August 29, 2009

Hungarian Szalonna

Smoked meats in a Hungarian deli.

When I was little I would spend my summers with my Hungarian grandparents while my folks worked. I loved to go there. One of the things grampa would make is szalonna. He had a summer kitchen on the side of the house, under all the trees. They put an old kitchen set out there and grampa had a fire pit he built. It was a great place to spend a summer afternoon when it got too hot to be inside the house.

Grampa would make a fire in the pit and when it was ready he would take the szalonna and score it and put it on some sticks he got from a tree. Gramma would bring out a nice cold pitcher of homemade lemonade and all the veggies we would need for this. It made such a nice summer lunch.

I'm only second generation so today many people never heard of this. There's quite a large Hungarian population in NJ where I used to live so its ez to get this at the Hungarian delis there. Out here I cant find it so I have to order online. But I think once I get to Oregon I'm gonna learn how to smoke my own to have it on hand.

Whenever I would visit my folks, I would make them take me to the Hungarian deli by them an I would buy several chunks of this to take home. My kids grew up having this too as part of a picnic menu. Its actually very good even tho its made from fat. If you buy a nice whole grain rye and lots of thinly sliced fresh veggies, this really isn't a bad meal to have. It takes time to make each piece so you don't really eat a ton and you feel perfectly satisfied even tho you didn't have meat.

This recipe calls for cutting off some of the crispy parts to put on the bread too. You can do that or do what my gramma did with all the leftovers. By the time all the fat is rendered its just a nice bacony crispy thing. She would chop it up and add all the leftover veggies to it and fry it up in a pan the next day. She had no name for it, just called it mish mash lol and then served it with more bread. It was excellent. It might be peasant food but I think the peasants got the better deal from this. I understand the peasants got the fatty parts from the masters and that's how this dish was created over in old time Hungary.

Hungarian Szalonna
Hungarian backon is a back bacon made of smoked pork fat with the rind and is part of a Hungarian tradition. It is often smoked or cooked in some manner before purchase so that the buyer can eat it without further preparation. It is very different from popular American bacon, which is typically very soft and uncooked. Szalonna can be cooked gypsy-style. This involves cutting the szalonna into long chunks or cubes, spearing them, and roasting them over an open fire. The szalonna cooks to be somewhat crispy and is then eaten with other dishes or alone.

Rendering the fat over an open fire.Szalonna is also popular among Hungarians as part of a sandwich. The szalonna is skewered on a rod and roasted over an open fire pit. Once it starts to sizzle and drip with grease, the szalonna is removed from the fire and the grease is allowed to drip onto a slice of freshly baked bread. The szalonna is returned to the fire and the process is repeated until the piece of bread is nearly saturated with grease. Sliced cucumber, red onion, sliced radishes, paprika, other vegetables, ground pepper, and salt are used to add flavor to the slice of bread, and then more drippings are followed to top it off. This dish was something of a peasants' food since the most important aspect was the szalonna fat, discarded by wealthier Hungarians.Many cooks make it go faster.A Hungarian tradition - bacon skewered onto a rod and roasted over an open fire pit. Once the bacon rind starts to sizzle and drip with grease, you remove the bacon from the fire and allow the grease to drip onto a slice of freshly baked bread. Return the bacon to the fire, and wait for the dripping, then again bring the bacon over your slice of bread to sop up the grease. This is repeated until the piece of bread is nearly saturated with grease. + - Sliced cucumber, red onion, paprika, ground pepper, and salt are used to jazz up the slice of bread, and then more drippings are followed to top it off. It is then eaten up as a rare and wholly coronary cajoling delicacy. For more about Hungarian foods.

Szalonnasütés ("SA-LOW-NA SHOO-TAYSH") means "roasting bacon" in Hungarian. It is a popular social activity in summer to roast szalonna over an open fire. The melted fat is let to drip on bread, and it is eaten with raw onion.

We sliced our onions, peppers, cukes and tomatoes to make it easy to eat.Szalonna (Hungarian Dirty Bread)

1 Large piece of szalonna (as thick a piece as possible - usually available in a good Hungarian or Polish deli)

2 Loaves of sliced, fresh, baked rye bread. Russian rye is particularly good and has very lg. slices.

4 Cucumbers - peeled and sliced (English or Hot House cucumbers don't need to be peeled)

3 Red or green peppers - seeded and sliced into rings

3 lg. tomatoes, sliced thin (garden ones are the best!)

2 Large onions of choice - sliced thin

Salt, Pepper

In a safe location, build an open wood fire. Adding chunks of hickory wood to the fire will enhance the flavor. (You could use a gas grill and toss a few wood chips on if you like, we just use the grill as is)

Take a knife and carefully slice the szalonna into pieces about 4 x 6 inches. Now take one of the pieces and again with the knife, cut two small slits in the rind. One slit should be close to one end and the other should be close to the other end. (The rind is tough so the stick will stay in if stuck on that side)

Now take a wooden dowel about 3/8 of an inch in diameter and sharpen one end. Insert the sharpened end of the dowel into one slit in the rind. Tunnel underneath the rind and bring the end of the dowel out of the other slit.

Now take your knife and cut a criss cross pattern into the fat side of the szalonna. Don't cut all the way to the rind. Make your cuts only about a 1/4 inch deep. (This helps to make more surfaces for rendering the fat.)

Layer slices of bread onto an aluminum foil lined tray and place on a table near the fire.

Put all your fresh sliced vegetables on a separate tray.

Take your skewered szalonna and hold it over the fire while slowly turning it. Soon the fat will begin to run. Now drip the fat onto the bread. You will probably be able to thoroughly cover only a slice or two with drippings. Return the szalonna to the fire and repeat the process until all the pieces of bread on the tray are sufficiently covered with drippings.

Now begin layering your fresh vegetables onto each slice. Begin with cucumbers, then peppers, tomatoes and onions.

Drip more szalonna over the vegetables. At some point, the outside of the szalonna will become crisp. Slice the crisp pieces off and add them on top of the vegetables. Now season with a bit of salt & pepper.

***My dad takes this a step further now. He used to use his gas grill to make this instead of a wood fire. But now he doesn't even do that. What he does is render all the fat and just toast and brush the bread and veggies with it. I don't particularly like it that way..seems bit greasy to me but since they are older and cant stand there by the fire very long anymore, its a nice substitute.

****I swear I can smell this cooking right now, as I'm writing this blog. Its that strong of a food memory for me.

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Kelee Katillac said...

Because of my Croatian ancestry it was cabbage rolls!

What a manly looking ritual! Arrrghhhhh!

Thanks for your creative comments too!

love, kelee

WellnessPartners said...

Heeey! I know what you're talking about! I had szalonna too! These pictures bring back many nice memories!

Simply Lisa said...

This was a highlight of summer.
I'm also a 2nd generation Hungarian from NJ. My family was from Perth Amboy. My family originated from the foothills of Tokay Hungary.

Anonymous said...

Hi, very interesting post, greetings from Greece!

Anonymous said...

don't hold the szalona directly over the flame- hold it over the very hot coals then it won't burn toa crisp before all the fat is rendered. your szalona shouldn't be burned black just cooked like soft bacon. Then it wont taste like charcoal!