After living in big cities for 15 years, I still cannot get used to the extraordinary human way of life in our village in Northwestern Hungary, even though it has been already 4 years since we moved in and I cannot be enough grateful for the kindness that we are experiencing every day.
One day, our neighbour, Marika néni gives us a beautiful summer squash, then a courgette, because Áron replaced a tile on her roof. Ani surprises us with savoury scones, ‘pogácsa’, and another time with home-made black pudding, or pickles, and we try to thank them with apples and cherries. Marika “Vajas” gives me a bouquet of lilies of the valley when I pass by walking my dog, I bring a bouquet of wild flowers for Teri néni, because I know they are her favourites. I thank Ili for the big bowl of red currants with home-made jam, which she immediately repays it with another jam she made from black currants. I give Virág a box of sour cherries, because I know she loves fruits, in return I receive goat cream cheese that she made, because she knows that I love that. I give Hédi lilac syrup and she surprises me with a bowl of raspberries, which seems like a gift from heaven. We receive a basket of cucumbers from Tibor and Marika, and I can pick dill on their field as well, on the top of it, I get the recipe of the perfect fermented cucumbers, a typical Hungarian summer side dish.
This selfless give-and-take recently seems to grow outside of the villages’s border as well. I order a plate from Miskolc in Northern Hungary to complete my grandmother’s old plate set and I receive four pieces instead of one.
‘ I made a mistake, because I have already sold that plate on the photo’, apologises the seller, ‘so I packed all plates that have similar pattern and hoped to compensate your disappointment with this little surprise…’
Usual weekdays pass by this way, and in this context community gets a real meaning. Love boxes are going around hand by hand, in different forms depending on the season and therefore we all become a little richer than before, regardless the fact we gave or received.
In order to make this love-box circle even wider, I share this fermented cucumber recipe with you with the permission of Marika, in hope to bring you also some joy and refreshment into a hot, summer day…
Textiles I use for photography are hand-woven and botanical dyed, made by @textil_szakacsniki
Marika’s advises, AKA secrets of the perfect fermented cucumbers:
- The key to avoid soft cucumbers is to add enough salt. The salty water you pour over the cucumbers may taste a bit too salty, that’s OK. Following this advise I estimated the amount of salt and water in this recipe. If you use smaller, or larger jar, you can adapt the recipe with the same ratio.
- Use normal table salt instead of sea salt.
- Cucumbers should be as freshly picked as possible.
- Cucumbers with thick skin should get soft more quickly.
- Some people add a slice of row potato, Marika doesn’t. My mother believes adding sourdough or leavened bread is the best.
- It is recommended to test the cucumbers every day. It might take only one day, or maybe two, depending how high the temperature is. It will soften a little bit while storing in the fridge.
‘Kovászos uborka’/Fermented cucumbers based on my neighbours’ instructions
(For a 1.8 liter jar)
1 kg cucumbers
4-5 garlic cloves
a few dill stalk
1 tablespoon table salt
600 ml warm water
1 slice or heel of day-old bread, preferably leavened or sourdough
Cut off the two ends of the cucumber and make cuts lengthwise on four sides without cutting it until the end, so you can pull it apart, when it is ready.
Place the cucumbers into the jar, along with the garlic cloves and dill. Mix warm water with salt and pour over the cucumbers. Place the piece of bread on top and cover with a piece of plastic foil. Put a plate on top and under the jar, so in case the liquid runs out it will pour into the plate.
Keep the jar in warm, sunny place and check it every day. Fish out one cucumber and taste it. It should be already a bit sour in taste but still crunchy, also because it will soften a bit more in the fridge later. It should be ready in 2-3 days in hot summer weather. Sieve liquid but keep it, take out the cucumbers and wash the jar properly. Put back the cucumbers, fill the jar with the liquid and keep it refrigerated. It goes very well to meat dishes, or even a sandwich, or just without anything else. It is wonderfully refreshing.