”Hungaricum” includes mostly the homemade fruit jams and preserves such as Apricot and honey. What is very popular is the Kolbasz ranging from Gyulai Kolbász, Csabai Kolbász, Csemege Kolbász, Házi Kolbász, Cserkész Kolbász, lightly smoked, like Debreceni Kolbász (or Debrecener) and Lecsókolbász. Depending on the type of stew, or dish that I will be cooking, I will usually buy the different types of smoked kolbász.
Next to mention is Májkrém which is Goose Liver. It is a kind of meat paste mostly from liver (also known as Pâté in French). Hungarians like májkrém as a sandwich spread and some people like it as a breakfast or a light dinner in the colder seasons like winter. Children usually have light versions of their sandwiches as a snack.
The other very popular item in the Hungarian kitchen is Paprika or Chili powder. Actually, this is a must have in every Hungarian family. It has several health benefits like vitamins C. I’ve made a mini guide to help people buy the correct type of Paprika as there are several different types. Some sweet while some are more intense with the heat.
While having a meal, pálinka is usually suggested. Pálinka which is a double distilled beverage made from a variety of fruits such as apricot, plum, pear, cherry, grape and apple, even elderflower, quince and all other sorts of berries.
- Kisüsti (meaning ‘a small pot’) is a double-distilled pálinka made in a copper pot.
- Érlelt (meaning ‘aged’) is a pálinka aged for at least three months in a wooden cask.
- Ó (meaning ‘old’) is aged for at least 12 or 24 months depending on the size of the cask.
- Ágyas (meaning ‘bedside’) is aged for at least three months together with fruit.
- Törköly (pomace pálinka) is made from grape pomace. This is one of the oldest types of pálinka and it supposedly helps digestion.
Pálinka is best to be served (and consume) at room temperature in a tulip-shaped shot glass. This temperature maintains the flavours of the fruits. Hungarians drink Pálinka anytime of the day. There is no tradition but due to the heaviness of the Hungarian cuisine usually, it is a habit to have one shot prior and then one other to end off the meal. You can drink it in one shot (at once) or slowly. However, I remember at a wedding party of my colleague, I was sort of ‘force’ to drink it quickly by their Hungarian friends who are from the countryside. There is a burning sensation downing it via throat but this is pretty normal. Unicum, on the other hand, is a herbal digestif liqueur.
Téli Salami has a special light ‘tang’ and it is actually a cured sausage, fermented and air-dried meat. This meat is originating from one of a variety of animals. To go with salami are usually the savoury pickles such as appetizers Gherkins. Gherkins is a fruit similar in form and nutritional value to a cucumber. Of course, everything from onions, sweet and chilli peppers, tomatoes, cauliflowers, jammed in spicy, pickled juice can be eaten together.
Around the Christmas time, Szaloncukor which is a kind of candy that is hung on the Christmas trees can also be widely seen at these speciality stores. I want to mention also another famous product called ‘Szamos Marzipan’. Marzipan is a confection consisting primarily of sugar and almond meal which derives its characteristic flavour from bitter almonds. Szamos is a brand and there is even a museum cafe in Szentendre where workshops and exhibitions of the marzipan creations are held.
Last but not least, Tokaji. This is a Hungarian wine from Tokaj (this wine has different types and taste, but mostly it is sweeter than others). Tokaji is the wine named after the area. A wine that I like pretty much is the Villány wine. Villány is a town in Baranya county in Hungary that is famous for its wine.
In weeks to come, I would like to tell you more about Goulash, Palacsinta, Strudel, Dobos Torte, Plum dumplings, Lekvar, Kurtoskalacs, Punjena paprika, Poppy seed roll, Rigo Jancsi, Kifli, Sour Cherry Soup, Szaloncukor, Gugelhupf, Liptauer (cottage cheese spread), Fatanyeros, Linzer torte, Kaiserschmarrn or Kaiserschmarren (Emperor’s Mess) and Deviled egg.