Like most genealogy fanatics, my sister and I have been engrossed in the 1940 Federal Census release this week. My husband is getting used to seeing me in front of the computer browsing through images, looking for family. Sometimes results come easy, and sometimes . . . . well, some I think I’ll have to wait until indexes come along later this year! One find that came easily was Bapcia and Dziadek, my Polish grandparents. Here in this photo from 1937 is Zofia Szczerba Mirota, posing in one of the fields on their farm in Readington Township, Hunterdon County, NJ, with two young calves in the springtime.
Readington Township was an easy area to look through in the Census, because there are only two enumeration districts for 1940; ED 10-34 and 10-35. I found the Mirota family on ED 10-35, image 32 of 34, under Miroda: Joseph Miroda, Head, Age 67, born in Poland, Farmer (I’ll have to look for Farm Schedule #148); Sophia Miroda, Wife, Age 56, born in Poland; Joseph Miroda, Jr., Son, age 23, born in NJ, Farmer. All three listed their 1935 residence as the same house. It was wonderful to take a trip back in time and look through all the old neighbors’ names.
Today I’ll take a break from searching through the census records and do some baking for Easter. On the top of my list is making babka, which is a Polish sweet-bread that was always made for Easter in our family. I still have Bapcia’s old wooden spoon and the pottery bowl she used for making bread, and it always warms my heart to use the things she touched and cherished. The babka goes in the basket of food to be blessed by the parish priest on Holy Saturday. Along with the babka, I place butter shaped into a lamb, horseradish, dyed eggs, kielbasa, ham, salt, and a candle. A linen cover is placed over the top of the basket and then it is brought to the church for the blessing, and then afterwards set aside for Easter Sunday. My church has the blessing at 10 a.m. tomorrow, so the babka needs to be made today. Święconka is the name of the blessing and also the name for the basket. The Polish American Center has a nice simple picture of the traditional Polish Easter basket, with the contents and what they symbolize.
Babka – Polish Sweetbread
4 cups flour, 1 package dry yeast, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 cup of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 3 eggs, 1 cup yellow raisins, 1 Tablespoon grated lemon rind, 1/2 cup butter (melted), 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1 and 1/4 cups milk (very hot). For the topping: 1 egg yolk, 1 Tablespoon milk, and sliced almonds. First, combine 2 cups flour and the yeast, plus the salt, sugar, and cinnamon; stir well. Next, melt the butter and heat the milk to just below boiling, then add to the dry ingredients. Beat at low speed, by hand or with mixer, until mixed well. Then, add the three eggs, vanilla extract, and 1 cup of flour. Beat for two minutes at medium speed. Stir in the last cup of flour and mix well. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled – about one hour. After that, stir in the raisins and lemon rind. Mix well and then put in a well-greased 3-quart pan. Let rise for one more hour. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush on top the egg yolk mixed with milk, and sprinkle sliced almonds on top. Bake for 40 – 45 minutes. Cool on rack.
Here’s a picture of a babka that my eldest daughter made. This one came out perfect!
Święconka Easter baskets, waiting to be blessed on Holy Saturday.