Hungaricum refers to something that is characteristically and typically Hungarian which can include speciality foods, drinks, traditional clothing, animals, customs, and even fine works of art. Much of these things can be attributed to Hungary’s rich and diverse cultural history.
Here are some of the most well-known Hungaricums.
Paprika is the national spice of Hungary and used extensively in Hungarian cuisine. There are several versions of paprika in Hungary ranging from édes (sweet) to eros (hot) as well as everything in between. During the 1930′s, Hungarian scientist Albert Szent-Gyorgyi and his colleagues at Szeged University experimented with fresh bell peppers. In 1937, Szent-Gyorgyi was awarded the Nobel Prize for Science for discovering that paprika included Vitamin C, an antiscorbutic, which protects against scurvy.
A ubiquitous specialty known throughout Hungary and the Hungarian enclaves of neighboring Transylvania, pálinka is the generic name for the fiery fruit brandy distilled from fruits such as plums, apricots and pears.
Known as the national drink of Hungary, Unicum is an herbal digestif liqueur. The history of the drink dates back to 1790, when a court physician named József Zwack combined different herbs and roots to create a remedy for Kaiser Joseph II, Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary, who was suffering from stomach ailments. When the monarch tasted the drink he exclaimed, “Dasist ein unicum!”, meaning in English,“This is unique!”. Thus the name of the drink was given.
This luscious sweet wine comes from the Tokaj-Hegyalja district of northeastern Hungary. Made from grapes affected by noble rot, Tokaji Aszú is Hungary’s most famous wine. Throughout the 17th and 18th century, Tokaji Aszú was a cherished commodity enjoyed by the royals of Europe including Louis XIV of France, Peter the Great, Elizabeth of Russia, and Frederick the Great, as well as renowned composers and writers. In the Hungarian National Anthem, the poet Ferenc Kölcsey (1790-1838) wrote about the country’s most precious gifts. Included is the wine of Tokaji: “In the grape fields of Tokaj, You dripped sweet nectar.”
Pick “Winter” Salami
This brand of salami was first produced in the town of Szeged in 1869 by an Italian butcher by the name of MárkPick. His salami quickly gained a reputation for its rich flavor which was made with local Hungarian ingredients. A factory was built in the area and soon afterwards the salami went into mass production. Today, Pick “winter” salami is one of Hungary’s most popular culinary specialties.
Founded in 1826 in the town of Herend near the city of Veszprém, this Hungarian manufacturing company specializes in luxury hand painted and gilded porcelain. In the mid-19th century it was purveyor to the Habsburg Dynasty and aristocratic customers throughout Europe. Many of its classic patterns are still in production today.
Hungary has a rich history of lacemaking. One of the most famous is the Halas Lace which originated in the town of Kiskunhalas in 1902 by Mária Markovits and her son Árpád Dékáni. Various items were produced from this intricate needwork which eventually became an important part of Hungarian folk art.
Mangalica is a breed of pig grown especially in Hungary and the Balkans known also as a curly-hair hog. At the beginning of the 1800s, demand for fattier pigs grew, and the mangalica was bred in 1833 by crossing Hungarian pigs from the Bakony and Szalontaregions with the Serbian sumadia. Their number continued to grow until the middle of the 20th century, then decreased rapidly due to the heightened demand for meatier pigs as opposed to the fattier ones. Gene banks established by the Hungarian government in 1974 were what saved them from extinction. Today, mangalica meat is once gaining popularity by foodies around the world who are keen to sample this rich and delicate specialty.
Hungarian Grey Cattle
The Hungarian grey cattle also known as Magyar szürkemarha are an ancient breed of cows from Hungary. These long horned animals once grazed the great plains of Hungary over 1000 years ago. Used mainly for draft purposes, they were positioned in teams of four or more to pull merchant wagons across the plains, sometimes in long caravans. Although, Hungarian grey cattle are not used as much in today’s society, they are an important part of Hungarian culture and heritage. Many are kept in protected areas such as the Hortobágy National Park in eastern Hungary.
The vizsla has been a trusted and favorite hunting dog of the Magyar tribes who lived in the Carpathian Basin in the 10th century. In the 19th century, the vizsla suffered a decline and during the Second World War, came close to becoming extinct. In 1945, when the Russian occupation forces invaded Hungary, many of the wealthy aristocrats were forced to flee their beloved land. Several were able to smuggle their vizslas and pedigree records out of the country. These owners fled to various parts of Europe and North America with their dogs and from this small remaining stock, the vizsla was revived.
The puli is an ancient Hungarian dog known for its long, corded coat. The tight curls of the coat, similar to dreadlocks, make it virtually waterproof. The breed is believed to have introduced by the migration of the Magyars from Central Asia more than 1,000 years ago and, for centuries, it was treasured for its sheep herding abilities.
Category: Customs & Traditions
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Suzanne Urpecz, creator and editor of The Hungarian Girl. Click on my About page for more info.