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Restoring an Almost Forgotten Hungarian Family Recipe

Restoring an Almost Forgotten Hungarian Family Recipe

Copy of 190305_JFS_March_3399.jpg

Recipe Roots: Hungary > Herzliya, Israel
Shared by Yuval “Joov” Hargil

When we asked Yuval “Joov” Hargil, the owner of Israel’s first craft distillery Jullius, about family recipes that might pair well with his signature gin, one bubbled to the top of the list: a savory scone laced with olives. The recipe comes from his wife’s late grandmother Hilda, a Hungarian Holocaust survivor, who Joov believes immigrated to the Israeli coastal town of Herzliya in the 1950s.

She originally received the recipe from a Hungarian friend. But little else is known about how or when she started making the scones. Regardless, they became a signature in Hilda’s home, particularly for the spring holiday of Shavuot, which is often celebrated by eating dairy-rich foods.

Even as Hilda reached her 90s, the recipe remained with her. She made it intuitively. Unfortunately, the version that was written and shared in the family may not have been as precise as the one she knew by heart. “We’re trying to recover it,” Joov says of the original recipe.

With the help of a Hungarian Jewish friend and the Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, we were able to uncover that Hilda’s recipe was almost certainly for pogácsa, a savory scone popular in Hungary and made both inside and outside of the Jewish community. As the encyclopedia points out, it’s a recipe little known outside the Hungarian communities in Israel and the U.S.

While many details around the family recipe are still murky, one essential element is clear. Joov explains: “I can tell you for sure the olives in the scones is an ingredient that they put into the recipe the moment they came to Israel.” Olives are bountiful there, growing on hillsides of the central part of the country and in the north where he lives and operates his distillery. “You couldn’t go more northern than this,” he says. In fact, the distillery is only a handful of kilometers from the Lebanon border. It’s an area rich with raw materials for distilling like grapes, apples, plums, and the Galilean botanicals he uses in his bitters and signature Akko Gin like fig and olive leaf.

To pair with Hilda’s savory scones at an event we’re hosting in New York City, Joov’s serving that gin shaken with olive brine and cracked olives — the slightly bitter dark green variety that grow locally. “When you prepare this drink and serve this kind of olive,” he says, “You immediately see it’s something different….something that communicates the place it comes from — the northern Galilee.”  

When he opened his distillery there in 2008, he knew this was the only place he wanted to be — 15 minutes from where he grew up. “For me, it was obvious that I should go back to my origins,” Joov says. He did so in more ways than one. “I [come] from a family with roots in the alcohol industry that go back about 150 years,” he explains. His great-grandfather was an alcohol merchant in Poland before the Holocaust, where much of the family perished.

Growing up, he says, he often heard stories about that side of the family and his great-grandfather’s work. So, he adds, “When I decided to open a craft distillery it was kind of closing the circle.”

Joov’s Dirty Martini

Photos by Penny De Los Santos

Photos by Penny De Los Santos

Cracked olives are olives that have been cracked open before the curing process to intensify and accelerate the development of flavor. When looking for olives that will be most similar to those used in these recipes, try to find cracked green olives that have been grown in the Middle East. They can be found at specialty stores like Sahadi’s or Kalustyan’s in NYC.

2 ½ oz. Akko gin
½ oz. of good dry vermouth
¼ oz. olive brine
Cracked green olives, for serving

Place the gin, vermouth, and olive brine in a shaker over ice. Shake well and strain into a chilled glass. Skewer the olives and add as garnish. Cheers!

Olive Scones

Makes: ~ 1 dozen
Time: 45 minutes + 3 hours resting time + 25 minutes baking time

1 package (2 ¼ teaspoons) active dry yeast
3 tablespoons warm milk
Pinch of sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup quark or sour cream
2 large egg yolks
1 cup cracked green olives, pitted, sliced
1 egg, for wash
Oil or butter for greasing

1. In a small measuring cup, slowly sprinkle the yeast over the milk, add a pinch of sugar and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add the flour, salt, yeast mixture, quark, and egg yolks and mix on low until the dough comes together. If the dough seems too wet add some flour, if it seems dry add more milk one tablespoon at a time. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Form into a ball, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour.

3. Add the olives to the dough, and lightly knead to incorporate.

4. Form the dough into a thick rectangle shape, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.

5. Preheat the oven to 350° and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Lightly grease the parchment paper with cooking spray, butter, or canola oil.

6. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out into a rectangle ½-¾” thick. Using a 2” biscuit cutter or drinking glass and cut out rounds as close to each other as possible and place on the prepared baking sheet.

7. Beat the egg with 1 teaspoon of water. Brush the tops of the scones with the egg wash.

8. Bake until golden brown, about 20-25 minutes. Rotating the tray halfway through baking. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

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