With summer passed, although leaving many bright thoughts with us, autumn is here. Sun-filled early mornings still exist, exuding a slightly cooler touch with a sharp finish to follow. I look forward to each season with great anticipation, just in the day was to be spent at Grandma’s which meant one thing: Grandma’s home made stew or gulyás soup in a kettle! I gave a try to make it this weekend with the help of some male family members and eating this delicious rich soup with some fresh home made slice of bread we felt that now the autumn can come.
History of the Gulyás
Gulyas is a soup or stew of meat and vegetables, seasoned with paprika and other spices such cumin seeds and bay leave. Originating from the medieval Kingdom of Hungary, goulash is also a popular meal in Central Europe, Scandinavia and Southern Europe. Its origin traces back to the 9th century to stews eaten by Hungarian shepherds. Back then, the cooked and flavored meat was dried with the help of the sun and packed into bags produced from sheep’s stomachs, needing only water to make it into a meal. It is one of the national dishes of Hungary and a symbol of the country!
The word gulyás originally meant only “herdsman”, but over time the dish became goulash meat – that is to say, a meat dish which was prepared by herdsmen. Today, gulyás refers both to the herdsmen, and to the soup. From the Middle Ages until well into the 19th century, the Puszta was the home of massive herds of cattle. They were driven, in their tens of thousands, to Europe’s biggest cattle markets in Moravia, Vienna, Nuremberg and Venice. The herdsmen made sure that there were always some cattle that had to be slaughtered along the way, the flesh of which provided them with meat for the soup.
In the Hungarian cuisine, the traditional “goulash soup” is cooked in kettle under open fire by cattle herders and stockmen. Garlic, caraway seed, bell pepper, and wine are optional. These dishes can be made as soups rather than stews. Excepting paprikás, the Hungarian stews do not rely on a flour or roux for thickening.
Goulash can be prepared from beef, veal, pork, or lamb (but in Hungary the lamb meat is not so popular). Typical cuts include the shank, shin, or shoulder; as a result, goulash derives its thickness from tough, well-exercised muscles rich in collagen, which is converted to gelatin during the cooking process. Meat is cut into chunks, seasoned with salt, and then browned with sliced onion in a pot with oil or lard. Paprika is added, along with water or stock, and the goulash is left to simmer. After cooking a while, garlic, whole or ground caraway seed, or soup vegetables like carrot, parsley root, peppers (green or bell pepper) and celery may be added. Other herbs and spices could also be added, especially chili pepper, bay leaf. Diced potatoes may be added, since they provide starch as they cook, which makes the goulash thicker and smoother. A small amount of white wine or wine vinegar may also be added near the end of cooking to round the taste. Goulash may be served with small egg noodles.
There are many goulash variations in Hungary: such as Gulyás à la Székely, in which the final result is a thicker and richer goulash, similar to a stew, originally made with three kinds of meat, it is called Székely gulyás after a Hungarian writer, journalist and archivist József Székely.
The second popular gulyas soup is the mock or fake gulyas in which: you should reduce the potatoes and add sauerkraut and sour cream. Substitute beef bones for the meat and add vegetables.
In winter people like the bean gulyás: in which they omit the potatoes and the caraway seeds because they use kidney beans instead.
At the case of Csángó Gulyás: you should add sauerkraut instead of pasta and potatoes, and finally at the “Betyár Gulyás” (cowboy or outlaw Gulyas) it is used smoked beef or smoked pork for meat (it can be made with mutton flavoring with red wine).