Nothing says Christmas like sausage and smoked meat---well, in my household at least. And even though I'm going home for the holidays, my mom sent me a care package earlier this month of traditional Hungarian specialties to last me through December (and with my appetite, they won't last much longer than that). Among my favorites is the smoked pork tenderloin called karaj, which is so lean and just slightly salty that I eat it on its own as a finger food. The gyulai sausage is a dry, mildly smoked sausage that gets it's hint of spice from the paprika that's combined with the chopped meat. It's a great addition to a cheese plate over the holidays or any time of the year. To cut the savory flavor of the meats, Hungarians often serve a mix of barrel-pickled vegetables called csalamade as a side, which usually consists of thinly sliced or julienned cabbage and red, green, and yellow bell peppers. Turn to a sweet, festive finish with a chestnut or gesztenye purée--mix it with some heavy cream, sugar, and rum, then sprinkle with cinnamon and you'll have a quick and unique dessert ready to go.
Lastly, a true Hungarian Christmastime tradition is szaloncukor, or "parlour candy"--they're chocolate-covered fondant, jam, or marzipan candies wrapped in shiny foil that are then hung on the Christmas tree for decoration, but mine usually don't make it that far! These items and other eastern-European delicacies are available at bende.com.
Sometimes it's nice to bring a little international flair home for the holidays. Have you gotten any treats from far and wide?