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The Sunlit Secret: Exploring the Unconventional Fermentation of Hungarian Pickles

The unconventional way of fermenting Hungarian pickles

Hungarian pickles are a unique and delicious twist on pickled vegetables. Unlike traditional pickling methods that rely on darkness and specific brine recipes, Hungarian pickles have their own unconventional way of fermentation. In this article, we will explore the fascinating process of making Hungarian pickles and discover the secret ingredient that sets them apart.

Understanding Pickling and Fermentation

Before we dive into the unconventional method of making Hungarian pickles, let’s briefly understand the concept of pickling and fermentation. Pickling is a preservation technique that involves immersing food in a brine solution and allowing it to ferment. Fermentation is a natural process in which microorganisms, such as bacteria, convert sugars into acids or alcohol. This conversion not only enhances the flavor and texture of the food, but also extends its shelf life.

The two methods of pickling

Traditionally, there are two main methods of pickling: the brine method and the wild/natural method. The brine method uses a combination of water, salt, and vinegar to create the pickling solution. The wild/natural method, on the other hand, relies solely on salt to draw moisture from the food and create a brine. Both methods require darkness for the fermenting bacteria to thrive, as exposure to light can inhibit the fermentation process.

The sunlit secret of Hungarian pickles

Hungarian pickles, however, take a completely different approach. These pickles are made during the warmer months, taking advantage of the sunny conditions and higher temperatures. Surprisingly, sunlight plays a crucial role in the fermentation process of Hungarian pickles. Instead of keeping the pickling jars in the dark, the best place to leave them is on a windowsill, fully exposed to sunlight.

Ingredients for Hungarian pickles

To make Hungarian pickles, you need a few key ingredients. These include pickling salt or kosher salt (known for its pickling properties), medium-sized cucumbers, fresh dill stems, garlic cloves, and distilled water. These ingredients are very similar to those used in traditional pickling methods. However, there is one unique ingredient that sets Hungarian pickles apart: bread.

The role of bread in Hungarian pickles

Bread serves as a crucial component in the fermentation of Hungarian pickles. It acts as a food source for the lactobacilli needed to start the pickling process. The bread provides an initial food source and creates ideal conditions for the food-grade bacteria to thrive. This process is similar to the fermentation of kimchi and sauerkraut, which also rely on lactobacilli, but without the addition of bread.
The lactobacilli produced during the fermentation process feed on the natural sugars in the cucumbers. As a byproduct, lactic acid is produced, which gives Hungarian pickles their tangy, acidic taste. This lactic acid also acts as a natural preservative, inhibiting the growth of spoilage bacteria and extending the shelf life of the pickles.

The delicious result

After about three days of fermentation, Hungarian pickles are ready to enjoy. They can be paired with rye bread and goat butter for a delicious snack, or incorporated into dishes such as kovászosuborka leves, a cold soup. The unique flavor profile of Hungarian pickles, with its tangy and sour notes, adds a delightful twist to any meal.
In conclusion, Hungarian pickles offer a fascinating twist on traditional pickling methods. Their unconventional fermentation process, which includes sunlight and bread as a key ingredient, sets them apart from other pickled vegetables. Whether you’re a pickling enthusiast or just curious about different culinary techniques, trying Hungarian pickles is a must. So why not embark on a taste adventure and try this unconventional method? Your taste buds will thank you!


Hungarian pickles are distinguished from other pickling methods by their unconventional fermentation process, which takes place in sunlight rather than darkness. This unique approach, along with the addition of bread as an ingredient, gives Hungarian pickles their distinctive flavor and texture.

Why do Hungarian pickles ferment in sunlight?

Hungarian pickles are fermented in sunlight because the warmer temperatures and sunny conditions encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria. Sunlight provides an ideal environment for the fermentation process to take place, resulting in tangy and flavorful pickles.

What is the role of bread in the fermentation of Hungarian pickles?

Bread serves as a crucial component in the fermentation of Hungarian pickles. It acts as a food source for the lactobacilli needed to start the pickling process. The bread provides an initial food source and promotes the growth of food-grade bacteria, resulting in the tangy, acidic flavor characteristic of Hungarian pickles.

How long does it take to ferment Hungarian pickles?

The fermentation process for Hungarian pickles typically takes about three days. During this time, lactobacilli feed on the sugars in the pickles, producing lactic acid as a byproduct. This acidification process gives the pickles their tangy flavor and helps preserve them.

Can I use vinegar instead of bread to ferment Hungarian pickles?

While vinegar is commonly used in traditional pickling methods, Hungarian pickles rely on the natural fermentation process triggered by lactobacilli. Therefore, bread is a crucial ingredient for Hungarian pickles, as it provides the necessary nutrients for the bacteria to thrive. Using vinegar instead of bread would result in a different flavor profile and fermentation process.

What are some serving suggestions for Hungarian pickles?

Hungarian pickles can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. They are often paired with rye bread and goat butter for a delicious snack. They can also be incorporated into dishes such as the cold soup called kovászosuborka leves. The tangy-sour flavor of Hungarian pickles adds a delightful twist to sandwiches, salads and charcuterie boards.

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