Tag Archives: dried sweet cherries

Paska

How about cheese cake without the crust? That is often how people describe Paska. It is a sweet, cheese food that has a history back into eastern Europe. I like it as a snack, but it is also used as part of a meal. My neighbor tasted it, and demanded the recipe so she could make it for Purim/Passover to eat with the matzo bread that is eaten as part of those ceremonies. And, from what I find on the network, it is eaten at Easter in a Russian Orthodox home with a special bread kulich.

Paska 6

Paska

Nadia Skoblin 1942. (This was a Russian lady Errol knew in Missoula, Montana.)

Ingredients

  • 4 or 5 lbs. cottage cheese (not creamed)
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 lb. butter
  • 1 cup mixed candied fruits and raisins
  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds.

Cream the butter and sugar. Add finely sieved cottage cheese, a cup at a time, mixing well.

Add the fruit and nuts. Pack firmly in a mold. Cover with cheese cloth. Invert (or set in a dish) so it can drain and age a week or longer in the refrigerator. There will be considerable liquor which drains off so empty container often.

May be sliced to serve at the holidays.

Having made the recipe in January 2012 exactly as we received it from my Mother, I knew I needed to do a lot of experimenting with both the size and the ability to use modern kitchen appliances. Here is the original recipe; I don’t think you should try to use it as it is written.

I made this original version of the recipe with 4 pounds of cottage cheese as it calls out. I must say that sieving that much cottage cheese will develop muscles. I was really tired by the time I finished the sieving. Then, I mixed everything up, and it took two regular bread loaf pans to hold all the paska. I was surprised to find that indeed, I could invert the loaf pans and place them on plates in the refrigerator without the paska trying to drop out and escape.

The trouble came after the week of aging, and draining the excess liquid. When I tried to unmold the paska, it didn’t want to come out of the loaf pans. Even when I ran a knife around the edges of the pan, it was still stuck firmly to the bottom of the pan. I can only say that it was a mess when I finally got it all out of the mold.

So, I had three problems; first, the amount of paska was way too much for me. Second, it is a lot of work to sieve cottage cheese. And finally, I needed to find a way to unmold the paska after it had aged and drained.

The first problem was easily solved; I divided the recipe in fourths, so that only a single pound of cottage cheese was needed. Now, the recipe reads as follows:

Paska

Nadia Skoblin 1942.

Modified for only one pound of cottage cheese by Errol Crary

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. sieved* cottage cheese
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 lb butter
  • 1/4 cup fruit**
  • 2 Tbsp raisins**
  • 2 Tbsp chopped almonds

Cream the butter and sugar. Add finely sieved cottage cheese, a cup at a time, mixing well.

Add the fruit and nuts. Pack firmly in a mold. Cover with cheese cloth. Invert (or set in a dish) so it can drain and age a week or longer in the refrigerator. There will be considerable liquor which drains off so empty container often.

May be sliced to serve at the holidays.

I tried breaking up the curd of the cottage cheese in the food processor, and I think that is an acceptable way of “sieving” the cottage cheese. I will admit that my neighbor thought the paska texture was different, and liked the sieved version better. I couldn’t tell the difference. From my perspective, that solved the second problem. Now, I only had the problem of unmolding to solve.

My original direction on solving that problem was to line the bottom of the molds with plastic wrap before I dumped the paska in. But, just as I didn’t want the paska to stick to the mold, nor did the plastic wrap want to stick to the mold. So, when I turned the mold over to drain, the paska fell out. I solved that problem by using nesting plastic containers. After putting the paska in the lined mold, I placed an identical, nesting container on top of the cheese cloth that was on the paska in the first container. Now, I could turn the nested containers over, and the paska would be forced upward by the bottom of the inner container. I would have stopped at this point, but I found that not all nesting plastic containers worked well; some seemed to slope inward too much, and the paska leaked down between the sides of the containers. (I found square blue-top plastic storage containers worked the best, and you would want to use a size that is over 3 cups – 24 ounces for the one pound cottage cheese version).

Paska 7

At this point, I started thinking outside of the box- or mold, and found what I think is the perfect answer- a colander! So now I line the colander with cheese cloth, dump in the paska, place a piece of cheese cloth on top, and then place a weighted dish on top of the top cheese cloth. I would say the only trick left is to find a dish that fairly well covers the surface of the paska without binding on the side of the colander. (My little red colander is measured as a 1.5 quart colander).
Paska 5
The recipe calls for candied fruit; I took that to mean the type of fruit that is in a fruit cake. That is a seasonal item in most stores, and wasn’t available in January when I was first experimenting. So I improvised. I used some dried sweet cherries and Craisins that I had, and diced them down to about ¼ of an inch pieces. That made a pretty red color that was just about right for Valentine’s day when I had hoped to have everything coming together. And, my daughters dislike fruit cake candied fruit, so they were not unhappy with the cherry/Craisin substitution. The main thing to remember no matter what you use is to dice the fruits and nuts down to about ¼ inch.

PicMonkey Collage