Stars poke holes in the black sky. Crickets chirp. A campfire crackles.
A few dear friends sit in a circle, chattering. They laugh until they cry and cry until they laugh.
And, since they’re Hungarian, they’re holding bacon. Giant cubes of bacon. On sticks.
Welcome to Hungarian summer.
Campfire bacon kabobs, a.k.a. Gypsy Bacon (Cigany Szalonna) are an integral part of any Hungarian barbecue. In Planet Barbecue Steven Raichlen states:
There once was a time – perhaps it’s true still – when Hungary had the highest per capita calorie intake of any country in Europe. Lard and Goose fat undoubtedly helped Hungary achieve this distinction, but the real culprit was […] grilled bacon.
Now I know why mom and brother, Damien, always loved to “chew the fat” – literally. Our Hungarian roots all but require it.
Here’s how it works:
1. Buy the biggest piece of rind-on slab bacon you can find. Unsliced. I had to call about 5 butchers before I found it at Perry’s in Tulsa. Even then, they tried to slice it up for me.
2. Cut the bacon into hunks. About 2″ cubed is good. Stick it on a… stick. A skewer is okay too.
3. Slowly roast the bacon over a campfire (or grill). As it renders, drop the drippings onto a slice of rye bread. This is then eaten with various toppings, such as sliced onion, peppers, tomatoes, or radishes. The browned bits of bacon can be shaved off, onto the bread or into a salad.
4. While you wait for the bacon to render, talk about the meaning of life, the joys of the evening, and your hopes for tomorrow. Talk until you yawn. Talk until dawn.
For more pictures of this neat tradition, see Patty’s annual Hungarian family reunion, where they indulge in many a Campfire Bacon Kabob.