Polish Christmas Eve Food
Christmas dinner is one of the most valued celebrations in Poland. The meal is usually a time to enjoy the company of family members and partake in the sumptuous Polish Christmas Eve food. It is not uncommon, though, for them to welcome friends or even vagrants to their Christmas dinner table. Guided mainly by custom than by faith, the traditions are not exclusive to just one religious denomination and the Christmas Eve practices are done by almost everyone in Poland. This culinary tradition is a union of ancient pagan Customs, local traditions, various folk cultures and the religious customs of the Catholic church.
The Eve is celebrated with traditional cuisine, excluding meat. The recipes depend highly on the available traditional and seasonal produce during the winter months. There is the typical exchange of gifts, but not after a hearty supper of the twelve traditional Christmas Eve dishes lasting for a couple of hours. The Christmas Eve menu is multicultural, with influences from Jews, Germans, Lithuanians and another present in Poland.
The Beetroot Soup, the most popular one on Christmas Eve, opens the dinner. The beetroot soup on ordinary days differs from the Christmas version since the one used in Christmas uses a sour base that has to be prepared days in advance. The dish is composed of raw beets, peeled, sliced and fermented with or without garlic for four to five days, in water that has been boiled and then chilled. It is then mixed with other broths, such as dried wild mushroom broth and vegetable broth. The dish is traditionally served with ceps and onion dumplings.
Christmas Eve Mushroom Soup
Another soup often served during Christmas Eve dinners is mushroom soup, which is prepared from the dried forest mushroom, usually of ceps. The distinct flavor that the mushrooms give the dish is a part of the Polish culinary heritage. The soup consists of either square or thin noodles. There are also other soups traditionally served at Christmas Eve namely soft water fish soup, white bortsch, rye and sweet almond soup.
Kutia has an ancient Eastern European origin. It is composed of unprocessed wheat grains, honey, poppy seeds, candied fruits and various nuts. Kutia is also associated with religious beliefs.
Christmas Eve Carp
It was only after the Second World War that the carp farming of Poland became embedded in the Polish culinary tradition, despite having been practiced for at least 700 years. The community has developed various carp species which became products with regional certification on good quality. The Christmas Eve Carp is paired with dried mushrooms and hot sauerkraut, potatoes, and vegetable salad. There have been variations to the recipe, with the more adventurous going for parsley stuffed carp with dried mushrooms and cream bathed in grey sauce.
Jewish Style Carp
Families in the Lesser Poland region of Maloposka still conforms to the tradition of serving carp in Jewish style for Christmas Eve dinners. This was the meal of traditional Jews living in the Central and Eastern part of Europe in the olden times. The fish is sliced into pieces and is slowly cooked in fish stock. It is offered with soft bread, raisins, almond, and onion.
One of the internationally known dishes is the Pierogi. The crescent-shaped dumplings are stuffed with cep, or dried forest mushroom, cabbage, and sauerkraut for its Christmas version. There are other regional varieties, such as sweet pierogi stuffed with poppy seeds and dried plums.
Since meat is not allowed, fish is favored during Christmas Eve in Poland. One of the most favored, at any time of the year, are herrings. There are quite a number of recipes for herrings since Poles from Scandinavian and Baltic nations have knowledge in preparing the dish. The most popular recipes are the filleted herrings in oil, or the ones with chopped onions, sour apples, and cream. The dish comes with potatoes and vegetable salad.
The dinner is followed with braised sauerkraut, a dish that has always been a part of the Polish diet and one of the easiest to prepare. It is also found in the Polish dining table during Christmas Eve. A side dish of dried forest mushrooms and white beans come with the sauerkraut.
Poland’s comfort food, the Cabbage Rolls, is usually stuffed with meat, but for Christmas Eve, the stuffing is filled with vegetables, cereals, and dried forest mushrooms.
Old Polish Gingerbread
Gingerbread is an ancient Polish recipe filled with exotic spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. It is ideally baked a couple of days before Christmas.
Poppy Seed Cake
The poppy seed pastry is a symbol of prosperity, as rich as its filling of poppy seeds, dried fruits, and honey. This roll of delectable dough is served on Christmas Eve.
Dried Fruit Compote
For dessert, a beverage made of dried and smoked fruits is served. The compote is popular during Christmas Eve.
Poland is rich in its traditional Polish Christmas food. Each of them has its own charm and recipe of cooking. Try one of them to familiarize yourself with rich Polish culture.