As Holy Saturday approaches many Polish Americans are looking for a butter lamb to include in their święconka, the basket of food taken to church to be blessed on Holy Saturday. You can find them ready-made in grocery stores in communities that have a large Polish American population. You can buy a wooden mold on-line in the shape of a lamb and press one out yourself. But you can make also make one yourself with a simple quarter pound of butter.
Making a butter lamb is a great way to involve kids in the ancient tradition of preparing the święconka basket. My niece still recalls how much fun it was to handcraft her own butter lamb to take to church to be blessed.
1. Allow a quarter of butter to soften almost to room temperature but still having a hardness to it.
2. Place on small dessert size plate that will fit in the basket you will be using to bless the food. Using a small paring knife with a sharp tip, cut off a quarter piece and place on top of the remaining piece as shown in step 1 of the illustration. This will form the rough shape for the lamb.
3. With the sharp tip of the knife begin shaping the neck of the lamb by scooping out where the two pieces meet. Place the scoopings against the bottom piece of butter along the front, sides and the back end or the top. This will begin filling out the body while giving shape to the neck.
4. Round out the edges of the head using the knife and continue to place the scrapings on top of the smaller piece to give a round shape to the head.
5. To make the ears, load the tip of your paring knife with a little bit of the butter taken from somewhere on the would-be lamb and shape it along the tip of the knife being careful not to cut yourself (or the kids!). Then place the knife, with the tip pointing downward against the side of the head and draw the knife upwards.
6. Use whole cloves or peppercorns for eyes.
7. By this time the butter will be sufficiently soft. Using a toothpick, make a circular forward motion in the butter along the sides and back of the lamb as well as the back and sides of the head. This will give the lamb a fleecy look.
8. Using the tip of the toothpick, imbed a very small piece of parsley where the mouth would be. This gives the appearance that the lamb is partaking of some spring greenery.
9. Place a thin piece of red ribbon around the neck and cross over at the base of the throat. It will stay in place by virtue of sticking to the butter.
10. Make the red banner out of construction paper or ribbon that is one and a half inches wide. Make a white cross on the banner with white paper or thin white ribbon. The cross can also be bought at craft stores. Glue the banner to a white cocktail straw, a bamboo stick, or whatever is on hand that would be suitable.
11. Tuck some greenery around the lamb(curly parsley, alfalfa sprouts, carrot tops, boxwood, etc to give the impression of a lamb on a newly greened meadow. Tuck in some real or artificial violets, small eggs, etc. Let the kids decide!
12. Stick toothpicks in various places of the butter lamb and cover with some type of clear wrap and place in refrigerator to harden again until it's time to place in the basket to take to church.
(From: The Polish Country Kitchen Cookbook by Sophie Hodorowicz Knab)
One of the biggest moments in my life was being able to sign for my very own library card. When I'm not reading, researching and writing I'm riding my bike, sewing or gardening. I love flea markets, folk art, and traveling to Poland.