How was Easter? I hope you enjoyed your time with your family!
I would like to tell you about Easter or Holy Week in Costa Rica. We have a strong Spanish influence (due to colonial times) on our Easter celebrations. There are processions that re-enact events and sometimes they carry around plaster images to remind us of things. But my family doesn’t keep that tradition; we don’t like large crowds (though I believe we can blame a pair of charol shoes, a terrible heat, and hurting feet of a little girl many years ago).
We do attend though Mass on Thursday, which reminds of the Last Supper and the institution of Eucharist. On Friday we follow the Via Crucis from Rome (via TV) and pray at 3pm. On Saturday we participate at the Paschal Vigil (Easter Vigil). This one is our favourite (though it’s quite long) and Mass on Sunday.
We like the Vigil as it initiates with the church having the lights off and they light up the main candle from the altar, in an act that symbolizes how light dissipates darkness. And from that candle, the light is passed on to all of us; a visual representation that there are times when we are in the shadows and when we have contact with someone who is illuminated by the Holy Spirit, we are enlightened as well and then we share it with others.
A long time ago, people were not supposed/allowed to do things like washing, cleaning the house, even taking a bath or go to river/beach (which meant entertainment) during this week. It was supposed to be a time for being still and meditate. And for that, they spread a lot of myths, like if you bathed in the sea, you would turn into a mermaid. But times have changed, a lot of people flee to the beach (as it is always during our “Summer” a.k.a. dry season) or fly off to another country.
Back in the day, people made food in advance so women wouldn’t even cook during this week. Therefore, they prepared things that would last for the week. To date, people in small towns keep preparing traditional meals.
Of those, what I do know how to prepare are the “Empanadas de Chiverre” which I believe people call them hand pies in English. The filling is made of Chiverre, which is like a giant squash and requires an extremely long preparation (baked for hours, then cut, mixed with sugarcane sweet and made into a marmalade). I just skip all of that and buy the marmalade, then make the dough, fill, close and bake them.
We make them small (so there are more! 😀 ) and they never last long enough to count them. I think next time I’ll take note while they are in the oven! [Update: when my family realized I posted the recipe, they asked if I could make some! I counted 85 this time; I used a 7cm-diameter cutter with a 1/16” (2mm) thick dough.]
If you ever come to Costa Rica, buy the marmalade (or order online) and make these! Then let me know!! 🙂
Salty Flaky Dough
4 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
½ cup lukewarm water
In a bowl sift the flour add the salt and mix. Cut the butter in cubes and use a pastry blender or a fork. Once all is blended and has a sand consistency, gradually pour the water, to bind all the ingredients. Work the dough and shape into a ball. Separate, flatten out and make 2 disks; wrap with plastic. Place on the fridge and let cool for at least 1 hour.
When it is ready, transfer to a lightly floured surface, use a rolling pin and extend to desired width and cut into desired shape.
Source: Olga de Trejos. (1989). La cocina práctica. Segunda edición. San José: Editorial Costa Rica.
Empanadas de Chiverre
Salty Flaky Dough
For the empanadas, roll out the dough to 1/6″ (4mm), or 1/16” (2mm) thick. Use a round cutter; we use a 2-5/8 inch (7cm) diameter, but that is rather small; a good size would be 3¼-inch (8cm). Place the filling in the center, fold in half and close with a fork (press around the edge). Bake at 300ºF for 10 to 15 minutes or until lightly golden. Transfer to a cooling rack. Enjoy!
[Updates: Photographs and yield count].