Where do Easter Eggs Come From? Recipes and More (So Not Kosher)r

I have always been fascinated by the origins of foods and food traditions. Have you ever wondered what a bunny that lays eggs has to do with Easter and which came first, the bunny or the egg?

Ancient cultures had an early spring festival celebrating the end of winter and the beginning of spring. Theses festivals were held at the time of the first full moon following the vernal equinox. A fertility goddess named Estre was the goddess of offspring and springtime. While many different pagan religions held the same type of festival they all had different names for their fertility goddess. She was known as Ishtar, Ashtoreth and Eostre. It was believed by Babylonian legend that a giant egg fell from heaven and was incubated by doves. This is how the myth of Ashtoreth/Ishtar/Eastre was born. The hare (rabbit) was the symbol of the goddess. The male god of fertility was called Baal. The egg was the symbol of Baal.

Not until 325 A.D. when the Nicean Council declared Easter a religious holiday was it celebrated by Christians. Because the celebration of Eastre and the celebration of the Resurrection fell at the same time of year the Nicean Council declared that the day would be celebrated on the first full moon after the vernal equinox and would be called Easter, instead of Eastre.

According to The Encyclopedia of Religion, 1987 “Easter” “It was a popular Easter custom amongst Europeans and Americans to eat ham at Easter, because the pig was considered a symbol of luck in pre-Christian European culture.” German tradition believed that pigs are symbols of luck. If you had a pig to feed your family you were considered lucky. This is also probably the reasons that people started keeping their money in banks that were shaped like pigs.

Like I said, food plays a prominent role in any holiday, and Easter is no exception. For many Americans, Easter dinner includes a hearty helping of ham. Besides ham, pastries and bread also figure prominently in Easter fare all over the world. In Russiaa paska cake is molded and baked with a cross on each side. In Germanyand Austria, an Easter bread called stollen is baked in twisted or braided strands and  Polandhas the mazurka, a sweet cakes made with honey. Today, hot cross buns, small buns decorated with a sweet icing in the shape of a cross are the American treat associated with Good Friday and Easter.                           The following recipes are perfect for any brunch, lunch or dinner you may have this year. May your table be full of family, friends and the good cheer that always accompanies a gathering of those you love.

HOT CROSS BUNS

 

1/4 cup water – at room temperature or just slightly above

1/2 cup lukewarm milk

1/4 cup melted butter

1 egg, lightly beaten

3-1/2 cups  flour

1/4 cup sugar

1-1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

pinch of ground cloves

pinch of allspice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup golden raisins

1/4 cup finely chopped, mixed candied fruit

 

glaze

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons water

 

icing

1/2 cup Confectioners’ sugar

2 teaspoon water

 

BREAD MACHINE:
Place all the dough ingredients, except the raisins and fruit, in the bread machine pan. Set on the dough only cycle. Add the raisins and candied fruit at the bread machine’s signal for adding extra ingredients. Remove the dough from the bread machine at end of dough cycle. Place it in a bowl, cover with a cloth and let it rest for 10 minutes.

 

Divide the dough into 12 pieces. Shape the pieces into balls and place them 3 inches apart on a lightly greased baking sheet. Cover and let rise in warm place until almost doubled, about 45 minutes to an hour. Bake in a preheated oven at 375º for 15 to 18 minutes, or until light brown on top. Remove from the oven. Place the baking sheet full of buns on a wire rack to cool. Prepare the glaze, then spread it over the warm buns. Let the buns continue to cool on the baking sheet. When completely cool, fill a cake decorating bag, fitted with a round tip, with icing. Pipe an icing cross on each bun. Or… simply spoon narrow stips of icing, in the shape of a cross, on each bun.

 

MIXER:
Mix the yeast, 1 cup flour, sugar, salt, and other spices in a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix the milk and water together. Combine the dry ingredients mixture, the liquid ingredients, and the butter in a large bowl. Beat for 2 to 3 minutes at medium speed. Add the egg and beat 1 more minute. Stir in the raisins, fruit, and enough of the remaining flour to make a firm dough. Knead the dough on a floured surface for about 5 to 7 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Use additional flour if necessary. Place in a lightly greased bowl; turn over to grease the other side of the dough. Cover and let rise in a warm place. After about 15 minutes, test the dough to see if it has risen sufficiently and is ready to be shaped. To test, gently stick two fingers into the risen dough up to the second knuckle… take them out. If the indentations remain, the dough is ripe and ready. Continue to follow the preparation directions above, from the **.

CLASSIC BAKED SMOKED HAM
1 large smoked ham, about 12 to 18 pounds
whole cloves
3 cups pineapple juice
I pound dark brown sugar
One 16-ounce bottle dark corn syrup

 

Preheat the oven to 325. Place the ham in a shallow roasting pan. Score the fat and stud it completely with cloves. Pour the pineapple juice over the ham and bake for 12 minutes per pound. After 1-1/2 hours, remove the ham from the oven and carefully pat the brown sugar on top, completely covering the top of the ham. Gently pour the corn syrup over the ham, being careful not to disturb the sugar covering. Continue baking, basting every 15 minutes.When ham has baked its allotted time, remove it from oven and continue basting until it is cooled-this gives it a beautiful glaze. The remaining syrup is good over hot sweet potatoes. Serves 12.

 

MAPLE HAM SLICES

1/3 cup Chopped pecans
2 ham slices (about 2 1/2 pounds) (1/2-inch-thick)
1/2 cup Maple syrup
3 tablespoons Sugar
2 teaspoons Butter

 

Bake pecans in a shallow pan at 325, for 8-10 minutes or until toasted; set aside. Bake ham slices in a shallow pan at 325 degrees for 10 minutes. Bring maple syrup, sugar, and butter to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring often. Stir in pecans, and spoon over ham. Bake 30 more minutes. Serves 4 to 6.

 

BAKED HAM WITH APPLES

4 to 5 lbs. pre-cooked ham
6 to 7 apples, peeled and sliced
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
Few drops red food color

 

Preheat oven to 375. Place the ham in a baking dish and cook for 30 minutes. While the ham is cooking combine the apples brown sugar, cinnamon ginger and food coloring in a bowl. Pour the mixture over the ham and bake an additional 30 minutes. Baste every with the mixture every 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool about 5 minutes before slicing. Serve with sauce. Serves 8 to 10.

 

BONE IN HAM WITH DRIED CHERRIES

 

1 bone-in fully cooked ham, about 9 pounds

2 bottles (12 ounces each) light beer

 

Glaze:

2 tablespoons honey

1 cup cherry preserves

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 cup dried cherries

 

Sauce:

Cornstarch or arrowroot

Water

 

Remove ham from refrigerator 1 hour before baking. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place ham in a large roasting pan and pour beer over it. Cover and bake 1 hour.  Prepare glaze: While ham is baking, combine honey, cherry preserves and ground cloves in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir until preserves have melted and glaze is smooth. Stir in dried cherries. After cooking the ham for a little more than an hour, baste with pan juices and spoon about half of the glaze over the ham, cover and continue cooking 20 minutes. Spoon remaining glaze over the ham, and cook another 20 to 30 minutes.

 

Prepare sauce: Remove ham from the pan to a cutting board and cover with foil for 15 minutes. Bring the pan juices to a simmer over two burners. Dissolve cornstarch or arrowroot in cold water (see Kitchen Note) and slowly whisk into liquid. If using cornstarch, cook about 3 to 5 minutes to thicken. Transfer to a bowl and serve with the sliced ham.

.

HAM AND HORSERADISH STUFFED EGGS

 

6 hard-cooked large eggs

3 tablespoons mayonnaise

1/2 cup minced cooked ham

1 teaspoon coarse-grained mustard

1 1/2 teaspoons bottled horseradish, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

Cut a paper-thin slice off both ends of eggs and halve eggs crosswise. Mash eggs with a fork and stir in remaining ingredients; season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer filling to a pastry bag fitted with a large decorative tip and pipe into whites, mounding it. The stuffed eggs may be made 6 hours ahead and chilled, covered. Makes 12 stuffed eggs. This recipe can be doubled or tripled

 

CURRIED STUFFED EGGS

 

6 hard-cooked eggs

1 1/2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 1/2 tablespoons sour cream

1 1/4 teaspoons curry powder

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon sweet relish

1 green onion, chopped fine

1/2 teaspoon fresh lime juice

1/4 teaspoonTabasco

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Garnish: thinly sliced green onion

 

Cut a paper-thin slice off both ends of eggs and halve eggs crosswise. Mash yolks with a fork; stir in remaining ingredients; salt and pepper to taste. Transfer filling to a pastry bag fitted with a large ribbon or other decorative tip and pipe into whites, mounding it. Garnish with sliced green onion. Makes 12 stuffed eggs. This recipe can be doubled or tripled

 

VEGGIE STUFFED EGGS

I find that depending on how juicy the vegetables are, I occasionally need to modify the amount of mayo I add. Start with 3 tablespoons, adding another ½ tablespoon at a time if needed.

 

6 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and cut lengthwise
3 to 4 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon sweet red pepper – very finely chopped
1 tablespoon green onion or scallions – finely chopped
1 tablespoon celery – very finely chopped
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Paprika for garnish

 

Cut a paper-thin slice off both ends of eggs and halve eggs crosswise. Mash yolks with a fork; stir in remaining ingredients; Transfer filling to a pastry bag fitted with a large ribbon or other decorative tip and pipe into whites, mounding it.  sprinkle lightly with paprika. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to one day before serving. Makes 12 stuffed eggs. This recipe can be doubled or tripled.

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