Yummy Hungarian Fermented Cucumber Recipe

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Pickled food is an integral part of Hungarian gastronomy. Throughout history Hungarians have been in the habit of making jars of pickled vegetables (any kind) during vegetable-season, so we had vegetables to add to our meals all year round. It is just as stapled for the Hungarian identity as a good goulash soup or a nice plate of lecso, the Hungarian ratatouille.

Summer in Hungary starts with pickles

In Hungary the fermented cucumber (kovászos uborka) season starts when the first summer rays arrive in balconies or windows of people. Sunshine and warm weather are necessary to prepare these delicious fermented pickles.

When I was a child my granny prepared this type of pickles in a 5-litre-jar, which provided a large enough volume for the entire family. I remember that she and my grandfather were a fan of drinking the salty liquid that remained in the jar after eating all the pickles. This liquid is super delicious and refreshing in the heat wave when it’s ice-cold coming straight from the fridge.


  • 2-2,5 kilograms of cucumber (small or medium size kirby gherkins)
  • bunch of dills
  • 3-4 slices of yeast bread
  • few cloves of garlic
  • salt
  • cumin

How to prepare

  1. Wash the gherkins in cold water and scrub them if necessary.
  2. Cut off the two ends of each cucumber.
  3. Taste to make certain that it is not bitter.
  4. Slit them lengthwise, but do not cut them through.
  5. Wash a 5-liter glass jar.
  6. Boil 2 liters of salted water in a degreased pot.
  7. Place 1-2 slices of yeast bread in the jar.
  8. Top it with fresh dill, cumin and cloves of garlic,
  9. Layer the gherkins standing upright, tight to each other.
  10. Finish the filling of the jar with more dill and a slice or two of the bread.
  11. Pour the cooled salted water into the jar to cover the gherkins.
  12. Cover the jar with a small plate or aluminum foil to keep the bugs out.
  13. Keep the jar in a sunny, but not too hot spot for 3-4 days.

The gherkins are ready when the color changes to a yellow green, the taste is crunchy and still a bit tart. Discard the bread, remove the gherkins and strain the fermentation water. Then place the pickles in small jars or bowls and cover them with the sieved liquid. Pickles will keep for 2 weeks in the fridge.

Eat with roasted meats and stews. It also goes well with the cult summer “beach food” aka hake at a pool side. Bon Appétit!

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