Hudson -- Traditions are different for each family, but once initiated, they can be passed down through generations, shared among friends and suggested to strangers.
The Rozman family in Hudson has a family tradition of blessing Easter foods on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter.
Kay Rozman, 86, will take a basket of symbolic Easter foods and lamb cake to St. Mary Church. Her daughter, Kathy Alonso, and her grandchildren share in the yearly event to have the basket of food blessed.
Traditionally, it is the first meal of Easter when fasting has ended, Alonso said.
Deacon Carl Winterich will conduct the Blessing of the Baskets at 2 p.m. April 19 at St. Mary Catholic Church. Historically, Polish and Slavic families celebrate the tradition of blessing the food eaten on Easter after fasting, Winterich said.
The food in the basket expresses a relationship with God, he said. The egg is a symbol of life and rebirth; sausage or ham is the new law Christ brought; the Paschal lamb is Christ, the "Lamb of God;" pepper or horseradish is a bitter herb representing the Passover and Exodus from Egypt; salt and bread is a sign of hospitality; vinegar is the gall given to Christ at the crucifixion; and wine is the blood of sacrifice spilled by Christ at the crucifixion.
Winterich has conducted the blessing four times and said the number of families participating grows each year.
A blessing of the baskets expresses to God thanks for the gifts God has bestowed on us, including the food in the baskets and reminds us of all that God has done for us.
The custom of blessing of Easter foods is an important tradition for Rozman and her family. Rozman's traditional Slovenian brunch includes ham, kielbasa, sausage, butter lamb, colored eggs, horseradish root, salt, pepper, bread, wine, a chocolate cross, poppy seed, potica, and a lamb-shaped cake.
The food items have a special significance and are placed in the basket, Rozman said. The colored eggs represent new life, the wine and horseradish root represent bitterness and suffering, while the meat is a sign of abundance. The potica and poppy seed rolls represent the sweetness and joy in life.
A bow is tied to the handle and a candle is added to the basket to be lit during the blessing, she said. A crocheted cloth is placed over the basket to protect the food and also has significance.
At the church, the baskets vary in size and line the altar for the short blessing ceremony. The contents of each family's basket varies, and the entire family can participate in preparing the food.
Rozman has been baking, cooking and catering for more than 60 years for various organizations, churches and events. At one time, she baked more than 20 lamb-shaped cakes to take to a Catholic orphanage for the children to decorate and celebrate Easter. She continues to bake from scratch and mixes her passion for cooking and baking with family time, hoping to pass on the traditions to her daughter and granddaughter.
Recipe for Potica (Poh-teet-sah)
- Preheat oven 325 degrees. Grease 6 loaf pans depending on size of pan.
- For dough, crumble a 2-ounce yeast cake into a small bowl. Add 1/4 cup of milk and 1 Tbsp. sugar. Set aside and the yeast will rise.
- Heat 2-3/4 cups of milk with 1 stick of margarine. Beat 4 egg yolks and 2 whole eggs. (Save whites for filling) Temper the eggs into the hot milk. Set aside to cool.
- Using a large mixing bowl, sift together 6 cups of flour, 3/4 cups of sugar and 1 tsp. salt. Make a well in center and pour in the yeast mixture and add in the milk mixture. Mix dough by hand until dough pulls away from sides of bowl adding 1 cup of extra flour at a time if dough is too sticky.
- Sprinkle dough with flour to coat. Place towel over bowl and let dough rise until it doubles in size.
- Meanwhile prepare the filling. Beat 4 egg whites until soft peaks. Heat 1 cup half and half and 1 stick of margarine and add 1 Tbsp. vanilla, 1/4 cup of honey, 1-1/2 cups of sugar and 4 pounds of ground walnuts. Fold in egg whites. Set aside.
- Place 1/2 of the dough on well-floured cloth or counter. A cloth (sheet) is better for rolling dough on. Add flour as needed so dough does not stick to surface and begin rolling to 1/4 inch thickness into large oval shape. Spread filling over dough almost to edges. Starting at long side, roll dough tightly to the end. Cut dough to fit into greased loaf pans. Brush top of each roll with a beaten egg and cover with towel to let rise again, then it’s ready for the preheated oven. Meanwhile, roll out remaining dough and prepare as above. Cover the cut rolls with the sheet until first batch is done baking and the pans have cooled. Grease pans and bake remaining rolls.
- Bake 45-55 minutes or until golden brown and cake tester comes out clean. Let cool in pans for 15 minutes. Remove to wire rack. Wrap in foil and store in cool dry place. Freeze in plastic wrap covered in foil.