…when bread meets gherkins in a jar
Every cuisine changes according to the seasons; some vary more, others a bit less, but for sure they all adjust to a certain extent to the weather outside. That’s the case in Hungary as well; cuisine and eating habits change in accordance with the seasons. There are some dishes that we make only at a certain time of the year, either because they better fit in that period – gulyás soup in winter, fruit soup in summer –, or because their preparation requires conditions related to a particular season. Kovászos uborka is an example for the latter one; something that can be made exclusively in summer, let’s discover why!
If you happen to visit Hungary in summer, you’ll find for sure two things: really high temperature and market stalls offering a colourful and rich variety of fruits and vegetables. The high-temperature-thing might not be pleasant all the time – for sure not on a bus, feeling like a can of sardines –, but the markets are for sure really magical at this time of the year. You find a wide variety of fresh Hungarian produce, such as gherkins, which really invade the stalls from June on! And it’s a good news for us Hungarians, and why? Well, because we can make kovászos uborka finally! Which is a type of pickled gherkin, but not like the one you know… so what makes it different?
These gherkins have a length of about 10 cm and their colour is rather a dark green than a pale yellowish-green one. Once you have this precious and fresh vegetable, cut off the edges and slit them lengthwise – so they can better take the flavour afterwards. Then put them upright into a bigger jar – quite tightly –, sprinkle them with salt, add some fresh dill, cloves of garlic and pieces of horseradish in between them, and fill up the jar with water. And now comes the essential part, you place on the top the gherkins a slice of bread wrapped in a net; make sure that it also stays in the water. Now you can cover the jar with some textile – not a lid, because air has to pass through –, place it at a warm spot (not at direct sunlight though), and wait 4-5 days till it’s ready. Then, remove the bread from the top and keep the jar in a cool place, the gherkins last for up to about 2 weeks – I mean if you don’t eat them before, of course.
I guess a few questions arose in your mind by now, which need to get cleared… Why we put bread in the jar? The yeast in it generates a fermentation which preserves the gherkins, just as in case of kimchi or sauerkraut. How and when kovászos uborka is eaten? It can be the accompaniment – as a regular pickle – of a hot dish or consumed on its own or in a sandwich as well. And why you should make this pickle? It’s delicious, healthy and very simple. And there are just two tricks to know when preparing it: the gherkins have to be really fresh (one bitter one could ruin the whole jar), and to check this, you should lick the edges of the gherkins; might sound awkward, but it’s really the best and most reliable way to do. And the second trick is, in order to have nice and crunchy gherkins, you should pour on them hot water, not cold or tepid.
So, wherever you are this summer, go to the market, buy a batch of gherkins, some fresh dill and horseradish, look for a slice of bread and garlic at home, and let them ferment and enjoy the result! 🙂