Happy P?czki Day!

They may call it Mardi Gras down in The Big Easy, but back home in Chicago it’s P?czki (POH-nch-kee) Day. It’s the day that Chicagoans of every ethnic background dive head-first into a dozen box of, you guessed it, p?czki, the Polish version of jelly doughnuts. Chicago has more Poles than any other city in the world, (including all the cities in Poland, with the sole exception of Warsaw). So it’s hardly surprising that p?czki are everywhere the day before Lent. And being that it’s Chicago, they’re an easy sell.

The traditional filling for p?czki is something I’ve actually never tasted: a type of jam made out of rose buds. But, seeing as how the rose bud is a poor complement to a big mug of beer, we don’t go in for that sort of thing much anymore. These days it’s mostly custard, lemon filling or strawberry jam. Prunes, sometimes, but only if you head to one of the really old-school spots on the Sout-west side.

What’s the big deal with doughnuts and Fat Tuesday you say? The point, like a lot of pre-Lent Catholic pig-outs, has to do with using up all the expensive and/or indulgent foods in the house prior to the 40-plus-day fasting period. In this case that means jam, sugar and fat, most of which would have been rather hard to come by in the old country in the not-too-distant past. So…scarf’em while you got’em folks! We’ve got more than six weeks to go before we get to the chocolate bunnies and marshmallow peeps.

29 thoughts on “Happy P?czki Day!”

  1. And here in Sweden Fat Tuesday means semla day! yay!… Also, the rose hip stuff is oddly tasty. (I remember talking to you about swedish stuff, so maybe you have heard of nippon soppa/sylt) basically rose hip soup/jam. I was wary of trying it, but did when offered and loved it.

    1. I do remember that. One of these days I’ll get to try it I hope.

      Thanks, Kitty!

      – Joe

      1. I can look at the store and see if there is a (worthy) powder mix for the soup or perhaps a jar of the jam to send?, though the latter would definitely cost more to ship.

        1. Thanks, Kitty. That’s a generous offer! If you can find it somewhere online just point me to it!

          – Joe

          1. Hi Joe,

            One can find a jar of rose hip jam (which is amazing, in my opinion – I grew up with it and I absolutely love it!) at any east-european food store: romanian, bulgarian, polish, you name it. Its consistency is more like a soft and a little runny paste – or at least it should be, if the thing is natural, without any gelatine (or whatever they use these days) added. I love the fact that it’s not overly sweet and it does wonders on buttered toast with a cup of herbal tea.
            Rose petal (or bud) jam is something totally different – and you can find that one too, pretty much in the same stores. In my country of origin we have two different names for the two different types of jam (the paste and the clear jelly with pieces of fruits/ plants). The rose hip jam falls into the first category, the rose petal “jam” into the second. The rose hip jam is a little sour and I personally find it light in taste, the rose petal jam is extremely sweet, with an amazing flavour (and quite powerful); and those petals, you can feel them on your tongue, it’s pretty funny (good-funny, not bad-funny 🙂 ).
            So check around you for those stores, they should have the two. Coming to think of it, you could find them even in turkish stores (at least the rose petal one). And let us know if you liked them! 🙂

          2. So I wasn’t totally misguided after all! Thanks, Ioana, and I shall look for the both the next time I’m in Chicago. I know exactly where to go!

            – Joe

  2. Hello Joe

    Going through my recipe clippings I found a recipe for Sufganiyot that I wanted to try someday and it seems to be very similar. I believe they are made at Passover. Do you know if they are the same?

    1. Hey Linda!

      Yes they’re pretty much the same thing…though sometimes they’re filled through the top as I recall!

      – Joe

    2. Sufganiyot are a Chanukah tradition and very popular in Israel.
      Passover is all about unleavened matzah (no yeast or baking powder).
      Coming up in two weeks is Purim when we celebrate with triangular jam-filled cookies called Hamantaschen.

      1. Hi Laurie!

        Oh, I do love Hamantschen. I got my start at a bakery in the north suburbs of Chicago and we made all sorts of Jewish breads and cookies. I especially miss making rugelach. I’ll have to do those soon.

        Thanks for the comment, Laurie!

        – Joe

  3. Wait — is the traditional filling made out of rose buds (as you said) or rose hips (as commenter kitty mentioned)? The first is floral tasting and would be a bit odd, but the latter is more citrusy and would probably taste fine in a jelly doughnut.

    I always eat the P?czki from the Ideal Bakery on Chicago’s NW side and they have delicious ones with apricot or plum (not prune) filling as well.

    1. Hey Alexia!

      My guess is they’d be rose hips (fruits created by pollination of the flowers) but what I wrote is what I was told, so I’m hostly not sure!

      – Joe

      1. I still have family in Poland and I’ve tried the traditional paczki before. The filling is a rose hip preserve or marmalade that’s actually pretty sweet with a nice, light flowery flavor to it. If you ever get a chance to try them, take advantage – they’re delicious!

        1. I’d love that one of these days, Sophia. Thanks for the comment and the clarification!

          – Joe

  4. We call it Paczki Day in Detroit as well (I grew up there and moved to Taylor County, KY). Yours came out prettier than mine this year. Oh well, they still taste good! I made a vanilla custard and whipped it into some stabilized whipped cream (the kind with gelatin added) then topped with powdered sugar. Yummy!

    1. And you didn’t call me…

      Campbellsville isn’t 2 hours away from here you know. Sheesh!

      – Joe

      1. The recipe I found uses the bread machine to do the bulk of the work. I can share it if you want. The custard whipped cream I didn’t bother with a recipe for as I make it by taste & feel without measuring much.

  5. And for those of us from an English background, it’s Shrove Tuesday, which means pancakes (crepes, on the west side of the Atlantic), with sugar and slices of lemon.

    I made a tiny amount of rose hip jelly last fall, which is really good stuff – this year I plan on scouting around for better places to forage rose hips so I can get more than two jars’ worth. I’ve heard of but never made or tasted rose petal jam…that might have to be another project.

    1. I’m not speaking from a point of real expertise here, Jane, so don’t launch off on a crusade too early. I’d love to try making rose hip jam. I’ve never found even two jars worth!

      Thanks for the comment!

      – Joe

  6. Sufganiyot are traditionally served on Chanuka. Like latkes (potato pancakes) they are fried in oil, and Chanuka is all about the oil! (check out Wikipedia for the reason). At Chanuka time in NY, you can get them filed with anything-even caramel. Incidentally, my parents are Jews from Poland and we called them Pohnchkees!

    1. Hey Rachel!

      That’s how they’re pronounced in Chicago as well: ponch-kee. I’d love to try those caramel filled ones. Sounds great!

      Thanks for the comment!

      – Joe

  7. Lines were out the door at 7.30 am at all the bakeries here here in South Bend (where there have always been more Poles than fighting Irish). Strawberry’s the most popular flavor by far (though prune is close), though this morning I picked up some new ones–an inch of chocolate cream topped with a scoop of German chocolate coconut filling for good measure. The sugar buzz is just now wearing off.

    1. Holy cow. Is it too late to drive there?

      Thanks for the putting South Bend on my target list for next year, Zillah!


      – Joe

  8. I have seen something similar but never heard of these before. I must remember to ask my Polish Uncle about this. He’s very patriotic so will probably give me the recipe, if anyone is interested on knowing how to make them?

    1. Hey Debbi!

      I’d love a true Polish recipe! Say the word “ponchkee” to you uncle and my guess is he’ll know exactly what you mean.


      – Joe

  9. Hi Joe,

    Here in Guyana (former British Colony), it’s Shrove Tuesday and there are always pancakes on sale. Ours is round, no filling but sold with syrup. :). I’ve never made them myself though. hmmm.

  10. Rose hip jam is gorgeous! They make it in Turkey too, and in France (confiture d’eglantine). Rose petal jam is more of an acquired taste – very flowery, like rose water or turkish delight. I would love to taste a doughnut filled with rose hip jam, but maybe I’ll have to make my own!

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