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Mutton Stew of the Cumania Region According to the Karcag Tradition (2009)
The Cumanian mutton stew prepared according to the Karcag tradition is a characteristic gastronomic specialty of the folk dishes of the peoples of the Great Cumania (Nagykunság) region in east-central Hungary.
The area was the largest producer of meat in the central lowlands and mutton was an import part of the cuisine. Despite the large-scale livestock farming of Hungarian gray cattle and horses in the area, sheep were the primary source of meat in the diet of the common folk. Even as late as the 18th century huge flocks of mutton sheep grazed the pastures spreading between cities. Mutton consumption also emanated from the people’s traditions and way of life. Traditionally mutton was not preserved in any way for the meat of the entire animal was utilized and consumed in its entirety on the occasion of a slaughter. For mutton stew prepared in the Great Cumania region the meat of the entire animal is cooked at once. This gives the dish a characteristic flavour that is different from that of mutton stews in surrounding regions. Although Karcag is a name of a town in the region, the term here denotes an archaic traditional method of stew preparation. The meat of the entire animal is sautéed without the addition of liquid. To this browned - practically roasted - meat is added the previously singed head, knuckles, hoofs and tail of the animal. Next the whole mixture is cooked together with the tripe, internal organs and other edible viscera. The only other ingredients are diced onions, the finest locally grown paprika powder, hot green pepper and salt. The cooking process is done over an open fire in a cast-iron pot big enough for the meat of the entire animal.