Pascha Cheese

One of the traditional Russian Easter dishes is “syrnaja pascha,” or “Pascha Cheese.” It is a cheesecake like dish which is molded in a special pyramid shaped mold and which is served on slices of kulich, a rich, eggy sweet bread.

You make the Pascha cheese with the farmer’s cheese whose recipe I posted here earlier.

Here is my favorite recipe for Pascha Cheese.

Matushka Irina’s Russian Pascha Recipe

Young girl holding pascha cheese and eggs
Young girl holding pascha cheese and eggs

5 lbs farmers cheese
7 sticks unsalted butter–softened
8 whole eggs
4 egg yolks
1 pint heavy cream
4 cups of sugar
zest of an orange
11/2 piece of vanilla bean scraped

Put the cheese through a sieve
Add all the ingredients and mix
Put in double boiler and with a wooden spoon mix until it looks like
thin farina. Cook until hot—DO NOT BOIL. It will be quite liquid.

Put the pot in the sink and surround with ice. Let cool and mix occasionally. It will firm up.

Wet cheesecloth (or cloth). Put it in your mold. Fill with pascha.
Cover the top of the mold with more cheesecloth.

Now, here opinion divides. The person who gave me the recipe doesn’t use a weight on hers; I put a can of beans on top of mine to hasten the draining process. I guess it’s your choice here. Leave this in the fridge until it firms up.

If you don’t have a pascha mold, a clay pot makes a decent substitute. Because it is, to some degree, cooked, this recipe stays fresh longer than other pascha recipes I’ve tried.

This is what it looks like when it’s in the refrigerator waiting to be opened and served:

Pascha cheese in the refrigerator under weights.
Pascha cheese in the refrigerator under weights.

And this is what the serving dish looks like after people have had some:

Pascha, after.
Pascha, after.

Farmer’s Cheese

This year, Orthodox Easter, or Pascha, will fall on May 1. One of the dishes we traditionally make is called syrnaja pascha, “pascha cheese.” It is a cheese-cake like food that we mold into a pyramid and eat slathered onto a sweet bread called kulich.

One of the ingredients for pascha cheese is farmer’s cheese. Apparently there are two kinds of farmer’s cheese. One is a hard product that you can chop up and put in salad. It’s closely akin to paneer and does not lend itself well to blending or molding. The other is the kind that they sell in Russian stores. We could not find it in the part of Houston where we lived for eleven years, so the ladies at church taught me how to make my own.

Farmer’s Cheese

Scald one gallon milk.

Remove from burner and add one quart buttermilk (from the nuns, I learned to pour things in the sign of the Cross. Since you’re not supposed to stir this, it makes even more sense here.)

Cover with a towel and place out of breezes for a day and a night and a day.

At the end of the second night, place it in the oven on “warm.”

In the morning you will see a mountain of curds in a sea of whey (unless it doesn’t work. Some years it doesn’t work, and California milk needs to be treated differently for reasons I do not understand).

Strain the curds into a very clean pillow case or tee shirt — cheese cloth has too wide a weave for this.

Refrigerate in a closed container until you are ready to use.

One gallon of milk plus one quart of buttermilk makes approximately two and a half pounds of Farmer’s Cheese.

Does it save money? Yes! Locally, in Fairfield County, Connecticut, Farmer’s cheese runs from $3.99 to $7.99 per pound. I can make ten pounds of cheese for about ten dollars.

Photo: Curds sans whey

Loneliness in Modern Life: What to Do?

Recent conversations have led me to think more than usual about loneliness in modern life. I often speak of clergy life as being all of us fighting the same battle, from different foxholes. But loneliness is a factor, a reality, and I think it’s worse for the laity. The closer one stands to the altar, the more one gets that “Christ is in our midst” is not a mindless greeting but the statement of a profound reality. When one lives far from church, both physically and metaphorically, it becomes harder to keep this in mind. What to do?

Read my full article on pravmir.com.

From a Vase of Sticks, the Fruit of Hope and Promise

This is the first of my articles that the Christian Science Monitor published. Our family had just moved from Houston to Stratford, Connecticut, which was a sort of homecoming for me (I grew up in Boston) but was like landing on a strange planet for my children. It’s an article about flowers, but it’s also about hope.

Photo credit: ThomasKohler via Foter.com / CC BY