Early Spring is the time when a dense green thicket covers a few of Hungary’s forests, but without creating a total canopy. Millions of leaves make up this thicket, giving off the unmistakable scent of onions, a scent which signifies that Spring has sprung.
Translated by Tamás Vaski
Bear’s garlic (medvehagyma) season has invited people into forests for centuries, a tradition which has not waned, but in fact bloomed into popularity recently. This plant’s magic is also hidden in the fact that one can only access fresh bear’s garlic around springtime, meaning it is one of Hungary’s most seasonal plants. The name is not unique to Hungary: the Latin Allium Ursinum already has the word bear (ursus) in it, causing it to be present in multiple languages. It is appropriately known as Bärlauch in German, ajo de oso in Spanish, and aglio orsino in Italian.
The nomenclature of this plant understandably comes from bears which, upon waking up from their winter hibernation, require immediate sustenance. Bear’s garlic is essentially their first meal of the new year, since they have immediate access to its abundance of vitamins and minerals. Hungarians take this plant one step further, creating bear’s garlic pogácsa, which might just be one of the most sensational creations to stem from the plant. In this form it is truly a Hungarian dish, which it would be a sin not to eat warm!
To help in acquiring ingredients, Bors has laid out specific areas with bear’s garlic around Hungary, including Mecsek, Bakony, Zala County, and even the garden of Festetics Castle in Fejér County. It is important to remember if you do decide to go picking bear’s garlic on public property, that a maximum of two kilos can be taken, leave some for the bears!
Bear’s Garlic Pogácsa
-for roughly 28 smaller pieces of pogácsa-
- 120 g butter or margarine
- 1 egg yolk
- 180 g sour cream
- 1 heaped teaspoon of salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 250 g flour
- 3 g dry yeast
- A small bundle of bear’s garlic
- 1 egg to spread over the pogácsa
- Flour for stretching the dough
- Grated cheese (optional)
Mix the salt, room temperature butter, egg yolk, sour cream, sugar, and yeast into the flour, then knead it all together. Let the dough rise in a warm area for about 40-60 minutes. If it has risen, begin forming it.
Remove the stem and the thicker, ripening part of the bear’s garlic, then chop it up.
Cover a stretching board with a light coating of flour, and place the soft dough, which should now have risen to twice its size, on top of it. Knead and then spread the dough. Sprinkle the bear’s garlic over it.
The next step is folding. Fold the dough in from the top and from the bottom, then from the right and from the left, so that the folds cover each other, one on top of another. Leave the dough for 20 minutes, then stretch it out and fold it again. Repeat this step one last time.
After the final resting and stretching, the bear’s garlic should be well mixed into the dough and can now be torn up. If you would like to, it is optional to add strips to the top of the dough with a sharp knife, or leave it plain.
Place the pogácsa pieces into a baking sheet lined with baking paper and brush the egg over top of each piece. Sprinkle the pogácsa pieces with grated cheese or leave them as they are. Bake them in an oven, preheated to 200 degrees, for 20-25 minutes, or until their tops and bottoms are well browned. Enjoy!
Photos and featured photo by Péter Csákvári/Hungary Today