Croatians love family, tradition, and celebration! Holidays are joyous times when all generations get together to make and enjoy traditional foods at home.
Uskrs (Easter) is a happy ending to the 40 days of Lent, filled with the hope of proljeće (spring). Food preparation begins the day before Easter, or sooner for decorating eggs, baking breads, and smoking or roasting meats. The feasting begins Easter morning. Traditionally, the first meal of Resurrection morning cannot be eaten until the food is packed up and taken to church to be blessed by the priest. Only food that is sure to be eaten should be blessed, so onions must be peeled and eggs shelled.
Different regions have different customs, but here are some traditional foods which will be on Easter tables this year in Croatia…
DIMLJENA ŠUNKA (SMOKED HAM): There are different types of smoked ham, from small rolled hams to full shoulders with skin, depending on the size of your gathering. Boil the day before with carrots, celery, and onions, or whatever you prefer for soup stock. Boil for about an hour, then return to the fridge so it’s ready for the table on Easter morning. Remove the vegetables and freeze the flavorful stock to add later to sauces. Serve with hren (horseradish).
PINCA BREAD WITH COLORED EGGS: A sweet bread with raisins, sometimes rum, or orange or lemon peel, and sprinkled on top with chunks of sugar. A cross is cut into the top before baking and a colored egg placed on top afterwards, or it is braided and baked with colored eggs woven into the strands of dough.
MLADA LUK (GREEN ONIONS/SCALLIONS or SPRING ONIONS): The smell of fresh green onions permeates the marketplace at Easter time. These were an Easter tradition in our American home from my Nona—why was I surprised to learn they’re also a tradition here in Croatia?
FRANCUSKA SALATA: A cold mix of cooked peas, carrots, potatoes, and sometimes pickles, all chopped into small cubes and mixed with mayonnaise.
Complement your feast with espresso and tea. And that’s just breakfast! Take a breath, have some sweets, and get ready for a late lunch…
Start with JUHA (SOUP). This can be a fresh clear soup or broth.
PEČENJE JANJETINA (ROASTED LAMB): Roast with potatoes, vegetables, and herbs. Don’t forget to top with fresh rosemary sprigs from your garden, or sprinkle on Ćurin herbs from the Dalmatian island of Hvar, to fill your home with a sunny Mediterranean aroma. Serve with hren (horseradish).
MAKOVNJAČA or ORAHNJAČA (POPPY SEED ROLL or WALNUT ROLL): These are the dessert breads that you might remember your Baka keeping on the table so you would never go hungry.
SALATA (GREEN SALAD): Fresh mixed greens and veggies. Don’t forget the mlada luk.
Serve with wines.
PISANICE (EASTER EGGS): In the countryside of Croatia, eggs were traditionally decorated with colors found in nature, like natural vegetables, berries, or roots. One traditional decoration is to press pretty leaves and herbs against the shell, wrap tightly in a thin cloth or piece of stocking, and then hard-boil the eggs in a pot filled with red onion skins covered with water; when done, remove the cloth and leaves to reveal pretty botanical prints.
As on Christmas, families stay home on Easter Day, and visit friends and neighbors on Easter Monday. When visiting, bring a colored egg as a gift for each person in the home.
You’ll be able to find detailed recipes online—search for the Croatian name to find more authentic recipes and photos. Sretan Uskrs, from our family to yours!