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On the trail of the Balaton buffalo

  • Novitatis
Buffalo meat is low in fat, calories, and cholesterol, high in minerals, contains more protein, phosphor, and iron than beef, and it is delicious. It is difficult to get it, because the domestic stock consists of only 5,000-6,000 animals, moreover, people are not familiar with buffalo meat. At the turn of the century, it was not a speciality, in the early 1900s, there lived 150,000 buffaloes in Hungary.
Buffalo meat is low in fat, calories, and cholesterol, high in minerals, contains more protein, phosphor, and iron than beef, and it is delicious. It is difficult to get it, because the domestic stock consists of only 5,000-6,000 animals, moreover, people are not familiar with buffalo meat. At the turn of the century, it was not a speciality, in the early 1900s, there lived 150,000 buffaloes in Hungary.

Currently, besides the few private farms, it is mainly national parks that carry out gene conservation tasks and keep buffaloes. Attila Ivácson from Veszprém is well known in the region by the gourmets of his excellent cheeses made from cow's milk, but his other product is slowly becoming part of the public consciousness. He has been working with buffaloes for six years and keeps his herd near Nemesvámos. He was originally thinking about processing buffalo milk, but life brought something else.

"You would have had to foal and milk the herd at the same time to get enough milk to make it worthwhile. This plan didn't work and the calves were born at different times, consequently I had an idea of using the meat." - says Attila Ivácson. Buffalo meat is similar to premium beef, with a slightly sweeter taste, a darker tone, and less fat. It has to be processed differently from beef precisely because of the lack of fat. (Buffalo farmers are happy to share their experiences and even exchange recipes.) Together with István Horváth, the manager of Vezírhús in Zirc, Attila Ivácson started experimenting with buffalo meat, trying to find a recipe to make tasty Bavarian sausages, frankfurter and Debreceni sausages. Months of experimentation resulted in products that were in great demand. "We are also experimenting with salami, maybe now we have the right recipe. The first portion of the food was too salty, we used juniper berries the second time, which I didn't like so much, this time I used an old recipe for the meat, no pepper or garlic in this one. I didn't like it so much with the traditional seasoning because it is special meat. This meat is worth more than that. We won’t use paprika, even though many people like it, I will only sell what I like. Unlike salami, which is softer or firmer depending on how much it has matured, this product reaches the consumer after three months of maturing, by which time it will have lost 40-42% of its weight. I only taste it for the first time after six weeks of ageing."

Buffalo arrived in the world of gastronomy

"The restaurants in the area were also eager to register for buffalo meat, offering sirloin, roast and tenderloin as a curiosity and a highly prized daily special. In the summer we have had buffalo in the “Kerekes-pince” (Kerekes cellar), in the “Pörc” (Crackling), on the “Almádi strand” (Almádi Beach) in the “Terasz bisztró” (Terrace Bistro), at the “SVÉT” it was prepared by László Ruprecht and Dávid Humli, and the “Sáfránkert” (Saffron Garden) made cured ham from it. "I guess that they are happy about the opportunity, both because it is a curiosity and because it is a quality local product. Of course, the ideal would be buffalo sirloin, tenderloin steak and roast for them but some made stew and goulash from the leg. The feedback was that people were happy to eat it, it was quickly snapped up as a daily special, I think people are still happy if it's not a langos or a hake.

Attila Ivácson's aims to make consumers aware of buffalo meat so that they will consider it as an alternative. The first feedback has been so good that in January he plans to open a restaurant in Veszprém called Bivstro, where he will offer buffalo meat and his cheese, along with ingredients of known and trusted origin. The pure product is available for lunches and private events. "We also have the help of a dietician, Brigitta Szálka, who will calculate the exact nutritional value and carbohydrate content of the food. My co-owner, chef Viktor Lukács, is very good at catering and will prepare excellent dishes. We would like to offer a quality lunch menu to office workers in the area and those who come to the Bakony or the Balaton Uplands for a hike, and know that they can meet us here and that we are worth coming here for" - summarised the mastermind.

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