Utopenec: a Czech pub classic
Sausage pickled with onions in a sweet-and-sour vinegar liquid is a popular Czech cold dish. At many Czech pubs, it is traditionally served with beer. When it comes to homemade “utopenec”, it is said that every family has its special recipe.
“Utopenec” or “drowned man” is a beloved Czech speciality, as can be seen from the dozens of recipes available on the internet. Although the marinade and seasonings differ a bit with each recipe, the basic ingredients remain the same – a quality sausage with onions. The addition of hot peppers, pickles, or sauerkraut is optional. Another variety is the “quick utopenec”, which matures faster.
The legendary dish is believed to have been invented by a pub owner and miller from the Beroun district in Central Bohemia called Šamánek. Refrigerators were not commonplace in his day, and Šamánek’s original goal was to preserve sausages for his customers for long periods. The result was the famous “utopenec”, which can be loosely translated as “drowned man” or “the drowned one”. The name of the recipe was supposedly inspired by Šamánek’s untimely death by drowning while attempting to fix the wheel on his mill. The simple fact that the sausages are “drowning” in liquid might also be a likely explanation. Whatever the truth, the meal has been a staple of Czech cuisine for over one hundred years.
What is the typical Czech dish? Is it schnitzel, goulash, svíčková (marinated sirloin), or buchty (buns)? What are the defining traits of Czech culinary heritage?