When at a Slovak zabijačka (za-bee-yach-ka), a family pig slaughtering, the first food to be cooked is lunch. Without fail, my mother in law makes mozgy, a dish containing the brains and spinal cord.
When planning to blog about zabijačka, I wanted to post exact recipes. This, however, was not possible due to a number of factors, like helping out and taking care of children, but most of all because nobody has any idea of how much of an ingredient they use. If I’m lucky, amounts are given in handfuls, sprinkles, and pours.
“Mami, how much onion did you put in?” I ask.
“Oh, I don’t know, until it looks good. However much the butcher says.” my mother in law answers.
For lunch, everybody stops and sits down around the old table in the basement, where my mother in law is cooking on a wood stove. The children scramble onto the bench, the butcher is given the choicest portion and the most comfortable seat. A huge jar of homemade pickles and sliced bread are set atop the cast off flowered plastic tablecloth for everyone to help themselves to.
After the pig is hung and the organs removed, it is cut down the middle of the spine from top to bottom with a saw. Run a finger down the spine to collect the spinal cord, and scoop out the brains.
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- jaternice: sausages made of rice and organs that you simply pop into the oven to eat for a quick meal. You would never tell there are organs in there.
- tlačenka: head cheese, which is bits of meat, herbs, and garlic held together with gelatin (remember filling those cauldrons with bones?)
- lard and cracklings (and I’ll show you what you can make with the cracklings).
- podbradnik: literally meaning under the chin, it’s basically fat smeared in garlic and paprika.
- black pudding: barley is cooked with broth and blood to a pudding consistency.
- klobasa: Slovak style smoked sausages.
- liver pate
- baked meat, which is supper, although at this point I usually just want a salad.
- 5 med onions
- cooking fat
- 2 kg (4.5 lbs) fatty meat, ground
- spinal cord and brains
- salt, pepper
- 5-6 eggs
- Cut onions roughly, cook on slow with fat until caramelized, about 20 min, in a wide pot.
- Sprinkle on paprika, stir and immediately add ground meat. Paprika quickly burns and turns bitter. Sorry, I don't know how much, but Slovaks use a fair amount. The ground meat is fresh from the pig and can be any part.
- Grind spinal cord and brains, add to pot.
- Add salt, pepper, and caraway to taste.
- When the meat is cooked through, beat 5-6 eggs in a bowl and add to meat mixture, stirring as you pour.
- Serve with fermented vegetables or pickles.