The Aspic and the Frog

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Mimosa 010“Blinks or trembling, like the frog in the Miskolc meat jellyhas come into common usage in Hungary. Since 2000 Miskolc (the 2d biggest town of Hungary in the East) is the place to go to enjoy this treat (hopefully without the frog)!

Kocsonya alias Aspic plate is usually prepared in late fall and winter by boiling (otherwise undesirable) pork pieces with vegetables and spices, skimming off (some of) the fat and leaving the broth to cool into a jelly dotted with juicy meat. It’s consumed cold with thick slices of fresh, white bread and with horseradish– for which Miskolc also happens to be famous. And what is the story behind of this festival?

“One day in the last century a truck driver stopped at a Hungarian inn called The Hungarian Cavalry between Budapest and Miskolc. Since he was very hungry he ordered an aspic meat plate. The inn owner was happened to be a sexy-curvy woman no wonder that she was nicknamed the “Foxy Cathy”. Thus she went down to the cellar and in no time she returned with a huge plate of meat jelly, richly bestewed with the Hungarian sweet and hot paprika powder. The driver started to eat with a ravenous appetite. He fell to his food and wanted to taste first the meat which protruted from the middle of the dish. But when he stuck in it, he immediatelly dropped down the fork with a great shock and beckoned Cathy: my dear, look there are eyes in my jelly and ogling!
– Cathy checked the plate over his head and what she saw was a huge, stocky frog frozen in the jelly up to its waist. It was in a desperate position looked like as if it was asking for help. – He had a bad luck! – commented Cathy the mishap of the frog with a smile then she grabbed the jelly meat plate and put it into the oven, heated it up a bit and the frog was released”.

Hence the Aspic-Jelly Festival, complete with culinary contests, concerts and a street fair (with fairgoers in frog costumes!) started in 2000. There are some local aspic specialties in 40 varieties, while you laugh at jesters and other festival funnymen, listen to chansons or brass bands, and then dress up and attend the Kocsonya-Aspic Ball!

You could combine a trip to this nowhere-else-in-the-world festival with a dip into the hot-springs Cave Baths at Miskolc-Tapolca, also something not found anywhere else…

History of the Jelly plate

Aspic is a dish in which ingredients are set into a gelatin made from a meat stock or consommé. When cooled, stock that is made from meat congeals because of the natural gelatin found in the meat. The stock can be clarified with egg whites, and then filled and flavored just before the aspic sets. Almost any type of food can be set into aspics. Most common are meat pieces, fruits or vegetables. Aspics are usually served on cold plates so that the gel will not melt before being eaten. A meat jelly that includes cream is called a chaud-froid.

Nearly any type of meat can be used to make the gelatin: pork, beef, veal, chicken, turkey, or fish. The aspic may need additional gelatin in order to set properly. Veal stock provides a great deal of gelatin; in making stock, veal is often included with other meat for that reason. In Hungary it is also popular to make fish consommés. They usually have too little natural gelatin, so the fish stock may be double-cooked or supplemented. Since fish gelatin melts at a lower temperature than gelatins of other meats, fish aspic is more delicate and melts more readily in the mouth.

By the Middle Ages at the latest, cooks had discovered that a thickened meat broth could be made into a jelly. A detailed recipe for aspic is found in Le Viandier, written in or around 1375.

In the early 19th century, Marie-Antoine Carême created chaud froid in France. Chaud froid means “hot cold” in French, referring to foods that were prepared hot and served cold. Aspic was used as a chaud froid sauce in many cold fish and poultry meals. The sauce added moisture and flavor to the food. Carême invented various types of aspic and ways of preparing it. Aspic, when used to hold meats, prevents them from becoming spoiled. The gelatin keeps out air and bacteria, keeping the cooked meat fresh.

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