Dutch treats, traditions, and tulips celebrate spring in Hudson Valley
''Street scrubbing,'' an old custom brought from Holland, has also been long observed by the Hudson Valley Dutch of Albany, N.Y. On May 10 and into the weekend that follows, citizens of Albany, settled by the Dutch in the early 1600s, will celebrate the city's beginnings with traditional foods and activities at the 36th annual Tulip Festival.
The festival begins with scrubbing the main street. A group of Albany residents in Dutch costume, urged on by music from high school bands and by applause from bystanders, scrubs down State Street, a main thoroughfare that leads east from the State Capitol.
When the weather cooperates, the city is ablaze with tulips. A Tulip Queen will be crowned to preside at the Tulip Festival Charity Ball with her court. Dishes such as the historic ''hutspot'' and fruited doughnuts called ''oliebollen'' will be prepared and shared with friends and neighbors.
The Tulip Festival started after World War II when former Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands visited Albany and sent a shipment of Orange Wonder tulip bulbs as a gift. The Orange Wonder is named for the royal house of Orange-Nassau.
Although much of Albany's Dutch architecture has disappeared and names beginning with ''Van'' grow rarer, many families with roots in Holland still observe old customs at Tulip Time. A number of these traditions involve food prepared from recipes handed down through generations.
The Dutch in the New World had a solid grounding in traditional foods. ''Hutspot,'' generally translated to ''hodge-podge,'' demonstrates the Hollanders' liking for mashing together a selection of vegetables.
The dish is traditional in Leiden and came to the Hudson Valley with Dutch families. It is quite different from the stews we know, and the old recipes insist the vegetables be mashed with a wooden spoon. Hutspot (Dutch Stew) 2 pounds of middle-rib beef 3 pounds diced carrots 3 pounds medium potatoes, peeled and quartered 1 pound large onions, quartered 3 cups water 1 tablespoon salt 4 tablespoons cooking fat Pepper
Put water into a fairly large pan and bring to a boil. Add meat and salt and simmer for two hours. Add diced carrots and cook for 30 minutes.
Add potatoes, onions, and cooking fat; cook until well done. Add more water if necessary, but the dish should not be too moist. Remove meat and keep warm.
Mash vegetables in pan. Turn out on a hot dish and arrange meat slices on top. Sprinkle with pepper and serve.
Apples were in high favor with the Dutch in Albany and in the rest of the Hudson Valley. They roasted apples on the hearth on winter nights and enjoyed apples baked with seeded raisins, sugar, and shreds of citron and lemon peel in the core cavity.
Apple fritters were considered a delicacy. Appelbeignets (Apple fritters) 1 cup self-rising flour Pinch of salt 1 cup milk 6 cooking apples Oil Confectioners' sugar
Sift the flour and salt, and mix into a smooth batter with the milk. Peel and core apples, and slice each into four rings. Dip the rings into the batter and fry, a few at a time, in hot oil until they are golden brown.
Drain the fritters on paper towels, dust liberally with confectioners' sugar, and serve immediately.
No story on Dutch food in the Albany area would be complete without oliebollen, or fruit doughnuts, that began as a traditional New Year's treat. Oliebollen are still served on proper occasions throughout the year. Each family of Dutch descent usually has its own recipe, differing just a bit from that of its neighbors.
The following recipe, updated from the original and using pancake flour for a sweeter dough, comes from descendants of Arend Van Curler (van Corlear), founder of Schenectady, Albany's neighboring city. Oliebollen (Dutch doughnuts) 1 box seedless raisins 2 packages active dry yeast 1 cup tepid milk 2 1/4 cups pancake flour 1 teaspoon salt 1 egg, beaten 3 apples, chopped or grated Oil for frying
Wash raisins, drain, and dry; set aside. Sprinkle yeast over lukewarm milk. Then stir mixture to dissolve yeast.
Sift flour into a deep mixing bowl. Add salt, egg, raisins, and grated apples , citron if used, and mix well. Make a well in center and pour in yeast and milk mixture. Gradually combine until well blended.
Dough should hold its shape. Leave in warm place, covered, to double in size.
Heat cooking oil to 375 degrees F. Drop dough by scant tablespoonsful into hot oil. Fry until golden brown. Drain on paper toweling.
Shake in a bag of confectioners' sugar. Reshake to add more sugar, before serving, if desired. Better when eaten warm.