Saturday, November 15, 2014

Hideg Citrom Koch -- Cold Lemon Koch (Transylvania)

A decade or so ago I found out that one of my grandfathers grew up in the part of Romania known as Transylvania.  His heritage was German but his home town was pretty close to the Bran Castle, also called "Dracula's Castle" because of the story of the vampire Count Dracula, a fictitious character created by Bram Stoker.  The castle described in the book is very similar to the Bran Castle and it is believed that Stoker used a picture of it found in a book to create his castle of horrors.  (See reference here.)

It just tickled me to think of my grandfather as a boy growing up on the stories of vampires and possibly being able to see the castle.  So one day, when I was walking through a library bookstore, I spotted Paul Kovi's Transylvanian Cuisine.  Published in 1985, it is a compilation of some of the 20,000 recipes Mr. Kovi collected on his research in the area.  I bought it without hesitation, hoping to find something of the culture in which my grandfather grew up.

ISBN 0-517-55698-7
In all honesty, I don't know if any of these recipes were something he experienced.  From what I have heard the Germans in the area were a tight-knit group, keeping to themselves, and preserving their language and culture.  But I like to imagine that he tasted some of these dishes and so I gave one a try.  Mr. Kovi notes that this "was a favorite of fine Saxon households."

Hideg Citrom Koch (page 338)

6 eggs, separated
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
Juice and grated peel of 1 lemon
1 envelope gelatin, dissolved in warm water
Butter for greasing mold
Fruit preserves (any flavor) for garnish

That is one big lemon
In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks and powdered sugar together.  Add the lemon juice and the grated peel.

In another bowl, whip the egg whites until stiff, fold into the egg yolks, then stir in the dissolved gelatin.

Folded, not spindled
Butter a mold (such as a ring mold) lightly and pour in the mixture.

I measured it to be about 6 cups in volume
Chill until well set.  Turn the koch out of the mold and onto a platter.  Garnish with fruit preserves.

My Notes

You should notice that there are raw eggs in this dish as it is served.  The mixture is only chilled, not cooked!  I had confidence that the acid from the lemon juice would take care of any contamination problems.

Before I started mixing up the ingredients I grated the peel, juiced the lemon, and dissolved the gelatin in about two tablespoons very warm water.  It needed stirring a few times to get it completely dissolved.

I found it interesting that the gelatin was stirred in after you carefully fold in the stiff egg whites.  The purpose of folding is to incorporate the whites without deflating them, keeping your mixture light and fluffy.  Stirring in the gelatin afterwards seemed to be defeating that idea, but it really only reduced the volume a little bit.

I was pleased that the mixture filled my turban mold to a ring line.  I thought that would make the dish looked "finished" or at least planned.  I chilled it for about 3 hours but I think it was ready before that.

Once I ran some warm water over the outside and ran a dull knife around the edges, the koch slipped out of the mold onto a plate.  I thought it was pretty!

Not quite centered on the plate
The darker yellow part was where the eggs whites had separated from the yolk mixture.  I loved the contrast more than if the whole thing had been uniform in color.  The whole thing was very delicate so trying to center it would have broken it apart.

The fruit preserves I chose to garnish with were apricot.  This picture was taken right after I spooned some all around the top; honestly it looked better about 10 minutes later when the preserves had a chance to slide down the sides more.

The Verdict

Each piece was as light as a feather and fluffy soft.  It was very lemony in flavor and not too sweet, which is good.  My guest taster thought it was just right for the amount of tartness; for me, it was on the edge of too tart, especially with the tart apricot preserves with it.

I suspect my very large lemon had something to do with that.  Of course, that didn't stop me from eating it!  I just took my bites slowly to give my taste buds a chance to adjust.

It was so delicate and light that it did not feel filling.  It was cool and refreshing and the lemon zest gave it an interesting texture to contrast with the egg white fluffy feel.

We ate more than half after a hearty dinner of pork and sauerkraut -- that recipe will follow this one on December 1.

I declare it a success!  If I did it over again, I would use a smaller lemon and choose blackberry preserves as the garnish.

By the way, no one got ill from the raw eggs.  We just enjoyed the flavor!

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