This Slovak Easter Cheese Recipe (Cirak) is a traditional Eastern European egg cheese ball served on Easter Sunday for breakfast or the main meal. My family has been making cirek, or hrudka every Easter for years!
Slovak Easter cheese is a very simple recipe. The basic recipe for egg cheese is just a blend of eggs and milk, although you can make it sweet or savory by adding different ingredients.
Easter cheese goes by various names. My Polish Slovak family calls this egg cheese cirak, pronounced siddik. Our Ukrainian family calls this Ukrainian egg cheese hrudka, pronounced hrootka. The younger kids usally call it brains!
Depending on where your family comes from, you might call this Eastern European Easter cheese sirecz, cirek or cirok.
My mom and grandma would make this traditional Slovak Easter recipe on Holy Saturday and add it to the Easter basket, along with Paska bread, kolbassa (kielbasa), Easter ham, beet horseradish, butter lamb, decorated eggs (Pysanky) and other traditional Ukrainian Easter food.
After being blessed at church, the food was saved to enjoy for Easter breakfast or dinner.
These days, we like to serve cirak along with Nut roll, and more American favorites like Easter eggs, lemon blueberry bagel breakfast casserole, Strawberry Jello Salad, carrot cake donuts or cinnamon rolls or lamb cake ( Easter cake )!
You only need a few basic ingredients for this egg cheese recipe. You can find them in your grocery store if you don't have them at home:
- Milk -- either whole milk or 2 percent milk works best
- Vanilla -- enhances the flavor
- Salt and pepper -- just a pinch for flavor
You will also need a Dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot or double boiler. This prevents the mixture from scorching during the cooking process.
You will need a colander to drain the cheese and cheesecloth to form it into a ball.
How to Make Slovak Easter Cheese
First, whisk the eggs together in a large bowl. You can use a wire whisk or electric mixer for this part.
Make sure the eggs are well blended. This keeps the color nice and uniform.
Next, pour milk into the pot and heat the milk on the stove until just hot over low to medium heat. Then, pour the eggs into the milk, and stir in the vanilla, salt and pepper.
Reduce the heat to low. You will have to gently stir the mixture continuously.
Your arm will get a good workout! If possible, enlist the help of your kids, friends or other family members.
Keep stirring the egg mixture until it begins to thicken and curds start to form. Be sure to stir around the sides and the bottom of the pan.
This process usually takes about 25 minutes to 30 minutes cooking time.
Finally, the mixture will resemble cottage cheese as the curds separate from the whey.
Turn the heat off, and place a mixing bowl into your sink. Place a colander in the mixing bowl, and cover the colander with cheesecloth.
Carefully, spoon or pour the curds and whey on top of the cheese cloth. It will be hot, so wear oven mitts to protect your hands!
Now, bring the ends of the cheesecloth up and twist to form a tight ball. Squeeze as much excess liquid out as you can. Then, use clean twist ties, kitchen twine or clean elastic band to tie the cheesecloth.
You can hang the ball from the faucet over the sink. Or, you can attach the cheesecloth to a wooden spoon and hang it over a deep pot or bowl.
My family always hung the cheese ball from a kitchen cabinet, so that's what I do.
You only need to drain the cheese until it stops dripping, which is usually about 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Some people drain it overnight, but I like to get the cheese ball into the fridge as soon as possible.
You can discard the whey. Or, use the leftover whey to make paska or nut rolls like my baba did.
How to Store
Wrap the egg cheese tightly in plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator. After it's been cut, keep the cheese covered with plastic wrap.
Easter cheese keeps for 3 to 4 days refrigerated.
There are a few good ways to vary this Slovak egg cheese.
Vanilla extract isn't always added to this traditional recipe, but I think it rounds out the flavors of the cirak and keeps it from tasting just like plain eggs. But, you can leave out the vanilla if you want.
Instead of ground pepper, use 1 or 2 freshly cracked black peppercorns.
If you want a sweeter Easter cheese, add some sugar. Add between 1 tablespoon to a quarter cup of sugar, depending on exactly how sweet you want the cheese to be.
Top the cirak off with some fresh cloves ( for decoration ) or lemon zest.
Slovak Easter Cheese (cirak)
- 12 large eggs
- 1 quart milk whole or 2 percent
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- Crack eggs into a large mixing bowl, and beat with wire whisk until well blended
- Pour milk into Dutch oven, and heat over medium heat until just hot
- Reduce heat to low, and add eggs. Stir in vanilla, salt and pepper
- Cook over low heat, stirring continuously until curds start to form and separate from the whey, about 20 to 30 minutes. Mixture will resemble cottage cheese with watery liquid
- Turn heat off. Spoon or pour curds and whey into a colander lined with cheesecloth (place a mixing bowl in the sink, place colander in mixing bowl and cheesecloth over colander)
- Bring ends of cheesecloth up, and squeeze as much liquid as you can out of cheeseball. Tie cheesecloth tightly with twist tie or elastic band.
- Hang cheese over bowl. Allow cheese to drain until it stops dripping, about 30 minutes to 1 hour
- Wrap tightly with plastic wrap or clean cloth to preserve the shape, and store in refrigerator overnight until ready to eat
Nutrition information is estimated. Please do your own calculation to fit special diets.
One good thing about Easter time in my house is that I get to share my Eastern European heritage with my kids, and this tasty cirak is a fun part of our Slovak Easter menu!
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If you grew up with cirak or hrudka and like this as much as my family does, please leave a comment or star rating!