Pig to plate, all on view at Hungary sausage fest

Mon Oct 31, 2011 10:10am EDT
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By Michael Roddy

BEKESCSABA, Hungary (Reuters) - The annual Bekescsaba Sausage Festival is the place to taste and find out secrets of Hungary's spicy kolbasz sausages, but strict vegetarians and anyone who sticks to the rule that it's best not to ask how a sausage was made might want to steer clear.

From butchering a pig, complete with blowtorch for searing the bristles, to grinding the meat, mixing it with spices and squeezing it into long, filmy sausage casings that fit just so over the nozzle of a purpose-built stuffing machine, pig to plate is on display with little left to the imagination.

"Any foreigner who ever once tasted the Hungarian sausage will always ask me: 'That sausage, can you please bring me that sausage again?'," said Gyula Bodrogi, a Hungarian actor and member of the jury that judges the best of the day's kolbasz.

And people do love it. The 15th year of the four-day festival in a rural area of southeastern Hungary, near the Romanian border, drew an estimated 100,000 visitors over the end-October holiday weekend, winding up Monday.

While others celebrated Hallowe'en and All Saints Day, many Hungarians and Romanians spent time well-fed at what organizers say is the biggest eating and drinking event in eastern and central Europe -- a food-focused flipside to Germany's beery Oktoberfest.

People come for the weather, which this year was sunny and mild, for music from local and regional rock and folk bands, for dancing, crafts, amusement-park rides, beer, wine and the ever-present, potent and often homemade "palinka" fruit brandy.

But most of all they come for the kolbasz ("sausage," in Hungarian), made according to a century-old recipe with pork, paprika, garlic, caraway seeds, but also various tricks of the trade, and available in sizes and shapes from finger-sized to monsters more than a meter (yard) long, ranging in texture from dry to moist and in spiciness from mild to mouth-destroying.

Visitors also get to watch and cheer on about 500 roughly 10-person teams making the kolbasz from scratch, competing in a good-natured, carnival-like, palinka-fueled atmosphere.   Continued...

<p>Competitors clean a slaughtered pig which will be used to make sausages during Europe's biggest sausage festival in Bekescsaba, 240 km (149 miles) southeast of Budapest, October 29, 2011. REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh</p>