A sizzling platter of biała kiełbasa, a pot-full of tangy, aromatic żurek (sour-rye soup) heating on the stove, hardboiled eggs served with horseradish, tables covered with baskets of fresh-baked breads, babkas and desserts with poppyseed, and platters upon platters stacked with the best quality meats….
Easter in Poland, besides its spiritual aspect, is a big food-focused event! The foods featured at the Easter breakfast table, much like those featured at the Christmas Eve Vigil Supper, Wigilia, are considered traditions tied to the Easter feast, and are strictly adhered to by Polish families throughout Poland and the world. Much like at Christmas, each dish or food that is a part of that annual tradition is unique and carries with it a symbolic meaning. But of all these delicious and meaningful delicacies, it is the array of meats presented at the Polish Easter breakfast that is perhaps the most impressive!
Poles really break the 40-day meatless Lenten fast in a very big way! Poland’s smoked sausages, hams (szynka), biała kiełbasa may be the signature foods of Polish cuisine year-round but it is during the Easter feast that they take center stage! In fact, one could say that the Polish Easter breakfast is really a “feast of meats,” and certainly a big celebration for meat lovers!
Before we address the specific meats that are a must (if not a requirement) at the Polish Easter breakfast, let’s address the symbolism that the meats hold in the celebration of Easter. Ham or sausage are one of the key elements of the annual święconka (Polish Easter basket). Inside the basket the meats are meant to be a representation of health and prosperity. In the olden days, these meats were more of a rarity and regarded as one of the most highly valuable items in the basket. Mini hams and mini sausages are still placed in any traditional Polish Easter basket today, and are especially responsible for the aromas that fill Polish churches on Holy Saturday.
After the baskets have been blessed and Easter Sunday arrives, it is time to enjoy the foods blessed at church as well as all the dishes prepared for the day! But on Easter Sunday, the meatless fast that was strictly enforced in the 40 days leading up to Easter will be broken by far more than just the ham and sausage from the Easter basket. The Polish Easter feast will feature numerous meats, many times prepared according to regional or family recipes. Though the exact meats may change from one household to the next, we’ve highlighted some of the most common varieties enjoyed on Easter Sunday below.
[Head over to the POLISH DELI on Polana.com to shop traditional Easter meats & more!]
Famous around the world, Poland’s smoked sausages are one of the most important items on the Polish Easter breakfast table! Typically, Easter is the time to celebrate the absolute best regional productions or sausages smoked to perfection by members of the family (typically dad or grandpa). On Easter morning smoked kiełbasa will most often be served cut into smaller pieces or sliced and enjoyed with the inseparable condiment of Polish Easter - grated horseradish!
Though every family will have their own preferred variety for the Easter celebration, here are a few of the most common varieties we recommend for the Easter occasion:
- Zwyczajna Kiełbasa - a standard Polish sausage
- Wiejska Kiełbasa - a slightly fattier country-style sausage
- Weselna Kiełbasa - a double-smoked & very aromatic sausage made with the highest quality of meats
- Juniper Sausage (Jałowcowa) - a unique sausage marked by the aroma of crushed juniper berries & smoked in juniper-wood smoke
- Kiełbasa Chrzanowa (Horseradish Sausage) - a pork smoked sausage that offers an unforgettable taste & aroma with its addition of celery and horseradish
- Krakowska Kiełbasa - this is one of Poland’s best-sellers, made from lean pork meat and smoked, baked or boiled and dried. It usually is eaten cold in thin slices.
Biała KielbasaThough all varieties of kiełbasa (and ham) play an especially important role in the culinary traditions of Polish Easter, it is without a doubt the biała kiełbasa that takes center stage on the Polish Easter brunch table!
Unlike the numerous other varieties of kiełbasa, this white sausage is sold uncooked and unsmoked. Made of minced pork, with the addition of beef and veal, covered in a thin layer of pork casings and seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic and marjoram, it is an essential aspect of the Polish Easter feast both on its own and as a key ingredient in other dishes. Typically at Easter it will be served boiled and enjoyed with a side of horseradish, mustard, or ćwikła (horseradish-beetroot relish). For a more elegant serving it can also be baked with the addition of ingredients such as apples and onions (see our recipe from Polish Housewife HERE). It’s also an ingredient that a traditional Polish Easter żurek simply cannot do without!
[Shop Polana’s Biala Kielbasa HERE].
- Prepare a Baked biała this Easter with this great RECIPE made just for Polana’s readers by Lois Britton of Polish Housewife!
- Prepare a traditional homemade żurek this Easter with this great RECIPE made just for Polana’s readers by Anna Hurning of Polish Your Kitchen!
Ham - SzynkaThough it is kiełbasa that reigns supreme as the famous meat of Poland, Polish hams enjoy great popularity for their taste and quality as well! Hams have been a meat product celebrated and carefully prepared throughout Poland for many centuries. Historically, much like smoked kiełbasa, hams were considered a luxury item and reserved (by most of the population) only for special occasions. They could not, therefore, be missing from the Easter Sunday feast! Polish hams are distinct from other varieties around the world in that they are fine grained, high in moisture, and low in salt compared to some other hams. At Easter, Polish ham can be served baked as a main course or sliced cold and served deli style. Like smoked kiełbasa, they are enjoyed with grated horseradish alongside the other foods of Polish Easter.
Here are a few, special Polish holiday hams we recommend for Easter or other special occasions:
- Szynka Chłopska – a large cooked country ham
- Szynka od Kości – smoked off-the-bone ham
- Szynka Domowa – homemade boneless smoked ham
- Szynka Myśliwska – a double smoked hunter’s ham
PateA meat typically reserved for special occasions in Poland, pate, like the biała kiełbasa, is perhaps one of the meats that is the most specific to the Polish Easter celebration. Called “pasztet” in Polish, pate is a dish of several kinds of stewed or boiled meat and offal, which are ground and baked into a meatloaf. Polish Easter pates are most often made of pork, beef and veal combinations but in certain regions Easter pates can include rabbit meat or other more unique meat varieties. Nowadays, it is also becoming more and more popular to prepare a vegetarian pate for the Easter breakfast feast.
[Shop Polana’s pate varieties HERE].
- Prepare a vegetarian, homemade pate this Easter with this great RECIPE made just for Polana’s readers by Aleksandra August, host of Flavor of Poland on PBS.
Head CheeseCalled “Salceson” in Polish head cheese is a cold cut terrine or meat jelly popular in Europe. Typically made of calf or pig it is set in aspic and usually eaten cold. In Poland, head cheese has been a specialty made for many centuries and was particularly celebrated in the past. With the growing popularity of vegetarian and vegan diets it is perhaps less frequently enjoyed today but in certain households it continues to be a delicacy without which the Easter brunch would not be complete.
[Shop & Save this Easter with Polana’s pre-made meat bundles that include everything you need for your Easter brunch!]
Whether it’s with a selection from our Polish Deli or other foods, we hope you prepare your favorite Polish holiday traditions with Polana.com! For more content on Polish food and traditions be sure to subscribe to our email list! You’ll receive 15% OFF to use towards your first purchase when you subscribe!