Welcome to a Czech pig-slaughtering feast


Welcome to our Czech language course in which we look at words and expressions related to Czech food and cuisine. First of all, I must warn you that today's lesson is not suitable for vegetarians. The reason is that today we take part in a traditional Czech pig-slaughtering feast.

Those are held just before the beginning of lent in villages around the country and it's a time of family get-togethers and celebration.

The Czech word for the event is zabíjaèka. In the word, you can hear the root zabít or to kill.

The interesting thing is that nothing of the pig gets wasted - every bit can be used to make something edible. Apart from the meat - which can be cooked in many different ways: roasted on a spit, boiled in water or fried in breadcrumbs - there are many other pork specialities that are prepared almost exclusively during a pig-slaughtering feast - zabíjaèka.

Let's start with the sausages. Perhaps the favourite are jitrnice. They are the size of a smaller banana and greyish in colour. To make them you need the pig's head, brisket, liver, lungs and other entrails, pork stock, bread, onions, garlic, marjoram, pepper and other seasoning. Everything is cooked, minced and pressed into casings made from clean guts. (I think I would be much happier without all that information). Nevertheless, this particular type of sausage - jitrnice - tastes very nice, usually served with sauerkraut and boiled potatoes.

The other traditional sausage is called jelito. It is bigger than jitrnice and has a dark brown colour. You need pretty much the same ingredients in terms of meat, and on top of that boiled peeled barley and a bucket of pork blood - yes, you heard me well. It is actually quite similar to black pudding.

Another delicacy is tlaèenka - it could be compared to Scottish haggis, only it's made from pork meat. You need both fat and lean meat, the trotters, the heart, tongue and liver, the skin and seasoning. All is boiled, some parts are cut into small pieces and others minced, and everything is then stuffed into a cleaned pork stomach which is again boiled for another three hours. It is served sliced and tastes great with fresh onions, vinegar and pepper.

Another traditional dish is ovar - that's basically a pork head or knee boiled in water that is served with horseradish or mustard and bread. The water in which you boiled the meat together with seasoning, garlic and onions makes a nice soup - just add peeled barley and that's it. There is also a dark variety of the soup - zabíjaèková polévka, you just add pork blood and boil again.

And we could go on and on as there are many more traditional pork dishes served at a zabíjaèka. Next week, I promise, we will be looking at something much lighter and healthier. Till then dobrou chu» - bon appetit!