Traditional Polish Christmas Eve dinner should have in the dessert part a compote (Polish: kompot), a drink made out of dried fruit (apple, pear, plum) and spices (cloves, cinnamon).
The day of this post is the Christmas Day, December 25 so let me show a picture of mouth blown, hand painted Polish Christmas ornaments. Poland has a strong position in production and export of hand made Christmas ornaments. Some like these on the picture are individually painted by artists and are great collectibles.
To see more of these wonderful hand painted, mouth blown Christmas ornaments see ImaginativeGifts Christmas Ornaments
The Christmas Eve dinner is the most important family gathering and family dinner of the year in Poland, like the Thanksgiving dinner in the US. The dishes for the Polish traditional Christmas Eve dinner is pretty well defined and there are two dishes which are simple the must – one of the red beet soup – borscht (Polish spelling is “barszcz”), another is the the carp fish. There is some mystery in making a real borscht from red beets and many Polish housewives go for a easy solution – buy at the open market or in the supermarket a bottle of the borscht concentrate which will form the bases of the soup. Of course, borscht soup is eaten in Poland through out the year but the soup for the Christmas Eve must be special – it comes with special dumplings which look like Italian ravioli and have stuffing with wild mushrooms. The dumplings are called in Polish “uszka” which means little ears and the name probably relates to the shape. Please see for yourself at this picture below.
Polish pierogi – stuffed dumplings are probably most well know Polish food specialty outside of Poland or maybe second best known after Polish kielbasa – sausage.
Polish pierogi have three most popular stuffing types- cottage cheese with potatoes (called Russian pierogi), ground meat and sauerkraut (fermented cabbage) with mushrooms. Still, you can find in Poland small specialized restaurants called “pierogarnia” which sell nothing else than pierogi and they come in tens of different flavors. During the summer, it is popular to eat pierogi stuffed with fruit like strawberries.
Pierogi can be served direct from boiling water and topped with melted butter with sauteed onions, or can be browned in a skillet after boiling and then served.
Another example of traditional Polish food are stuffed cabbage rolls. In Polish, they are called “golabki” which means little pigeons. Typically, they are stuffed with rice and ground meat (pork or beef) and cooked in a tomato sauce. For the vegetarians, there is a version where meat is substituted by mushrooms. Preparation of this dish requires some skills as the whole cabbage head needs to be pre-cooked or steamed and large enough leaves separated so that they can be stuffed and rolled, then slowly cooked in tomato sauce till ready.
Bigos, the Polish stew of cabbage and meat, has it origins at hunting when at the end hunters cooked a meal of cabbage with pieces of different meat from killed animals in a huge metal pot over the bonfire. Nowadays, still different meat is used, typically pork and beef. Good bigos requires long cooking, the best is to keep a pot with bigos outside in a freezing weather for the night and cook again the next day. These bigos pots are typically very large – for the whole family, for several days.
This stall at the Krakow Christmas Market sells typical Polish food for the time of the year – grilled sausage, cooked potatoes, bigos (hunters’ stew), golonka (pig’s foot), golabki (stuffed cabbage rolls).
A great time to be in Krakow is December and to visit the annual Christmas Market at the Main Market Square with stalls selling all possible Christmas ornaments, handicraft and traditional December Polish food like grilled sausage and bigos (hunters’ stew).
Both tourists and locals love to sit in the open air restaurants around the whole huge Main Market Square in the historic old city of Krakow. This picture was taken on a nice sunny day in November but even this December, which is unusually warm for Poland, many open air restaurants in Krakow remained opened with gas heaters and blankets for each chair making sure that the guests remain nicely warm.