Hungarian-Style Pork Chops

When the Spaniards started shipping treasure from the New World, they sent more than gold and silver to the kings and patrons who funded their expeditions. They also sent food plants unknown in Europe. Corn, squash and chili peppers, staple foods of native Americans, were soon being cultivated in Spain, and within a few years these crops had been carried across the Strait of Gibraltar to North Africa.

These wonderful foods spread rapidly across Africa and Asia and were introduced to eastern Europe by the conquering armies of the Ottoman Empire. By 1569, Turks were growing peppers in Buda, the ancient capital of Hungary, which explains how Hungary became associated with the crop. Hungarians called it paprika, the diminutive form of papar, the Serbian and Croatian word for pepper.

Paprika (either pae-PREE-kuh or PAEP-ri-kuh) refers to the spice produced from the peppers and first appeared in English late in the 19th century. By then Hungary was known for producing the best paprika in the world, and Hungarian cooks had been making their delicious goulashes flavored with it for a couple of centuries. Goulash was probably made popular by Germans like my father’s grandparents who brought it with them when they emigrated to Wisconsin.

Paprika is made by air-drying chile peppers and grinding them into powder. There are several different kinds ranging from very mild to moderately hot. Nearly all that is sold in supermarkets today is a mild variety used mainly to garnish deviled eggs and potato salad or to color soups and stews like goulash. If you want to taste the flavor, be sure to warm it in oil.

Some specialty food markets do offer hotter versions of paprika, or you can simply add a little cayenne pepper to achieve the required heat for the dish. That is what we do. Our spice racks are too crowded as it is without having two or three different kinds of paprika.

Jerri found this recipe many years ago when we lived in Kentucky in the Better Homes and Gardens Meat Stretcher Cook Book. Since it includes sauerkraut and caraway, you could call it German-style chops, but the Hungarians deserve credit for the paprika, so I am happy with the name.

INGREDIENTS:

6 thick pork chops
2 T vegetable oil
1/2 cup onion
2 large garlic cloves
1 T all-purpose flour
1 T paprika
1 chicken bouillon cube or 1 tsp. instant bouillon
1 cup water
1 T caraway seed
1/8 tsp. cayenne
3 cups sauerkraut
1 cup sour cream

PROCEDURE:

Clean and chop the onion into a three-quarter inch dice. Clean and mince the garlic. Heat the vegetable oil in a covered skillet over medium heat. Trim any excess fat from the chops, season them with salt and pepper and brown them on both sides.

While the meat is browning, dissolve the boullion cube in a cup of hot water.

Remove the browned chops from the pan, reduce the heat and cook the onion and garlic for a minute or two. Add the paprika, flour, caraway seed and cayenne. Pour in the bouillon, raise the heat slightly and bring the liquid to a boil, stirring constantly to make a smooth sauce.

Rinse and drain the sauerkraut and stir it into the sauce. Return the chops to the pan and cover them with the sauerkraut. Reduce the heat, cover the pan and simmer the meat for about forty-five minutes.

Remove the chops from the pan to a warm serving dish. Stir the sour cream into the sauerkraut mixture and raise the heat slightly to bring the cream and sauerkraut to steaming, but do not bring it to a boil.

Spoon the sauerkraut sauce over the chops and serve with noodles, a green salad and a crusty bread or hard rolls.

NOTE: This recipe makes six generous servings, but it is easy to halve it if, like us, you need to cook for only two or three. You may need to use a little more than one tablespoon of vegetable oil to brown the chops, however.