Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Wow - what a reaction!

Visitors and stall holders (not to mention the organisers) were all delighted with the market held yesterday. A fantastic atmosphere, people glad to see old friends and to meet new ones, an exchange of products and ideas, a chance to taste foods and wines from some of the top winemakers - and of course meet the people who put their time and energy into creating their products. Not to mention the live music throughout provided by Agyagbanda who got both children and adults to dance.

And the first post market article is already up (in Hungarian). You can see some great photos.

It was the first market, and so obviously there are many lessons to be learned. Today we will sit down to discus how we can play our part in making this new tradition even better, even more fun and even more successful for all. We will certainly invite more food producers. The baker, health certificate in hand will be able to join us with fresh bakery goods - including the national favourite túrós battyú (sweet cottage cheese pocket) and other delights. A woman from the next town who will bring rétes, the Hungarian strudel, commonly made with poppy seeds, apple and my favourite, sour cherry. Another local fave is the oven-baked kényer lángos, the Hungarian pizza! The toppings will come from the market too - a selection from the superb cheeses and meats on offer. Just like Mum who told of the "Best Piemaker" who bought the cheese from another stallholder on the Castlefield market and made what Mum called the most delicious cheese and onion pie she'd ever eaten. Now Mum is an experienced pie taster and a lover of the good old cheese 'n onion delicacy, so she should know...

Talking of cheeses, the next market (13th May) will be centred around this fabulous food and we will have new arrivals next time as the guru of the Hungarian cheese revival, Enikő Balla, will bring her goat cheese and the organic Gonda farm of Erdőbénye their sheep cheese, as they will have more milk to work with. Hopefully also a lovely woman who keeps sheep who, when I asked her in January if she could come, said they were thinking of selling their animals as it was hard to find a market for her cheese. I met her at the Sárospatak market on Saturday, selling her fresh cheese, and she said she'd love to come. Did the market play a part in her deciding not to sell? Well partly, yes, it did And I'm delighted as she takes great care of her animals (who graze in fresh pastures by the Bodrog river), making delicious fresh cheese perfect just with a little salt and pepper, and spring greens (tender spring onions or bear ramsons is my suggestion).

My cheese-making friend Ildi makes a whole range from plain to herby (including chili and summer savoury, basil and garlic), smoked naturally cured in the smoke house, and even mozzarella and paranyica/parenica. The latter takes the art of handcraft one step further as slices of the basic cheese are heated and folded many times to give a distinctive texture that means the cheese becomes stringy, not unlike mozzarella - great fun can be had unwinding it - and the children have even been known to have competitions about who can eat to the middle first. Ildi has said she is willing to demonstrate the art of paranyica making, so people can see one step back into the food making, and maybe even try their own hand at the craft. She has long wanted to try the mozzarella with the horn of plenty mushroom we picked last year, and since a gastro friend recommended it would be better warmed, we hope the restaurant/gastroblogger will find a way of preparing this. The film will probably be about cheese preparation to give people another glimpse into the wonderful world of the holy cow, and of course, sheep and goat too! And will Camilla maybe joining us too. A hand-fed lamb who is incredibly friendly - and who has even had a trip up to the Füzer Castle! Please let us know if you are a cheese specialist - or know one... a chef, journalist, cheese lover, and if you have any ideas

Another part of our cheese extravangza (and May is a perfect time for cheese with the plentiful milk around after the birth of the new generation) will be cheese and wine together. The classic pairing. that the so many of us enjoy. What do the winemakers have in mind as favourites for their wines? Well, join us to find out. There will be another wine tasting in parallel with the market - and many of the best have shown their intention to join us, as well as their support for the market. The title for the tasting will be released next week.

Other sausage and cured meat producers have already said they will be at the next market alongside the delightful older couple who raise their own mangalica pigs (the traditional Hungarian swine, smaller and hairier like so many old breeds!), and the kényerlángos (Hungarian pizza) will have toppings fresh from the market - so the circles of business are already rippling out. We hope to have more vegetable growers too and, in order to make this happen, I will be speaking to the local authority in charge of issuing the papers people need and, along with Tourist Information girl we hope to encourage the most local of locals to join us with the produce from their gardens.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Why an artisan market in Tokaj-Hegyalja?

Well, the idea started with a conversation in the Arany Kaviár in Budapest a couple of years ago and has been developed into a fully-fledged market about to start this weekend, the first regular market of its kind to be held in Tokaj-Hegyalja. It is guided by a team of women passionate about local food and handcrafts who wish to ensure that consumers (you and me) can regularly meet the producers of quality products produced locally with care and love. Markets provide an alternative form of shopping for people disillusioned with mass-produced food and other goods to access local products direct from their maker and to find out more about how they were actually made, re-establishing the traditional link. They also ensures a stable outlet for producers, meaning they do not have to travel far to sell their wares and, in the grander scheme, allows more money to remain within the local economy.

And what about the producers themselves? Well, over 40 will join us for the first market and new applicants are appearing daily! News spread fast on the grapevine! Small producers of high quality food and non-food products, artisans who take great care in making the best they can, usually from their own or local materials. There will be cheese (cow, sheep and goat), cured meats and sausages, honey, oils, vinegars (from Tokaj wines too), spelt and other bakery goods, organic foods, jams, syrups and hopefully home-dried fruits too. But maybe we'll have to wait for the new season...

Craftsmen and women will bring their ceramics, hand-carved wooden objects and toys (and a swing too if the weather is fine), felt, embroidery, jewellery, designer clothes, leatherwork, wrought iron, and - of course this is the Zemplén after all, home to some of the finest oak barrels in the world - barrels too.

As you can see a fine display of the creative locals ready to show their wares to you and others.

We have received many messages and gestures of support and encouragement by those delighted to see the first shoots of a venture for the community smaller and wider. We have been delighted with the response from the artisans who have come forward in ever increasing numbers to participate in what promises to be a fun and exciting meeting of minds and hearts. The authorities have also been extremely helpful in setting up the market - and the local waste management company offered 3 selective bins for the rubbish. All of their own accord, they rang back to say that actually they felt this fitted better with the spirit of the market! How right they are.

To add to the true spirit of the fair, we have invited a popular local folk band who will play throughout, as well as holding a couple of dance houses for children (though I'm sure enthusiastic adults can also join in!). There will be a film showing too and the opportunity to explore the vineyards, climb to the top of the estate and enjoy the fabulous view of the Toka Hill, out over the Great Hungarian Plain and round to the historic centre of Mád. We suggest kite enthusiasts bring along their kites to try out the flying at the top where the air is always moving (that is one of the factors in the estate being an excellent site for aszú development on the grapes). Older locals have told that this was always a site where people came to fly! So another tradition to be revived?

And naturally no fair would be complete without food and Eszter Fűszeres, the gastroblogger from Erdőbénye and the Sárga Borház restaurant on the estate will be preparing delicious dishes. The Sárga Borház will be roasting a lamb, true seasonal fare and local too - from the Gonda organic farm in Erdőbenye not far away.

Obviously Tokaj-Hegyalja region is famous first and foremost for its legendary wines, the Aszú wines. Thus there is a parallel event to be held in the impressive rooom above the Sárga Borház restuarant, a Furmint tasting to which we have invited ten of the top winemakers. This is the first of a series and on each of the market days there will be the chance to taste a spectrum of the best wines on offer and find out for yourself just why Tokaj-Hegyalja and its wines are so famous. A true community spirit.

Come along and join us - and experience Tokaj-Hegyalja! Look forward to meeting you.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

We have the logo

We hope you like it too.

The first market will be next week on Sunday 15th April and, as well as music and a dance house, there will be a Furmint tasting, the opportunity to explore the Disznókő estate, fly your kite and, of course, discover some of the local gastronomic treasures of the region along with local handcrafts.