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The Good Life in Aggtelek National Park Part 123: Annual Visits to ANPI Certified Producers in the Zemplén

vajda gyorgyDuring the low season at the national park we make our annual visits to the ANP certified producers. The many successful entrants from the Zemplén region last year meant that we had to visit the area twice in order to meet with everybody. No hardship there, especially when Indian summer was still in full swing. We tend to start with the people the furthest away and then work our way closer to home as the winter sets in and roads get worse. As usual, we began all the way out in Kéked with Gyuri Vajda (, Tel: 70-345-5206). Gyuri makes a huge range of jams, juices and cordials. We drank a couple bottles of his tasty black currant juice, and I was plied with seemingly endless glasses of his pear schnapps. He also made us some delicious bean stew, for which I was very thankful after all that palinka. Gyuri plans to expand his operations to include a guesthouse.kokenyessy alma ecet

The next stop was to György Kökenyessy in the hills above Satoralújhely, whom we had not yet personally met. György is a spry elderly man who makes apple vinegar. He says that the real stuff ferments for 8 years. At the moment, his oldest is now 4 years old, but it has a double layer of vinegar "mother" (ecetvirág) floating on top - the bottom layer being a good couple centimetres thick. He took us through the entire process, which includes stirring all the barrels by hand (literally), up to ten times a day. Besides the plain apple vinegar, György also makes 11 different kinds of herb infused vinegars from his own garden. He does not make herbal tea mixes, but does use the herbs for healing others - a process which involves the patient holding a bunch of the herbs in their hands, not drinking them as tea. His positive energy must go into his vinegars, for he believes that he will live for 3000 years - in fact, he is planning on it. He said, "A lizard with a brain smaller than a pea can regenerate its tail, why can't we?"

szustrik jeno jamsIt was a very quick stop to the other side of Satoralújhely to visit Jenő Szusztrik at his palinka and jam making operation in Széphalmi. Jenő was expecting a large group for a pálinka tasting, but was still able to show us around. While not ANPI-certified, his dried pears and plums are amazing. He has a huge range of organic pálinkas, and unusual jams. Even his 70% pálinka which I expected to be a kick in the head is very tasty. Jenő plans to expand with a demonstration pálinka maker and grill terrace for guests.hudak hordo

Another new face was István Hudak, a cooper in the centre of Tokaj. He and his wife have been making small carved casks for wine and pálinka for many years. They have a very smooth division of labour. István makes the casks, and his wife carves the designs per order. The designs could be a simple bunch of grapes, or a birthday message, to something more elaborate. Prices seemed very reasonable. A 1 litre hand-made and carved cast runs 6000 huf, with a large 15 litre capacity cask at 20000 huf, with lots of sizes in between.

Both Ildikó Hercegfalvi (honey and bee pollen producer from Tokaj), and Gyula Kovács of jam maker Csicsőrke (Bodrogkeresztúr) - were at their places of work, so we could not visit their operations this time.

kapuvari cheeseOur last stop in Tokaj was to Andi and Miklós Kapuvári (Tel: 30-407-9979, who make scrumptious cow and sheep cheeses. We took a walk out to the pasture to see the sheepdogs at work, with the horses following at our heels. Andi had planned to make us lunch but we got their too early because we finished too quickly with Ildikó Hercegfalvi and Csicsőrke. After a nice chat under a tree in the courtyard, enjoying the autumn day, we took home some smoked gomolya cheese stuffed with ham, and natural.

In Erdőbénye the calm, soft spoken József Szászi (Tel: 30-397-3296, met us in front of the town hall. We piled into his pickup truck and he took us to visit 2 of his 4 hive locations. All of his hives are sited on spectacular Natura2000 land thanks to the cooperation of fellow ANPI-certified cheese producers the Gonda Family. József once had to start ovkapuvari cheeseer completely a few years ago at another location because the government sprayed against mosquitoes, resulting in a 90% die-off in his hives. I suspect he was not so calm and soft-spoken then. But now he has found his place, and it offers him the opportunity to make some quite unusual honeys besides the more common ones. For example Viper's-bugloss, which flowers only once every 5 years, or wild mint. We took home some wild blackberry and chestnut honeys.

szaszi honeyThe Gonda Family has very unfortunately given up cheese production. Incredibly, they cannot find anyone willing to help milk their animals. A milking machine is way beyond their budget. So our visit to Maria and Tamas was a goodbye, at least as a certified producer. However, I am sure we will stop by to see them whenever we are in the area. One of their sons makes some very nice Furmint, of which they were kind enough to give us a bottle each.

I would have loved to visit my winemaking friends the Karadi-Bergers and Abrahams in Erdőbenye but there was no time with 6 producers to visit in one day.