Maybe my ears are a bit fuzzy, but I could have sworn that the Hungarian word for cucumber was ugorka.Yet when I looked online the word I found was “Uborka”. The truth is that I don’t speak Hungarian . My vocabulary consists of 25 or so random words, not enough to say anything meaningful. My parents refused to teach me more–they didn’t want their children speak the defiled tongue of their oppressors though they spoke it all the time themselves. It was their mother tongue even though “mother” was a toxic parent.
In any case, Uborka Salata is one of my favorite all time foods.
My father owned this dish. A typical mid 20th century male he wasn’t usually the family cook. My Mom was but every so often he’d take over her small galley kitchen using a butcher’s knife to slice the cucumbers into rice paper thin rounds. Then came the sweating and squeezing, my father pressing the diaphonous slices with his large hands. Finally he’d lay them in their marinade, an an exquisite sugar, vinegar blend with just a touch of black pepper.On hot days he’d throw in ice cubes so that we could enjoy the salad chilled.
Sadly, my father is gone and so is his recipe. My Mom gave an approximation, a “taste it” admixture which I’ve tweaked for this post. .
Interestingly, there is a sour cream slathered Hungarian cucumber salad. Isuspect that my father’s recipe grew out of the Jewish need for a pareve variation for meat meals. Uborka Salata goes exceedingly well with breaded veal cutlets and chicken paprikas . It’s also a nice alongside salmon.
Uborka Salata or Hungarian Cucumber Salad
5 medium sized cucumbers peeled and sliced thin. Leave some of the peel on to create a zebra stripe effect. (I’m referring to Israeli cukes. For English hothouse cukes, use 2 and peel them completely)
1 small onion
1 tablespoon kosher salt
3 tablespooons cider vinegar
1 and 1/2 tablespoons white sugar (don’t use brown)
1/2 cup water or 3 ice cubes
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika (optional)
Slice the cucumbers into very thin rounds. You can use a food processor or mandoline.
Mix cukes with the salt and leave them to sweat for up to two hours (20 minutes at least )I do this in a colander set over a bowl.
After cucumbers are sweated, squeeze out the excess liquid with your hands and wash to remove the salt.
Add one small onion sliced very thin
Mix sugar, vinegar, black pepper marinade
Add cukes and onion. Add water or ice cubes and refrigerate.
Don’t freeze but this dish can keep for up to 10 days in the fridge. Yum.