The fourth Pálinka and Kolbász Festival celebrates the twin Hungarian joys of fruit brandy and sausage Magyar-style in the majestic setting of the Buda Castle, from October 7-10, 2010.
Some 20 pálinka makers and 10 sausage makers will be serving their wares that go together in all their fiery glory. 20 pálinka makers may not sound that many, but given the potency of this expressive eau-de-vie, nobody will be left wanting.
Pálinka is the EU protected name for Hungary’s fruit spirit, and it has made the transition in recent years from firewater to fine delicacy. Hungary is blessed with an abundance of its own indigenous fruit varieties like: kajszibarack, a type of apricot, szatmári szilva, a kind of plum and cigánymeggy, i.e. “Gypsy” sour cherry. If the fruits are not always exclusive to Hungary, then they are often of prime quality, such as raspberries, quince, elderberry and the black fruits.
You’ll be staggered at the different types of fruit used to make pálinka and how their character comes across when you sniff and sip it. Since 2002 pálinka must be made 100% from fruit or marc (pomace). When such quality fruit or marc (the latter is used to make grappa like törkölypálinka), is distilled with the proper equipment by quality-minded producers, the resulting pálinka delivers pure aromas and flavours in abundance to rival any spirit.
Top producers present at the festival include Bestillo, noted for its Gönci apricot pálinka, Matheus, whose distiller Csaba Máté won best newcomer in the international category at the 2009 Destillata awards in Vienna, Márton és Lányai, Brill and Rézangyal.
While other distilleries manufacture their products of a different quality fruit year by year, Rézangyal, in common with whisky blenders, says it can insure the usual flavours and quality continuously through blending and maturation. The company, which buys in pálinkas from various sources, also adds honey to some of its products, a move frowned upon by some distillers. Rézangyal co-owner Róbert Maros notes that honey has been used in traditional pálinkas for centuries and is very popular. “We see the use of honey with 100% fruit as a natural bridge into the world of pálinka,” he says, acknowledging that according to the Hungarian pálinka law such a spirit is not considered pálinka.
Spicy Hungarian sausage (kolbász) is the natural mate of pungent pálinka. Sausage making is becoming an art form in Hungary. The nation’s most emblematic ingredient, paprika, takes the flavour of plain old pork sausage to hot, new levels. Kolbász can come cooked, but it’s in the cured and dry form you’ll see the most variety.
Types to look out for: csabai, which comes smoked and combines sweet and hot paprika with garlic, gyulai which is also smoked and quite spicy, but also comprises bacon and csípős which will knock your socks off. Also make a beeline for sausage made from Hungary’s indigenous Mangalica (mangalitsa) pig. With its high fat content it’s ideal for sausage making and has a smooth, deep flavour.
Entry to the festival costs Ft 1,500 per day, which includes a tasting glass. The forecast is for mild and sunny weather. What’s not to like?