Friday, July 6, 2012

Hungarian Kovaszos Uborka (Sour Pickles)


** This post has been updated (7/21/13) since it was originally published. Anything below in bold has been changed from the original post. There were several things I did different the second time around based on things my dad clarified and also from readers who commented or sent me messages.

Growing up, my Hungarian grandmother and grandfather maintained what seemed like a massive garden to me. Looking back it was probably not as big as it seemed, but she always had the essentials — from hot and sweet peppers to raspberries, figs, string beans, kohlrabi, tomatoes, currants, and pickling cucumbers just to name a few. 

Here I am, pictured in that garden back in 1967...

I remember it being the dead of summer and you could walk on her back porch and she had a big jar of kovasaszos uborka pickles in a large jar with a small saucer on top. My father has made these from time to time but I have decided to perfect the recipe and make this a right of passage to summer.


Ingredients:
  • 4 pounds pickling cucumbers Ends sliced off of each cucumber and slits cut in 3 sides of the cucumber about an inch long
  • Fresh dill
  • 6 whole peeled garlic cloves
  • 15 black peppercorns
  • 2 quarts water
  • 4T salt
  • 2 slices of a hearty bread (I used Rye Bread)
  • 1 jar large enough to hold these ingredients (I used a decorative Ball mason jar)

Let's Make Some Pickles:
Wash the mason jar and cucumbers. Bring the water to a boil, stirring until salt dissolves and remove from heat. Place fresh dill, 3 cloves of garlic, and half the peppercorns in the bottom of the jar and add cucumbers standing up on a bottom row. Layer some more fresh dill on top of that and add another layer of cucumbers. If the salt water has cooled to just above room temperature pour into the jar over the pickles.  Add additional dill, garlic, and peppercorns once pickles are at the top.


Pack the 2 pieces of of bread in the top of the jar so it is immersed in the liquid. The bread ferments the pickles turning them sour and the brine becomes pungent with dill. Top with more fresh dill. Cover with cheese cloth or a piece of coffee sack like I have used here (thanks Blanchard's).


You then want to place the container outside in the heat away of direct sunlight. You will see the transition in the water over about 5 days (note above) as it begins to turn cloudy and the pickles begin to create bubbles. After 5 days and when the bubbles have subsided, you can bring your pickles back inside and place them in containers with the juice in the fridge.

The pickle will have a softer texture than regular dill pickles. For me, the smell and texture is something I remember every summer. Cold and straight from the fridge is something I will be enjoying this weekend! I would love to hear if you give these a go or if you have made them in the past.

E.A.T. local E.A.T. well

26 comments:

  1. Oh these are unbeatable! I just can't find the right cucumbers to make them. :(

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    1. I found these at our local farmers market. Good luck Chriesi!

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  2. Would Persian cukes work? I am curious to try this.

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    1. Amy, I have never used those for this recipe and really have only seen these made with the short fatter pickling cucumbers. I personally do not think they would hold up but you can certainly try it. Let me know if you experiment.

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    2. There was much debate between my dad and I as to if my grandmother had garlic in hers. He said she did not but I believe she did. I am going to add garlic in the next batch and yes that would be a nice addition.

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    3. Mmmm! Koszonom szepen! :D

      I've been meaning to try my Polish mother-in-law's recipe for pickles but I think I'll probably try this one first and see if my Hungarian father is impressed. :P Maybe I'll do both and compare!

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  3. Never read a pickle recipe with parsley as an ingredient!

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    1. Nice catch and that should have read dill not parsley. I will update that there is no parsley.

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  4. Hmm. I do a crock of fermented pickles (but in Montana we don't get cukes until late August) but I've never tried it with the sourdough bread. I usually use dill, garlic, brine, and a few grape leaves (the tannins keep them crispy) ... but I might have to try a few jars of these. Growing up in Chicago, one took for granted all sorts of eastern European foods that now seem to have vanished (where, oh where, have all the German butchers gone? taking their smoked sausages with them ....)

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    1. I agree Charlotte and part of the reason I am trying to perfect this so my kids will continue to enjoy them as I did! Thanks for stopping by.

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  5. Will have to give this recipe a try, I have several different recipes I have been using and am always looking for a new one. I have a ton of cukes growing just for pickling. :-)

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    1. April, would love to know how it turns out!

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  6. My friends called them "stinky socks pickles", and wouldn't sit with me when I ate them. We made them in our back hallway, so they stunk up the house. This fall, I brought home some pickling cukes, and my mother, who now lives with me, lamented that I wouldn't let her make them in the house. I filled a slow cooker with water, and turned it on low and covered it, then set a pot of pickles on top. It gave just the right amount of heat to have pickles in about a week.

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  7. I should have added that we made them on the screened in porch - outside, but out of the weather.

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    1. Wow, love it what a great story! Thanks for stopping by.

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  8. Mom wants to add that we made them in an enamel pot, and weighted the bread down with a plate. Also, lay a plate or lid on top. The gas can lift the plate to vent as it ferments. Tiny bugs can get through the burlap.

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  9. I, too, remember my Hungarian grandparents' "huge" garden and the crock of "stinky pickles" fermenting on their covered back porch. Grandma trimmed the ends and cut the cukes into fourths lengthwise, but not all the way down. No garlic, but used rye bread, and added grape leaves for crispness. The crock had a plate to keep the pickles submerged, and cheesecloth over all to keep out the bugs. I used to make a sandwich out of one rolled in a slice of rye bread. Heavenly!

    I've made them a few times, but the last batch didn't work out. Too much salt and not enough heat. Now that we've moved to the high desert, and you've given me the correct salt to water proportions, all should be fine. Koszonom szepen!

    BTW - There are still German sausage makers in Chicago - I get their sausage here at a local restaurant/deli - it's as good as I can get at the West Side Market, when I go home to Ohio.

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    1. What a wonderful memory. I am getting ready to start another batch this weekend and I hope I can improve from the last batch. Thanks for taking a look!

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  10. I noticed a * next to the bit about washing the jar and cucumbers - is there something special they need to be washed with?

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    1. Hi Sandy, I believe that was a typo from when I updated the post earlier this week. The batch I started on Sunday is looking really good! Thanks for catching that!

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  11. Greetings! I'm on a super low sodium diet, would it work leaving the sodium out (or reducing it greatly)? From what I understand the sodium preserves the food.. so if I make fermented pickles withOUT salt are they still edible?

    Thanks!

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    1. Well I am certainly not a nutritionist and salt does help the pickling process.I am not sure if reducing to 2 tablespoons would hurt the process but I certainly would not go any less. If you try it and it works please let me know!

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    2. To help reduce the amount of salt intake from your pickles, rinse them before eating. The salt does not really get into the pickle itself.

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  12. We (being good Germans) made pickles in 10 gallon crocks in our basement. When they were working really well, we could smell them in the house. It was not a bad smell though. I adapted my mother's recipe for quart jars so I would not have 10 gallons of pickles, me being single. I also remember having at least 2 10 gallon crocks of sauerkraut going all the time. I remember eating store bought kraut for the first time - whoa - what was that stuff? I started making it myself also in quart jars.

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  13. Ate these as a kid every summer. My mom, from Gyor, did put garlic cloves into the mix, fermented the pickles in an enameled roaster in the oven; the pilot light was warm enough to foster fermentation.

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