunes.

  7. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as needed.

  8. Serve stew piping hot with slices of rye bread.


This rich pork and cabbage stew was a Christmas/New Year tradition, sometimes cooked for two days to blend the flavors. The prunes and apples provide sweetness to balance the hearty savory broth. Enjoy this warming winter meal!


 A Noble's Traveling Feast



While traveling, the Duke of Poland still held Christmas Feasts. While less extravagant than when at home, it still provided an enjoyable meal.


Appetizer: Creamed Herring Salad

 

1/2 cup sour cream

1/4 cup white vinegar

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped tart apple

1/2 cup chopped dill pickle

1/2 cup cooked, diced potatoes

1/2 cup diced hard-cooked eggs

1/2 cup diced pickled herring

To prepare the salad, mix together the sour cream, white vinegar, sugar, salt, and black pepper in a bowl. Add the chopped onion, tart apple, dill pickle, cooked potatoes, hard-cooked eggs, and pickled herring. Mix well and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

 

Main Course: Polish Fish Soup

 

1 lb. fish fillets

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped celery

1/2 cup chopped carrots

1/2 cup chopped parsley

1/2 cup chopped leeks

1/2 cup chopped mushrooms

1/2 cup white wine

1/2 cup water

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon marjoram

1/2 teaspoon thyme

1 bay leaf

1/2 cup sour cream

To prepare the soup, place the fish fillets in a large pot and add enough water to cover them. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the fish from the pot and set aside. Add the chopped onion, celery, carrots, parsley, leeks, and mushrooms to the pot. Add the white wine, water, salt, black pepper, marjoram, thyme, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and puree the soup in a blender or food processor. Return the soup to the pot and add the fish and sour cream. Heat through and serve.

 

Side Dish: Pierogi

 

1 cup flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 egg

1/4 cup water

1/2 cup mashed potatoes

1/2 cup cottage cheese

1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 cup butter

1/2 cup sour cream

To prepare the pierogi dough, mix together the flour and salt in a bowl. Beat the egg and water together in a separate bowl. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir until a dough forms. Knead the dough on a floured surface for 5 minutes. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes.

 

To prepare the pierogi filling, mix together the mashed potatoes, cottage cheese, cheddar cheese, chopped onion, salt, black pepper, and nutmeg in a bowl.

 

Roll out the pierogi dough on a floured surface to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut out circles with a biscuit cutter or glass. Place a spoonful of filling in the center of each circle. Fold the dough over the filling and press the edges together to seal.

 

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pierogi and cook for 5 minutes or until they float to the surface. Drain and serve with melted butter and sour cream.

 

Dessert: Poppy Seed Cake

 

1/2 cup poppy seeds

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup butter

1 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1 1/2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 egg whites

1/4 cup sugar

To prepare the poppy seed cake, preheat the oven or you can cook in a fire smoker to 350°F. Grease and flour a 9-inch cake pan.

 

Grind the poppy seeds in a food processor or coffee grinder. Combine the ground poppy seeds and milk in a small saucepan. Cook over low heat for 10 minutes, stirring constantly.

 

Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl. Add the vanilla extract and almond extract. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter then blend in the cooked poppy seed mixture.

Place in Greased and floured  dish and place in oven.

 

 

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