Make One Of These Treats With A Loved One This Weekend


Christmas Market

November 29, 2010

By: Allan Stevo

In mid-November, the usual vendors are cleared out of the Main Square in Bratislava and carpenters spend a few days preparing it for its new seasonal look. They carefully lay out wooden foundations. Slowly over the next few days these foundations take shape and become the 100+ booths that will cover the Main Square and two adjacent squares for the next month. From these small booths, the citizens of Bratislava and all their visitors will buy the tastes of the season, the delicacies that characterize Central Europe at this time of year.

Vianočné trhy (or “Christmas markets”) the Slovaks call it, Christkindlmarkt say the Viennese, Karácsonyi vásár say the Hungarians of Budapest, and Vánoční trhy say the Czechs – words for the same thing – a big square filled with vendors selling delicacies of the season.

In Slovakia a Christmas market looks a little different than in the places mentioned above, but just like any other situation in Central Europe, traditions, foods, and happenings are not dependent on which side of a border you’re standing on. With little tweaks, you can’t be entirely sure whose city’s Christmas market you are in, only that you’re in Central Europe.

In Bratislava, the fact that it’s advent means that for the next three and a half weeks, text messages will pop up on your phone from friends you haven’t spoken to in months saying “let’s go for a varene vino at the Christmas Market tonight – 6ish?” And you’ll be excited to receive this message, because you were just wondering to yourself “should I stop by the Christmas Market at 6 or at 8 tonight?”

Photo from Slovakia.Travel

A day where you don’t grab a glass of wine or a bite to eat with a friend at the Christmas Market is a wasted day. It’s a case of not taking advantage of the opportunity to bask in the atmosphere of the season. The feeling of camaraderie and the feeling of another successful year coming to an end, combines with the sights, sounds, tastes, and smells of the market to create an atmosphere that makes Bratislava’s Main Square a very special place during these weeks.

Folk dancers take the stage at the Christmas Market, whooping and stomping their feet as they dance. They come from all over the country and the region. Children’s choirs fill the air with the sweetness that only a child’s voice can bring to a Christmas carol. The music creates part of the atmosphere. A hum of people having fun socializing with friends fills the background as well, as a trip to the Christmas Market is not usually a solo adventure. The sun sets before four, which means that for most of the time the market is open it is lit by the combined efforts of the dim lights from each booth.  They make for excellent mood lighting. The feel of a cup of warm spiced wine against your cold hands adds to the mood as well.

But the most important aspect of the atmosphere is the food. Its smells, its tastes. From half a mile away, you can smell that the Christmas Market is taking place. Onions sautéing and pork grilling, along with the unidentifiable scents of things that can’t be very healthy for you, but surely taste and smell very, very good. Below are some of the most beloved foods of the Christmas Market.

Cigánska Pečienka

Cigánska pečienka is a heavily seasoned pork cutlet or chicken breast. It’s usually marinated and then fried or grilled. Frying is more common. Usually, frying means that there is a giant griddle covered in onions, pork, and chicken, with bubbling grease an inch deep. “A cigánska” is commonly served at the Christmas Market on a bun, with caramelized onions, mustard, and optional hot peppers. The name is often translated into English as “gypsy liver.” As Peter very aptly points out in his comment below the article “The Harvest is In” linked here:

“…although most Slovaks might think of ‘pečienka’ as a ‘little liver’, what it really means is a ‘roast’ from the word ‘pečeny’ – roasted…What sounds to many Slovaks as a ‘gypsy liver’ really means a ‘gypsy roast’, or in other words – a roast gypsy style.”

To try your hand at making this Christmas Market centerpiece, follow this link to a Cigánska pečienka recipe.

 

Photo: E. Brandolino

Varené Víno

Varené víno is a wine that has been warmed with spices such as cinnamon and cloves, but can also contain many other interesting flavor combinations meant to remind one of the yuletide season such as – orange or lemon peel, cardamom, ginger, juniper berries, allspice, and even whole black peppers. Some vendors will add a touch of sugar to their varené víno, or a hint of a sweet juice such as apple or orange juice.

An often unexpected aspect of varené víno, or any steaming alcoholic drinks is that accidentally breathing too much of the steaming vapor of the wine while drinking can lead to a headache and inebriation. The vapors are absorbed into the thin membrane of the airway and are promptly moved into the blood.  Steer clear of that and you’ll be plenty happy as you sip your wine and keep your hands warm no matter what part of the northern hemisphere you’re in this winter.

You will find a recipe for varené víno here.

Punč

Pronounced with a “oo” sound that makes the word fun to say, punč is similar to the English word “punch.” Punč  is varené víno (hot spiced wine) with a little juice, rum, and pieces of chopped fresh or dried fruit thrown in. A cup of punč often looks more appealing that a cup of varené víno, because The unfamiliar always catches the eye better than the familiar.

Punč cups waiting to be filled

Punč has interesting pieces of fruit floating along the top of it, which tends to be an immediate attraction to the eyes in a busy Christmas market as passersby wonder what interesting fruit some inventive stand owner has taken to adding to his or her punč.  In Bratislava, a punč is sometimes even served with a fork for eating the fruit.

Similar to a varené víno, you can find a recipe for Vianočný punč (Christmas punch) here.

Lokše

Lokše is potato dough with lots of flour fried on a hot pan. This is the carbohydrate-heavy delicacy of the Christmas Market. It is heavy, not light like a crepe (palacinky in Slovak) or fluffy like a pancake (lievance is a Slovak cousin to the American pancake). Covered with anything from the salty – cabbage, sauerkraut, melted lard, goose liver pate, duck liver pate, even chicken liver pate, cheese, oškvarky – to the sweet – poppy seed, ground walnut, caramel, chocolate syrup, cinnamon, sweet cheese, it’s a great deal of fun walking around the Christmas Market and stumbling upon a booth that has dreamed up a lokše topping that you may never have thought of. Blue cheese, cheese and garlic, sour cream and cheese are all combinations that I’ve noticed this year at the Christmas Market but not in years prior. Click here for a lokše recipe.

 

Photo: E. Brandolino

Gulaš

The Christmas Market is not the ideal place for a bowl of gulaš, because you have to find a table to stand at. Additionally, there’s something that feels wrong about eating this meal made for a hunter out of a flimsy plastic bowl with a plastic spoon. Nonetheless, a few times each night, you’ll see someone battle the accidental elbow bumps and jostles of the crowded and jovial Christmas Market while carrying abowl of gulaš that looks like its about to burn through the plastic bowl. Click here for a gulaš recipe. For those unfamiliar with the dish, gulaš is a seasoned meat stew.

Mastný Chlieb

Mastný chlieb is a piece of bread covered with a little lard, sprinkled with some paprika and salt, and topped with onions. It’s name translates as “greasy bread.” It takes time for an American of my generation to get over how incredibly atrocious the concept is as a food. It is lard smeared on bread. The television (which, of course, never lies) taught me that butter is terrible for a human being to ingest and lard even worse. After getting over that fact, I came to recognize how delicious an occasional slice of bread slathered with lard and topped with onions can be.

Langoš

Langoš is leavened potato dough, allowed to rise, before it is rolled out and then deep friend. Like lokše, langoš can be topped with anything. I recommend – garlic butter, sour cream, cheese and a little ketchup.

The word langoš is Hungarian. That however, does not make the product Hungarian. In Slovakia, and in Hungary, it’s commonly stated that langoš comes from Hungary, sometimes with great pride. No matter how many times I’m told “Langoš comes from Hungary,” it does not change that fact that dough in various forms (including fried) is eaten all over the world. It seems highly improbably that the Hungarians were the first to develop this concept of deep fried dough. If some archaeologist determines that I am wrong, I would like to thank Hungarian cooks of the past for this dish. Though it be hard to make and greasy to eat, langoš, especially of the homemade variety, is delicious. Click here for a Langoš recipe.

Hermelín

This is a cheese that is popular for pickling in oils, vinegars, spices, and brines, and is served in bars throughout Central Europe. It has a white, slightly waxy exterior, coated with a layer of soft white mold. At the Christmas Market, these rounds are often served as a vegetarian option to a cigánska pečienka (“gypsy liver”). Hermelín is especially enjoyable to eat warm because of the difficult to melt, firm outer layer. It’s easy to grill the cheese to the point where the cheese is melted inside, but kept together in its outer casing. It can be conveniently placed on a bun with toppings like sautéed onions, sauces, and spicy peppers akin to a cigánska. When you bite into a fried hermelín sandwich, the result is a glorious flow of molten cheese.

Pagáč

Akin to buttermilk biscuits in American cuisine, pagáč are down-home country food that outsiders might not truly be able to appreciate. Like virtually all Central European foods, there are countless pagáč variations. The best pagáč, in my opinion, are fresh from the oven, have oškvarky (link to oškvarky) inside and leave a little grease against the tooth when bitten into. The French have their croissants. The Slovaks have their pagáče. Neither of them are any good when mass produced. Both of them are delicious freshly made in small batches. Many rich layers are common. Brushing the top with salt or caraway seed is popular. If you get a chance to eat a pagáč fresh from the oven, do not ever pass up the opportunity.

Hriatô

Hriatô is a winter drink from the village and beloved by tough Slovaks. You can imagine a woodsman or hunter welcomed in out of the cold with this drink. It’s a warm shot of homemade alcohol (52% Slivovica – “plum brandy” – is popular for this purpose) that has a layer of melted bacon grease on the top of it and a little caramelized sugar stirred in. It’s worth pointing out that this drink tastes better than it sounds. Click here for a hriatô recipe.

Čaj s rumom

“Tea with rum” is a favorite of hikers and skiers in cold Slovak climes. A few hours in the cold requires a warm tea and the rum seems to make the tea better at warming the body. Take note of the fact that EU membership imposed silly rum labeling restrictions on Slovakia (and every other country). Basically, some guy from France came along and said “What you lowly Slovaks sell is not Rum, it’s something inferior. Rum is what we make in our colonies. Find some other name. As long as you’re in the EU, you will not use the word ‘rum’ to refer to the product you produce.”

The ingenious Slovak producers of “the product formerly known as rum” came up with some quick ways around this law. A trip to the liquor aisle of any sizeable store will demonstrate the wit and variety of the solution with bottles labeled “R,” “R-35,” or “Run.” By far the most popular label for this drink, however, is “Um.” Um is such a popular moniker for the drink that Slovaks once called Rum that you will even see restaurants using this on the drink lists of their menus.

Medovina

Medovina is ‘wine’ made from honey. It is almost always served warm and is most commonly sold during colder months. Bottles of medovina are on sale at the Christmas Market and so are individual glasses of warmed medovina. Each year, at least three or four stands at the Christmas Market will sell nothing but medovina from different types of honey (based on the trees that the bees were among) and in different types of bottles (ranging from bottles in the shape of cute little teddy bears, to the shape of life-sized rifles). At this time of year it is a popular gift. It’s not uncommon to be offered a small mug of this after coming in from the cold. Medovina’s sweet with a little alcohol. Because you don’t want to bring medovina to a boil, as it will give off its alchohol as vapor, a good way to warm it is to warm a pot of water to a little higher than the desired temperature of your medovina and to submerge the loosely capped bottle of medovina in the water. In 10 or 15 minutes you will have a warm mug of medovina. Be careful not to do this immediately after bringing a bottle of Medovina in from the cold as the sudden change in temperature may crack the bottle.

Strudel

Once upon a time, some unknown pastry chef, to whom I’m greatly in debt, came up with the idea that a dessert could be less of the unpleasant crust and more of the delicious filling. She dared to dream. She pared the crust down to a few layers of light flaky pastry and filled the rest of the desert with nothing but the densest, most delicious and satisfying things – shredded apples and cinnamon; walnuts, walnuts, more walnuts and a little honey; cheese, sugar, and eggs; and the greatest dessert anywhere in the world – mak, poppy seed, so thick, so rich, so deliciously earthy in taste. It took me years of disappointment before I realized something – you can’t buy a mass produced poppy seed strudel in Slovakia that tastes very good. The generosity of ingredients that is required to make a delicious strudel just doesn’t seem to exist in a Slovak grocery store in the year 2010. You need someone to painstakingly make it for you out of love, or you need a place like the Christmas market where you can browse dozens of homemade options before settling on the strudel that best fits you.

“My Way is the Only Way”
In Slovakia, it can be common to hear a person scoff at even the slightest recipe variations of others. Slovaks who are quick to point out that there is only one proper way to make a certain dish are likely to have seldom tried those dishes outside of their mother’s kitchen. This makes sense however. Often dominated by other powerful forces, Slovak culture has not survived to the year 2010 simply by following every single trend that appeared along the horizon. There are ingrained ways to do things in Slovakia. That, I believe, is part of this small nation’s defense mechanism. If you don’t believe that the Slovak nation has such a defense mechanism, take a trip to the Serbian province of Vojvodina some time where 55,000 Slovaks have roots running back nearly 300 years and still speak the Slovak language and practice Slovak traditions, despite the distance they live from the Slovak land. A conservative attitude, a stubborn resilience to change, a defensive stance toward that which is different likely has a very real effect in preserving the character of a people.

That behavior can be noticed even in discussions about something as inconsequential as food. Even if each Slovak family has its own ingrained way of doing things, there are people who will state until their grave that there is only one right way to prepare a dish. This is something beautiful about Central Europe – in a very decentralized way, house to house, village to village, recipes for virtually everything vary greatly. Virtually every single step of a familiar recipe might be differently executed just a few doors away. There is no right recipe for any one thing. At the same time, there is a very clear sense among many people that there is a right way and a wrong way to do things.

Apply that concept to a market and any person with an interest in how foods are prepared can learn much by watching and asking questions at the Chrismas Market. There are many variations all gathered in one place and each one is the best just because the cook believes whatever is his is the best.

As someone who loves cooking Slovak food, the largely unregulated Christmas Market offers a glimpse of how Slovak chefs can be creative with the “Slovak kitchen” without mixing it with some sort of off the wall Asian fusion.

I think the food is beautiful and it tells a story of the history. It’s unpretentious. It’s a peasant food from a cold climate. It’s nourishment for people who worked hard. It’s food that tastes like its component ingredients, instead of MSG or some artificial flavor created in a laboratory in New Jersey. It’s “un-adorned,” the very thing that Hviezdoslav praises in a poem engraved on a monument commemorating him just a few steps away. Without being bashful about it, the food is what it is. Slovak food is generally unseasoned or lightly seasoned. And from late November to the night before Christmas Eve, hundreds of people staff the 107 stands of the Christmas Market and offer their variations on the few Slovak foods that can comfortably be served not at a kitchen table with family, but eaten off a paper plate while standing among friends.

This is advent in Bratislava. This is, for me, the centerpiece of the season.

Allan Stevo is an author from Chicago. He is writes about Slovak culture once a week and posts his columns to “52 Weeks in Slovakia” as well as sending them to a few small newspapers and magazines in the U.S.  If you’ve enjoyed this column, sign up here to receive it in your inbox weekly (for the next 45 weeks), or share it with a few friends through email, facebook, twitter, or a host of other social networks using the buttons below.

Do you have any holiday recipes that remind you of the season that are unique to your family? In your culture, how do you spend the weeks in preparation for Christmas? If you offer a recipe, provided that I can find all of the ingredients, I will make it a point to prepare it for a few friends between now and Christmas.

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Comments

  • My absolute favorite time of year in Bratislava!! Thanks for re-creating it here, Allan — awesome job. Makes my heart ache to be back in Central Europe!

  • Jennn,
    You’re so right. It’s a great time to be in Bratislava. There’s something very right about the way it is celebrated. Thank you for the kind words.
    Allan

  • Gail Cordes Vachon

    Nov 30th, 2010

    Lovely, the sights and fragrance of the Christmas Market in Bratislava filled my memory when reading this article. I took photos galore during my 3 years in Bratislava. Thanks for the photos and recipes.

  • Thank you Gail!
    If you have any good photos that you think express something seasonal and meaningful about your time in Bratislava, I would love to take a look at them and put them to use over the next 44 weeks.
    Wishing you my best.
    Allan

  • John (Janko) Bartko

    Nov 30th, 2010

    dakujme pekne for doing this. It is a tremendous service to those of us with a Slovak heritage and who have been to Bratislava and yearn to be there for Christmas!!!!! John

  • John,
    Thank you for the kind words. I will respond to your “Dakujem pekne” with a phrase that a Slovak friend invented for me “moja radost,” because he noticed how I liked to say “my pleasure” in English. Based on the reaction I’ve gotten from people, it doesn’t seem to make sense as a Slovak phrase, but the sentiment is clearly understood. I’m really enjoying writing these articles. Please feel free to pass this along to anyone you think would be interested.
    Thanks again for reading and for the kind words.
    Allan

  • Oh, I’m missing it a lot, the Christmas market of Bratislava… Even if in France they started to promote the concept of Christmas market, it’s just not the same. But I think tonight I’ll prepare ‘varene vino’…

  • Katka,
    I hope you enjoyed the varene vino. I was in France at a Christmas Market a few years back and didn’t enjoy it as much as Bratislava. Someone tried to sell me a piece of toast and cheese for 6 Euro, when all I really wanted was an 80 cent lokse with goose fat on top. The toast with cheese wasn’t bad, but it was no lokse. Na zdravie, Katka.
    Allan

  • I just got back from Slovakia, went to Bratislava Vianocne trhy one day with my coisin. It was just like you wrote…very well Adam. I miss it already, that homemade food is just the best!

  • Ludmila,
    Welcome back. Thank you for the vote of confidence. I hope I got the descriptions right.
    Allan

  • Bájecný článek, Allan !! Your descriptions have made me hungry !! My parents never made lokše, hermelín, langoš, nor medovina. This is the first time I’ve heard of these dishes !! But my Moravian mother loved her mástný chlieb. I loved it too, especially rye bread with duck lard !! I can’t believe that Allan was able to resist mástný chlieb !!

    Mojá maminka často piekla jablčný strudel. Not just for Christmas. And she made palacinky filled with cottage cheese or homemade plum preserves. And maminka často varila gulás, a tiež pajšel. She made a thick, mellow, guláš with potatoes (zemiáky) and mrkvy. The pajšel was a different dish: thin, spicy, with meat and no vegetables. My dad said it was based on a Hungarian dish.

    But for Christmas, mommy upékla kačenu, navarila kapustu i knedliky, napékla Zázvorniky, Makovník, i Strudel !! Zazvorniky are rolled out spice and honey cookies. Soft and mellow. You can add a sugar/lemon glaze for added tartness plus colorful confectionary sugar decorations for Christmas !!

    I made Zazvorniky successfully a few years ago. Usually the first batch won’t be as good as your next batch; you will see whether you need to add more or less flour, spices, and honey. So you can start with a small batch. Remember to pick out your favorite Christmas cookie cutters !! I even bought birdies, flowers, and squirrels for a spring batch of Zazvorniky !! Also remember that there is no concrete recipe for these cookies. The measurements vary according to the consistency of the dough which is crucial to the success of the cut out cookie.

    Zazvorniky

    2 cups white flour (add more later)
    1 tsp. baking powder
    1/2 tsp. baking soda
    1/2 cup granulated (white) sugar
    1/2 cup brown sugar
    1/2 cup honey
    1/2 stick salted butter or margarine (melted)
    1 tbsp. ground cloves
    1 tsp. ground nutmeg
    1 egg
    1 egg white
    1/2 cup milk

    Icing

    2 cups powdered white sugar
    1 tbsp. melted butter or margarine
    1-2 tbsp. lemon juice

    Mix icing ingredients. Be sure to add lemon juice gradually in order to achieve desired thickness.

    Directions for Cookies

    Beat egg and add milk, sugars, honey, spices, and butter.
    Then with a large mixing spoon, mix in dry ingredients and form into a thick and sticky ball of dough.

    Now prepare a clean, flat, and floured rolling area. Take a large piece of dough (you might have a few pieces of this starter dough to roll out) with floured hands and start kneading it while adding small fingerfuls of flour to thicken the dough and to keep it from sticking to your hands. When the kneaded dough is less sticky and doesn’t fall apart when you hold it up, it is ready for rolling.

    Pat dough into a thick pancake, cover with flour on top and on the bottom and roll gently from the middle out to the edges. When the pattie is about 1/4 inch thick, it is ready for cutting.

    Place cookie cutters in flour and then on outer edges of pattie. Press down and shake gently to loosen the formed cookie. Use spatula or careful fingers and place cookie onto greased cookie sheet. You can space the cookies one inch apart. Usually four across and four or six down. Then brush beaten eggwhite on each cookie for shine.

    Add starter dough to the cut out scrap dough and reroll into a pattie and cut out again until all of the dough is used. Bake 15 -20 minutes until golden brown but not dark underneath. Remember to check cookie pan while baking after 10 minutes.

    Yield: 24-36 soft, cookies. Icing optional. Store in tight container (tin with waxed paper).

    Made with love !!!

  • Cynthia,
    You’ve given me my first homework assignment! Thank you. I look forward to it. Thank you for the warning about the first batch of those gingerbread cookies not always turning out spectacularly : )

    Your Czech above is impressive. Looks like your parents taught you well.

    Allan

  • Totally inspired my wife and I to have cigánska tonight. Such a delicious memory.

  • Sean,
    I’m very happy to hear that : ) Dobru chut!
    Allan

  • Hi and thank you for this comprehensive article! I will definitely link to it.

  • Tanja,
    Thank you for the link.
    Wishing you well.
    Allan

  • Sanghee Lee

    Dec 7th, 2010

    Dear Allan Stevo
    Thank you for your email.
    I so appreciate your kindness and help while I’m in Slovakia.
    I had spent very plesant time in Slovakia.
    Good people, good food and good church members…
    Some day I would like to go there again.
    To enjoy good meal introduced above, I have to go Christmas season.
    Thank you.

    Best regards
    Sanghee Lee

  • Sanghee,
    It is nice to hear from you. I hope that you and the family are doing well. I hope you´ve enjoyed the writing on the Christmas Market : )
    Allan

  • Teresa Wicks

    Dec 7th, 2010

    I am so enjoying reading these columns. I just found out about this so it is a treat to read them all. In our family, I make Norwegian Kringler on Christmas morning. These holiday foods and traditions instill such love and nostalgia in our hearts, I think. Some day I hope to go to a Christmas market. Here is the Kringler recipe
    1/4 lb butter, 1 c. water, 1 tsp. almond flavoring, 1 c. flour, 3 eggs
    Place butter and water in saucepan, boil until butter melts. Stir in almond flavor. Add flour. Remove from heat, add eggs, beat well after each egg. Spoon batter on cookie sheet in 3-3″ wide strips. Bake @400 for 15 min. Mix 1/4 melted butter, 1 1/2 c. powdered sugar, 1 T. warm milk and 1/2 tsp. almond flavor. Frost on cooled kringler. Cut in 2″ strips. Serves 12

  • Teresa,
    Thank you for the kind words and thank you as well for the homework assignment : ) I´ll try this out before Christmas and let you know how it goes.
    Allan

  • Teresa Wicks

    Dec 8th, 2010

    It is so easy to make. Goes great with a good hot cup of really fine coffee. People will think you worked hours to make this. :-) I am really enjoying your insights!

  • […] an inventive blog called ’52 weeks in Slovakia’ posted an article on Slovak cuisine, especially when it comes to the Christmas time. It is very […]

  • Melania Rakytiak

    Jan 12th, 2011

    I enjoy everything what I read, special all those goodies listed above, I lived in Bratislava for years and we made lokše, kapustnica, langoše, As young girl in my 18-20 we used to go in winter for walk in Koliba and then we stopped at Slamená Buda for čaj s rumom, except we called Rum s čajom.Vinobranie is interesting too. My father had vinohrad and every year my husband and my father made wine. Just perfect, we, my family still keep tradition of Slovak cooking. Thank you and I will wait for more articles about Slovak traditions.

  • Melania,
    A friend of mine has been getting me to go to Slamena Buda for about two years now. I think your suggestion is going to push me over the edge. It sounds like the same generous place that it used to be – he claims the prices are average and the portions are gigantic. That and Koliba sound like a nice afternoon. Thank you for the suggestion. : )
    Allan

  • allan,
    impresive article. I have sent a link to my friend in US and France, who enjoyed the market this winter.
    Pictures are very nice as well. May I use (with you name) the very top one for the article on Lard? Pls, len me know, thank you, best regards, milos

  • Milos,
    Thank you for the compliment. Please feel free to use anything you find on this website. Please be so kind as to mention this website and the photographer if you do use it.
    Thank you.
    Allan

  • […] and a plate of sweets will be put out for dessert as well as a plate of salty bread sticks or pagace for snacking on. A live band might play or CDs might be played by a DJ.  A folk group might […]

  • […] This article about the Christmas Market on 52 Weeks in Slovakia has been one of the most popular articles over the last year.  Read it to get a feel for the delicious smells and tastes of the Christmas Market.  It links to a few recipes as well, in the event that you feel like trying a few of the recipes at home. […]

  • Andrew J. Dzurovcik

    Dec 2nd, 2011

    My mother always made bobalki (sp.) little tiny like loaves of bread about the size of small candy bar. It was then mixed with poppy seed or sauerkraut. Missed that in your delicious list Christmas items.
    Also, I have read from numerous sources that fish (carp) was also a speciality for Christmas. We never had it at home and I don’t know of anyone else of Slovak heritage who has.
    Vesely Vianoce

  • Andrew,
    Thank you for adding the mention of bobalki. They sound delicious. In about two weeks, I’ll repost an article entitled “A Random Collection of Slovak Christmas Traditions” in which I talk a bit about carp. It definitely remains a popular Christmas specialty to this day. Thank you again, Andrew.

    A Merry Christmas to you as well.
    Allan

  • just wanted to point out that it´s not just Bratislava that has the Christmas market, pretty much every town has one (though much smaller ones and they usually start later than in Bratislava), I´m sure it´s the same for the other Central European countries….also I think it´s a tradition that is very popular in Germany as well, I think the most known one is Nuernberger Christkindlesmarkt (in Nuremberg, which even has its own website:http://www.christkindlesmarkt.de/english/start.php)…..in recent years, many Slovaks from all over the country have discovered the Christmas Market in Vienna and will rather travel there than to Bratislava…..can´t really judge it personally, haven´t been to either of these “big” markets though….aso an often feature t the Christmas Markets that I´ve seen in the small towns is the craftsmen and craftswomen that present their traditional craft products….on the other side it also often includes big numbers of stands that sell all kinds of cheap ornaments, gifts and even clothing (often the cheapn Chinese stuff)….

  • Miska,
    Thank you for your input about the variety of Christmas markets. I like going to Christmas markets all over the place. Last year, I had a disappointing moment in Vienna. All I wanted was some delicious food at one of their Christmas markets – something as good as a ciganska. I was looking for their equivalent of the ciganska so that I could write about it in these pages. All I could find were hot dogs and baked potatoes.

    I like looking at the many Christmas markets of Vienna, but I still think that Bratislava has Vienna beat. It’s got a better Christmas market for food and it’s got a lot of interesting crafts. Vienna’s markets have lots of interesting local crafts often placed alongside lots of garbage from China. In recent years, stands in Bratislava have tried to be more like the Vienna market it seems – by selling lots of garbage from China. I’m grateful that there are still so many local crafts in the Bratislava Christmas market, however. It’s a neat place to do Christmas shopping.

    There are great aspects of both the Vienna and the Bratislava markets, but I generally prefer the Bratislava markets because they are less expensive and filled with more delicious tastes and smells. Nonetheless, it’s fun to travel to another country to visit their Christmas market, so I still go each year whenever I can.

    Thanks for your comment. Do you have a favorite Christmas market out there?

    Allan

  • This is wonderful article, I am posting it on my facebook. I wish american markets had similar foods, but apart for polish sausage, forget it :(((( Maybe fried dough, that could possibly pass for langos, but they put sugar on it, where is the wonderful garlic butter and cheese and tartar sauce?
    However, I think you should stop calling ciganska pecienka, gypsy liver. I do believe slovaks translate it that way, but it’s definitely wrong translation. Pecienka and pecen are two different things. Pecienka is basically roast, pecen is liver, but lot of young slovaks, don’t know difference anymore, because they call pecen pecienka at home. I remember doing the same for many many years, until my mother pointed out, that pecen isn’t really pecienka. So I think, it wouldn’t be bad if you called it gypsy roast, and corrected slovaks for translated it wrong, but they might bite off your head :))) After all it’s my way and no other way.

  • Tatiana,
    Thank you for the comment. Thank you, as well, for sharing it on Facebook.

    You ask a great question. Where is the Langos? I’m thinking that your new Christmas time hobby should be opening up Langos stands all over the U.S. at Christmas markets. I don’t think you should cover it with “tartar sauce” though. It has too negative of a connotation in the U.S., I think. I think you should come up with another name like “Hungarian cream” or “a savory homemade blend of relish and assorted spices in a creamy base.” I once read that no one was eating the “Chinese gooseberry” until it was renamed.

    Thank you, again.
    Allan

  • Thanks for reposting this article, Allan !! The picture of the various strudels is So Tantalizing !! I am eyeing the plum/poppyseed ones on the ends. Just seeing pics of the vianočné trhy in Slovakia brings more spirit to the holidays.

    Thanks for keeping my recipe for Zazvorniky !! I hope you make some again to share for this holiday season !! Like you say……there’s no way but home-made !!

  • Cynthia,
    Thanks for the comment. I still haven’t gotten around to making an article about your Zavorniky recipe. The photos are all ready. Some writing is done. I just need to sit down and lay everything out. One day it’ll happen!

    Allan

  • Allan, I think you are right, I don’t know about covering all US, but I live in SC, and Langos is fried, so it got to be a great hit. And you are so right about tartar sauce. Americans put mayonnaise on absolutely everything, including banana sandwiches (what I find totally gross) so why they are so scared of tartar sauce? Who said it only can go on fish. I know for a fact that french, masters of all cuisines, use tartar sauce on other than fish. It might have something to do with the fact, that american tartar sauce ain’t that good, even though I did find quite a good ones in few seafood restaurants, but it’s quite rare.

  • Allen,
    I don’t have time to even read it all, but whenever I do it’s enjoyable . There’s a lot I would like to share with you (being a native Slovak), but it’s too time consuming. Please, keep writing! My Christmas dishes (eaten on Christmas Eve 12/24) are Oplatky s medom a cesnakom, Kapustnica s hubami a klobasou, pstruh s chlebom a torta. Obycajne peciem kugluf na ranjky k mlieku. My mother always insisted that everything that evening gets eaten out of one plate. You had to finish all your soup to get a serving of fish. Then you had to clean your plate for some opekance, etc. I have to ske her for the explanation though. She always fried her carp and served it with a simple potatoe salad. That was the carp that used to swim in the bathtub the night before.

  • re: 52% Slivovica – “plum brandy”. No such thing as plum brandy. It is a plum spirit unto itself. The process of making sliwowitz (if you want a anglicised/germanized jiddish sounding name) is nothing like a brandy ;). Semantics, but still…

  • In Germany, the holidays are all about the decorations. However, some people
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    You need to pick something that is classy as well as
    conveys how much you love him or her.

  • […] shut down leaving their fans to lament that they will likely have to wait another 11 months for the delicacies of the Christmas market.  While plenty of delicacies are made at home, there’s just something about the intense […]

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