Cold Sour Cherry soup, or Hideg Meggyleves, is the quintessential Hungarian summer soup. Made from fresh sour cherries, spices, a touch of sugar and sour cream, you are sure to fall in love with the delicate tartness and slight sweetness found in every chilled bite.
A fruit soup you say? Oh yes they are very common in Hungary. In fact while in Budapest a yogurt elderflower soup and a strawberry soup crossed yours truly’s lips. These summer soups are served mostly as an appetizer and only sometimes as a dessert. It does throw a North American palate for a loop at first but I was hungry for more in no time. This cold sour cherry soup is a bit more tart, making it a great starter dish.
OK so it is taking me way longer than I planned to show more pics of my trip. This is Part 2 and eventually there will be a final Part 3. Let me share with you a few beautiful shots of Budapest. The city is a shinning jewel still waiting for a final polish. This is a country still shaking of its communist shackles.
But it is completely safe and gorgeous. We had a blast and I would really like to go back one day. It is one of my favorite cities ever. I thought the food was better than in Vienna too. Would you not like to come for a visit after looking at these photographs?
My Budapest travel pictures
View of Pest across the Danube from Buda Castle
Fancy dinner at Karpatia: this building was built by Franciscan monks and has been a restaurant since 1877. Grilled catfish steak with paprika served with tagliatelle, sausage, cottage cheese and lecsó (a Hungarian ratatouille). Great list of Hungarian wines. Did you know Hungary is a huge producer of excellent wines?
On the Pest side of the Danube at night, looking onto the Buda Castle and Széchenyi bridge
For breakfast, lunch or snack time, why not try a few open sandwiches?
Electoral poster and communist propaganda poster, Budapest History Museum.
Walking along Andrássy Avenue to City Park, where you will find Heroes’ Square, Vajdahunyad Castle….
…and the Széchenyi thermal bath, the largest bath facility in Europe. It is a very popular and very frequented bath with 3 outdoor pools and 15 indoor pools. Amazing after a long day of sightseeing.
Budapest is a city of markets. The biggest is Nagyvásárcsarnok, or Great Market Hall, opened in 1897. The ground floor is for locals and tourist alike with local produce, sausages galore and paprika. The 1st floor is souvenir shops. There is also a basement and adjoining street but I ran out of time.
Dinner at the charming Kazimir restaurant in the Jewish Ghetto. A local brew and Kedvessy pork medallions with duck liver, porcini sauté and cottage cheese dumplings.
Cold sour cherry soup for Shavuot
One of the main attractions in Budapest is the Dohány Street Synagogue. For better, and unfortunately for very worse, Budapest’s history is strongly marked by WW2 and the Holocaust. I am leaving a series of pictures for the end of the post after the recipe, should you wish to learn more about the darker side of Budapest’s history.
I really wanted my recipe for this post to represent the Hungarian Jews from past, present and future. The cold sour cherry soup accomplishes the goal perfectly. The harvest of sour cherries usually coincides with the Jewish celebration of Shavuot (end of may or beginning of June).
Shavuot celebrates the all-important wheat harvest in the Land of Israel. It also unofficially commemorates the anniversary of the day God gave the Torah to the entire nation of Israel assembled at Mount Sinai.
For this holiday, dairy meals are traditionally consumed. So mix dairy with a seasonal produce: it is no wonder that cold sour cherry soup is a popular dish served during Shavuot. If you want to learn more about Hungarian Jewish food visit this great post.
Not all cherries are created equal
Please note only sour cherries are used to make the cold sour cherry soup, not the sweet one we are familiar with. The first fruit I purchased when I got to Budapest was these small and bright red cherries. I was not sure what variety they were. Once in the market you could see literally mountains of them. Only once I got back home did I realize they were sour cherries. I had visited during the peak of the sour cherry harvest. Had I know I could have made cold sour cherry soup while there.
Now let’s make some cold sour cherry soup! It i still so warm in the northern hemisphere and the southern one is welcoming spring soon. We can all enjoy a delicious bowl of cold sour cherry soup.
Serves 6 to 8 portions
- 4 cups water
- zest of 1/2 lemon, in large strips
- 2 sticks cinnamon
- 2 whole clove buds
- 1 lb sour cherries, pitted
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 cup sour cream
- 2 tbsp flour
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup red wine (optional)
- Bring to a boil the water with lemon zest, cinnamon and cloves in a large pot. Lower heat, then stir in cherries and sugar. Simmer until cherries are tender, about 10 minutes. Take out the lemon zest, cinnamon and cloves.
- Beat salt and flour into the sour cream until smooth. Stir in vigorously one cup of the hot soup.
- Pour the sour cream mixture into the pot and stir very well. Bring to a quick boil, lower heat and simmer for 5 or 6 minutes, until the liquid thickens a bit. Add the wine (optional).
- Remove from heat, cover with lid and leave to cool. Chill the soup completely in the refrigerator, still covered to avoid a skin to form. Serve cold with a dollop of sour cream.
If you find them, use fresh sour cherries. Frozen sour cherries can be used as well, but avoid can or jarred ones.
The Dark Side of Budapest
I rarely get political on the blog but I feel a deep need to inform the rest of the world about Hungary’s modern history. As a child of the 70s I know about Europe’s past but I am no expert, I know the general outlines. Learning the full details of Hungary’s history really shook me, it made it a lot more real. And in a way, things have not changed as much as we think…
Built in 1859, the unusual looking Dohány Street Synagogue is the largest synagogue in Europe. It was part of the Jewish Ghetto, designated by the Nazis during their occupation.
The synagogue complex houses the small but moving Jewish Museum, a memorial and a graveyard. Even if Hungary was in alliance with Germany, many Jews in Europe found refuge in Budapest at the beginning of the Holocaust as it remained untouched. But in 1944 the Jews in Budapest were imprisoned in the ghetto under horrific conditions. More than half of those were sent to concentration camps. The Jewish population of Budapest was reduced from 200,000 to 70,000 in 3 MONTHS. In Hungary, the Jewish population went from 800,000 to 200,000 between 1941 and 1945.
One memorial after another
Many more memorials can be found around the city, such as ‘Shoes on the Danube Bank’ a sculpture of sixty pairs of period shoes which remembers the people (mainly Budapest Jews) shot by Hungarian fascists during 1944-45. The victims were ordered to take off their shoes, and were shot at the edge of the water of the Danube so that their bodies fell into the river and were carried away.
From there we walked by the Parliament and up Andrássy Avenue where we passed the House of Terror museum and memorial, the actual building where victims of the fascist and communist regimes were detained, interrogated, tortured or killed. We did not visit the museum but we loved the outdoor displays and literature covering the events that took place during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. 2016 marks the 60th anniversary.
Modern Hungarian history 101
Hungary went from a Fascist to a Communist government after WW2, imposed by the Russian who were victorious over the ruling Nazi Germans. Suffocated by the Soviet policies, there was a nationwide revolt in 1956 following a student demonstration that turned violent by the police. The socialist government collapsed and the Russians retreated, Hungary was free … for all of 2 weeks. The Soviet army charged back in and regained control. Thousands died and there were mass denunciations. Many escaped the country as refugees.
Communism fell in 1989 and Hungary held its first free parliamentary election ever in May 1990! Sure the country has come a long way since then and finds a comfort in a westernized democracy.
Are old political agendas are still present?
The current party in power is considered very Conservative. But many called them just plain Fascist and trying to do there best to clean their hands of Hungary’s past. Case in point, the controversial Memorial to the victims of the German invasion seen below to the left.
It was setup overnight in 2014. Archangel Gabriel, meant to represent Hungary, lies innocent under the hovering eagle with a swastika ankle tag with the date 1944. The memorial has been criticized worldwide, saying the government is trying to rewrite history and wash it’s hand of the real alliance Hungary had with Germany, and absolving themselves of the death of close to 1 million Hungarians, mostly of Jewish heritage.
Well many people protested. On the right of the picture above, you see part of counter memorial which was immediately set up. Posts are connected by barbed wire from which hang photographs, poems and statements of people with missing family members. Here you see a plain paper with the words: “My mother was killed in Auschwitz, Thank you Archangel Gabriel”. Trinkets, shoes, suitcases and hundreds of stones traditionally left at a grave site (representing Jewish mourning) line the ground. While I was there three volunteers were maintaining the memorial, cleaning the dust and debris between each single stone. It was the most moving memorial I have ever seen in my life.
Lest we forget
I have yet to tell this part of my trip without shedding a tear and choking up. I am not Jewish so one could say why are you so affected? Because we are all the same, just plain humans living together. It really breaks my heart to realize this mentality is still in in existence and in power. How can a government think it can get away with this? So I am making it my mission hear to educate as many people as I can with this post. History only repeats itself if the people remain blind to the past.
If you have read everything this far in the post, thank you, it means the world to me.
Visiting these difficult sites is so enriching. It does not take away from the beauty of a country, because a country would not be here now if it wasn’t for it’s past. Political decisions does not represent the individual citizen. Budapest is gorgeous place with beautiful people. And they are still trying to find their footing after everything that has happened, like the rest of us.