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Hungarian Greasy Bread

 

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 that aroma was a sure sign of fall. It was amazing. The burning leaves gave off a bitter-sweet perfume. The death of summer; the birth of winter.

Burning leaves season was also a 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

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.  See here, here, and here.

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 way of making it. She had any eye for making things look good. Or maybe since we were fixing it curb side it was easier to keep things whole. I don’t know.

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

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!!! 

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. You just push a stick through the slab of jowl bacon and cook it over the open fire. 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.

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.

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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11 comments to Hungarian Greasy Bread

  • I learned something new here. I’ve been buying something at Trader Joe’s called Bruschetta – it’s just the topping. But in fact Bruschetta refers to bread dosed with olive oil or bacon grease, plus the topping. I had never heard of Bruschetta (sheltered food life, I guess). I put a heaping tablespoon into each serving of scrambled eggs (as it’s cooking). It’s delicious. Not sure I would have the patience to make the Trader Joe’s version from scratch. Your version, though, sounds simple and easy.

    • Roberta

      You always say the nicest things, Jan. Thanks.

      Actually, Greasy Bread is the second Bruschetta recipe I have shared here at MTTD. Back several weeks ago I shared Classic Bruschetta. If you are interestetd, I am sharing the link to that page. It is really quite easy.

      http://morethymethandough.com/shop-smart

  • who would have thought, when we were young kids fryin bacon and dripping it on rye, that we were experiencing something much bigger than that – most stories I’m hearing revolve around family, and tradition, and customs…. now that I’m nearing 50 I see already the changes in our times, and how we’ve grown away from some of that… our kids kids will probably experience even less. I guess time changes things, and we become more ‘American born’ but memories last forever!

    • Roberta

      You have a Hungarian back ground too? How wonderful!! I hope that even as we change we can keep some traditions too. I think children benefit from learning traditions. Yes, memories are wonderful things.

      Thanks for stopping by and for your comment!

  • LOL Roberta, no we didn’t call it Greasy Bread, but we did eat Speck, Kaiser and bacon all the time when I was a little girl… with bread and tomatoes, red capsicums (bell peppers) and cheese. My mother made me little soldiers on horseback with little cubes of European bread and little slices of Kaiser. Delicious. Brings back memories.

  • […] and some tomatoes to the bread making it even more delicious. Of course then you are getting into Hungarian Greasy Bread territory. And regular readers here know how I wax poetic about Hungarian Greasy […]

  • Connie

    I too had hungarian grandparents. We made greasy bread every year. We used hungarian bread and salt pork its easy to find and cheap. We cook it over fruit wood like apple or cherry. We then drip some of the grease as its cooking over the bread then we put real thin slices of tomato, onion, green pepper and some with hungarian peppers. Add some salt and pepper and then drip more of the grease on top. Very delicious. People think its weird until they taste it, then they can’t get enough. My uncle who is also from there and still visits says it was a meal the shepherds would take with them along with the makings for goulash that they would cook then dry out and pack in sheep stomachs of which water was added to later.

    • Roberta

      Connie: I appreciate so much you sharing your expereinces with Hungarian Greasy Bread. Your memories are so close to mine it is eerie. I love it. I know, people don’t belive you. But wait till they tatste it. Hungarians sure know how to live and love life, don’t they.

  • Brenda

    Connie:
    I too had Hungarian grandparents who made grease bread the same way. I wish I could find decent salt pork. There used to be an Hungarian deli that sold the best sale port. If anyone knows where I can purchase “real salt pork” — hopefully w/some paprika sprinkled on top, please let me know. It’s been years!
    Middlesex County, NJ.

  • bob

    great to see people who love greasy bread my parents are from hungry we make ours a little different but not much we keep it in the family so the kids will some day teach there kids and keep the tradition going

    • Roberta

      Sounds like a great tradition your family has.

      When I researched Greasy Bread for this post I discovered there are many, mnay different ways to make Greasy Bread.

      I would be interested in knowing how you family makes theirs. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.