Bernice Zurawski’s Bread

Screen Shot 2015-01-10 at 1.27.54 PM Here is my Polish grandmother’s signature bread, and no one in the family, no one, had the recipe. She was an elegant lady who also was a fabulous cook, including dishes such as tender venison steak and walnut-stuffed turkey.  But she made this always round, hard crust bread almost daily, sometimes adding raisins and topping with sugar. This bread was treasured, especially at my mother’s swanky Christmas parties. And, one summer, a grandson entered her bread at the Wisconsin State Fair, where it promptly won a blue ribbon.

My grandmother never used a recipe for her bread, of course, and would gently laugh while raising her shoulders when we asked how to make it. But we could watch.

This “close-as-we-can-get” recipe comes through my uncle and aunt. He was the second youngest of her nine children, and saw her make bread countless times. I’m so grateful, for as I follow it, grandma comes to life, there in her small kitchen, brewing strong black coffee as she scalds the milk with butter and sugar, then softens yeast for her bread.  Then she stops, turns, and in her wonderful Polish accent, asks me to “wait a minute,” as she pulls ginger cookies down from the pantry for me before turning back to her bread.

Bernice Zurawski’s Bread
Ingredients
½ lb. butter, and more to generously grease the bread rising bowl and bread pan
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Oxtail Stew, an heirloom recipe

This is a classy, rich, amazing dish. It’s an heirloom, for it was handed down to me from my Polish mom from her mom. But it is one of those, “they never used a recipe,” recipe. That means it was assumed you had seen how it was made before, tasted it, knew what you were doing and, certainly, made it slightly differently each time. (And you serve it on top of mashed   potatoes or wide egg noodles.)

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This “unwritten” recipe for Oxtail Stew is really just the “bones” of the dish, the basic instruction. The cook uses it as a start, then simply tastes and adjusts as he goes along. So feel free to take this instruction, and note of some of my italic adjustments I made today when preparing this stew; then make your own. ~But know, the next time you, or I, make it, it will be different!

Anyway, I introduced this Stew to my hubby when we were dating, and swear, that introduction led to the 20 years of marital bliss we celebrate today!

Oxtail Stew
2 lbs. oxtails, cut in 1½” lengths
flour for dredging1 med. onion, sliced
1 can condensed beef broth
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Beer Chili

This was a simple recipe we hijacked in college and turned into “Beer Chili,” using long-neck bottles of Red, White and Blue Beer.  Hey! Don’t laugh, we went to school in Milwaukee and there was a sale on long-necks! No doubt, there was a lot more beer poured into this chili then, than what the recipe prescribed.

Beer ChilI
1 lb. lean hamburger
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
1 can dark red kidney beans
1½ tbsp. chili powder, add more to taste
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Karl Ratzsch’s Sauerbraten

One of the most celebrated Sauerbraten in Milwaukee, the recipe was published in 1983 in the Milwaukee Sentinel.

Karl Ratzsch’s Sauerbraten
4 lbs. beef (rump, chuck or sirloin)
1 tbsp. salt
1 c. red wine vinegar
1 c. white wine vinegar
2 c. cold water
1 onion, sliced
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