The Good Life in Aggtelek National Park: Visit to 3 National Park Certified Local Producers
The Ministry of Agriculture charges the national parks to visit all of their certified producers once a year. We are getting a late start, but hope to visit all 13 local producers by the end of the year. Our first visit was to György Vajda in Kéked where he produces jams, compotes and juices near the Slovak border among the hills of the Zemlén Nature Reserve. The shortest route took us via Kosice/Kassa in Slovakia, and with the exception of the city, it was filled with beautiful scenery. Surprisingly, there is a nicely renovated 17th century Melczer Manor in Kéked. The manor has been turned into a hotel and restaurant, but like many things in this country never operated after the renovations. György's full-time job is as a carpenter and man of all trades, and one can see that in his lovely outdoor kitchen. Much of his life was spent working in Russia and Ukraine, and we spoke a few minutes about our favourite Russian foods when he mentioned that the next time we visit he will make us some pelmeni. After a delicious surprise lunch, sloe-rosehip tea, and a not so surprising tasty pear schnapps, he took us on a tour of his orchard and spoke about his plans which include a guest house and making products from sea buckthorn in the future. More about György and his products here.
The next day we visited the Gonda Family in Erdőbénye near Tokaj. Erdőbénye is home to two of my favourite Tokayj vineyards, the Abrahams and the Karadi-Berger. Neither was home at the time so we could not visit them. Erdőbénye is a great small town Kata and I spent a long weekend in a couple years ago. It hosts the well-attended Bor-Mámor-Bénye wine Festival every year. We met Maria Gonda at the Liget-tanya where her 850 sheep graze in a Natura 2000 protected pasture. They supply their sheep and goat cheeses to local restaurants and welcome school and tourist groups on a regular basis for tastings. Back at her house, we sampled some aged smoked cheese, aged natural sheep cheese, and some half-hard cheese during coffee. I was all prepared to buy several kilos of cheese but the sheep do not produce milk in the winter. Luckily we received a surprise cheese package to take home. More about the Gonda Family and their products here.
On the way home we visited Csicsőrke Jams in Bodrogkeresztur, where we were greeted by Gyula and Andi Kovács. Warmed by some hot pine punch, they told us of their plans to get into walking tours and cycling tours in the future. More about Csicsőrke here. Fülöp, the loyal stork that for years for some reason does not migrate in favour of freezing all winter in Bodrogkeresztur was perched just outside. Zsolt and I wanted to pick up some wine before we left the area, and the couple recommended the Hudácskó Vineyard down the road. The name was vaguely familiar. When we entered the building I remembered that I had been there with a group of friends many years ago on a weekend excursion. The owner quickly uncorked a few bottles for me to try (Zsolt was driving, another reason not to renew my licence!) and I settled on the Hangavári dry muscatel 2015 (1800 huf), and a 2 litre bottle from the barrel of half-sweet Furmint 2013 (2000 huf).