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Hungarian Greasy Bread

 

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This post was originally published on October 22, 2010

When I was a child fall was always a wonderful time of year.  The sky was a clear crisp blue and there was a chill in the air; an omen that winter was near. It was also the time to rake up the falling leaves. 

Like mowing the lawn in those days, raking the leaves was one of the tasks children were assigned. We made a game of it. Get a huge pile of leaves and jump in them. Bury each other under them.

We had a huge tree in the backyard and my brothers and I would rake the leaves under the biggest branch, climb the tree and hang from that branch and then let go straight into the arms of the waiting red and gold below us.

Then we would haul the leaves out to the street where my parents and grandfather would burn them. Burning leaves was allowed then. Neighbors leaned on their rakes and talked with each other about nothing in particular. Sounds so quaint today. Imagine that. Talking face to face with your neighbor. Today we would text them. How lonely!

The aroma of burning leaves in the fall is one made in heaven. There is nothing quite like it. It is hard to describe in words. But it was a sure sign of fall. It was amazing. The burning leaves gave off a subtle aroma of bitter-sweet perfume: the death of summer; the birth of winter.

Burning leaves season was also the time when my grandfather, who immigrated here from Hungry as a young man, would make Hungarian Greasy Bread.

We would burn the leaves curbside and cook some jowl bacon on a sturdy stick in the fire of the burning leaves. After letting the grease drippings drizzle onto the bread we added lettuce, tomatoes, and onions.

It was so delicious!!!!

Today the food police would frown on such a food. Just calling it greasy would cause them to have an apocalyptic fit!

Origins of Greasy Bread

Greasy Bread is a Hungarian Tradition. Traditions are important in life. They are ceremonies of the heart and soul. Traditions help us to remember, celebrate, and honor our past.

The origin of Greasy Bread is a bit blurry. One story says that it is a gypsy recipe make from a small slab of bacon that could be carried in their wagons. It was a way of making a little bit of food feed a large number of people.

Others say it was a Hungarian peasant food. In this version Greasy Bread was made with jowl bacon; a very fatty slab of meat. That piece of the pig is what the lord of the manor would have left over after they slaughtered the pigs and took the best parts for themselves. Thus leaving the fattiest part for their serfs.

However it came about, it is a tradition with Hungarians and we wax poetic when we meet another Hungarian and start a discussion of Greasy Bread.  Really. We talk about Greasy Bread with longing in our eyes. You can’t make this stuff up!  See Midwest LivingHungarian Tradition, and Wikipedia , if you don’t believe me.

Basically it is nothing more than Bruschetta. It is a poor peasant’s Bruschetta.

I have read and seen recipes that chop or mince the toppings. That is not how I remember my grandfather making it. But that could have been my mother’s influence. She had any eye for making food look good. Or maybe since we were fixing it curb side it was easier to keep things whole. I simply don’t know.

In any event, the recipe for Greasy Bread I share with you today is as I remember it from my childhood. It is tradtion after all.

Featured Recipe    Hungarian Greasy Bread
This is what you will need for about 6 people:

1 pound jowl bacon

Some lettuce

A couple of tomatoes

Red onion

Radishes

A FEW NOTES ON THE INGREDIENTS:

Jowl bacon is hard to find these days. You may think I am hard on the food police. But this person is even much harder. And I love him/her for it. From: Eye of the Tyger

There may be a few of you who are as long in the tooth as I, and who can remember fondly how pork chops used to taste before the fat Nazis stormed to power.

But as I so often do, I digress. Some stores still sell jowl bacon. The person I quoted above says you can find it in the south in some stores. A couple of the links I cited above say it can also be found in the Detroit, Michigan Metro area. The stuff I can find here in Ohio is no longer jowl bacon. I am not sure what it is. Mechanized pork fat maybe??????  UGH!!! 

Jowl bacon is much easier to find in the south. I love the south!!!!

You can also find good jowl bacon on line. Just do a general search and you will find several places to buy it. An on-line store is where I get my jowl bacon these days. But next time I am up Detroit way I am going to check out some other stores, for sure.

These days jowl bacon is far more expensive than it was in my grandfather’s days in Hungry and more expensive than it was even during my childhood and early adult years. But even so, Greasy Bread can feed a crowd for about $2.00 per person.

Cooking the jowl bacon. In olden days the bacon was cooked over an open fire pit. Thus my grandfather making it when we burned leaves. He just push a stick through the slab of jowl bacon and cooked it over the open fire in the street. Today many cook  it camping or over a BBQ pit in their back yard. Open some of the links above and you will see entire families doing just that. Tradition is very important. 

I adapt to a new age. I slice the bacon and cook it on a grill.

As for the toppings on the greasy bread, some of the stories I read on line use more vegetables on the bread than I do. For instance some use cucumbers and green peppers. I don’t remember that from my grandfather. But you can use anything that makes your heart flutter. I mean, as long as you are eating this kind of fat go all the way! Add whatever toppings make you happy.

The best bread is Vienna, which is very hard to find these days. But any crusty French, Italian or other crusty bread will do nicely. For today’s recipe I used French bread.

Here is what you do:

Start heating you grill pan or skillet, or fire if you are some where you can burn one.

Get your toppings washed and sliced and lined up ready to go.

Slice your bread.

Slice the bacon.

Place the bacon slices on a very hot grill pan. Fry until it get crisps.

There are several ways you can get the grease from the bacon to the bread. You can lift the bacon with a tong and let the bacon drip on the bread that way. I just dab the bacon on the bread.

Or you can lay and gently press the bread on top of the bacon after you turn it while still on the grill.

This is what the bread will look like when you are finished with the process. You can add as much or as little grease as you wish.

When the bacon is done and nice and crisp…………..

….you can start to build your sandwich. Start with some bacon…….

………..and then add some lettuce and tomatoes………….

………….and then the onion and a few radish slices.

And there, ladies and gentlemen, you have your Hungarian Greasy Bread, one of the finest foods in the world.

Some people add salt and pepper. I do not add salt. Jowl bacon is salty enough for me by itself. I do add a bit of pepper though………..

But I still miss the aroma of the burning leaves.

Bon appétit!!!

Cost

1 pound jowl bacon                $7.50

Some lettuce                         $1.29

A couple of tomatoes              $1.95

Red onion                              $1.09

Radishes                               $1.24

Total cost = $13.07
Cost per person = $2.17

Quote of the Day    

Good bread is the great need in poor homes, and often times the best appreciated luxury in the homes of the very rich.

A Book for A Cook, The Pillsbury Co. (1905)

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3 comments to Hungarian Greasy Bread

  • Yum! Like an open face BLT but better 🙂

  • susan tamas

    It has been fifty-five years since my relatives, who have since passed on, and I indulged in szalonna. We live in the Chicago area and if someone could recommend a Hungarian meat shop, I bet I could find the perfect bacon that is required for the absolutely delicious meal. Thanks to the upper class for giving the peasants the greatest tasting food ever. What fools they were!!! Please help with my tradition for the rest of my family.