Summertime is a great time to gather friends and family around a fire and host a szalonnasütés or bacon fry!
I have heard this event referred to as many things by our customers because often, as things get passed on down through the generations, it is hard to remember the exact words used even though there are strong memories attached to the event.
My great grandparents made their way to the USA before 1910, so you can be sure there are many words and customs that have been altered or lost in our family during the last 100 years. In fact, I only remember having a szalonnasütés at a few “Hungarian Day” events in Youngstown, OH even though my oldest brother remembers having them many times at home.
Ahh…the benefits of being the oldest child!
So even though a szalonnasütés wasn’t firmly imprinted in my childhood memory bank, my sweet Dutch and German husband and I decided this was a delicious tradition to pass on and we have started doing this with our kids. In August 2015, we hosted a szalonnasütés for the early arrivers to our daughter’s wedding weekend. It isn’t ever too late to start or reignite a Hungarian tradition in your family!
We recently asked our readers what they think it takes to host a great szalonnasütés:
“What are your must-have ingredients for a szalonnasütés?”
Here is a compilation of the tips and tricks of the process in case you have forgotten or would like to revive or introduce this old Hungarian tradition into your family! A huge thank you to all who participated in this conversation!!!
Purchase and prepare:
A good slab of bacon. Visit a butcher shop and ask for thick, dry saltback. More info at the end of this article.
To prepare the bacon: Cut bacon into 4″x4″ squares or something similar to a deck of playing cards and score the top into little square cuts so the grease can drip out nicely. Score the bacon by cutting 2 columns of diagonal slits pointing down toward point of stick-so grease flows in a stream to the bread. (To some this is the most important and tedious step!)
Good Bread–some use white and others rye, but it needs to be from a bakery and thicker sliced or at least hearty enough to catch the drippings. (Store bought white bread in a bag will not cut it!)
Toppings: Slice or chop onions (white, yellow, purple or green), radishes, cucumbers, peppers (sweet or hot), tomatoes.
Seasonings: Salt, pepper, Hungarian paprika.
1) Shop and gather people you enjoy.
2) Prepare the veggies and the fire and score the fat by making a a grid with a sharp knife. Be sure not to cut all the way through the chunk of fat.
3) Impale chunk of fat with a wooden stick or metal skewer and cook over hot coals.
4) As the heat from the fire melts the fat, drip it onto your bread.
5) When the fat back is cooked, slice it off, chop and add just a little bit to your “dirty bread” along with the veggies of your choice and seasonings. Don’t overdo the fatty bits because a little will go a long way.
Accompanying beverages: Hungarian wine, beer, pálinka. For the kids it could be mineral water and raspberry syrup.
A few reflections from our fans:
“I use the jowl piece of the smoked bacon. It seems to have more flavor and more good “dirty” grease! After the grease is cooked out then I slice the meat and eat it like a sandwich. Good for the arteries’ . . . White bread is out unless you can find a good bakery bread and slice it thicker. Now, my fire that I use came from my Grandfather’s teaching. He said, “Szalonna is only good if the meat is cooked over a hard wood fire. Never use gas (propane), charcoal, or pine wood that people sell at camp sites!” Gramps was 100% correct. Sometimes I throw in some mesquite wood for flavor. I use no salt since there is plenty of salt in the meat.”
“There’s nothing like the aroma of bacon cooking over an open flame in the outdoors! The flavor is addicting. It’s an ultimate bacon lover’s dream.”
“My family used those sort of baskets on a stick for the slab bacon, dripped it onto the bread, added chopped onion and green pepper, a little more bacon grease, salt & pepper. FANTASTIC. “
“Don’t forget the Hungarian hot peppers and beer to wash the szalonna down!”
“The question is: Do you slice or do you dice??? That almost caused a family feud years ago!!!”
“PATIENCE!! (esp. when you have 4 brothers and sisters, and numerous cousins and other family members waiting for the same thing you are!”
If you want to smoke your own bacon: Order thick dry salt fatback with the skin on from the butcher shop. Rinse the salt from the fatback and place the skin side down over an open fire. Singe the skin to remove any remaining hair and to soften the skin. Soak the pieces in cold water to remove some of the charred parts and scrape them with a big knife. After rinsing them, hang them on a bacon hook and cover them with granulated garlic and place them in the smokehouse for 8 to 12 hours. This is bacon with the skin on that is mostly fat because it comes from the back, not the meatier bacon that comes from the belly. The thicker the better.
We do cheat a little when it comes to bacon in this situation. Why? Because it isn’t always easy to find the fatback to make your own. But, if you have a local butcher, ask them if they have it available. Sometimes, when we are in the mood but don’t have all the time to plan so we do use Hungarian style bacon that is ready-to-eat. I know, I know, it isn’t the original item and it is a bit more expensive, but I believe it is more important to get to the business of the event then get too caught up in perfecting the details — that will eventually come. It is important to focus on the time together celebrating family, friends, and reviving or continuing Hungarian traditions is the most important part of a szalonnasütés!
If you want a little bit of a shortcut, you can order this szalonna to use for your bacon fry.
Jó étvágyat!!! Enjoy your meal!
At The Hungarian Store, our mission is to provide you with resources and encouragement to discover, celebrate, and share your Hungarian heritage with friends and family!