The Unfortunate Origins Of Utopenci (Pickled Czech Sausages)

Hit any pub in the Czech Republic, and you'll quickly realize that pickled snacks go very well with beer. Utopenci are the crème de la crème of such tangy delights. These sausages, pickled in a spiced vinegar that perfectly complements the flavors in beer, are served cold, often with a side of bread.

As beloved as the snack is, utopenci's roots are obscure. However, depending on who you ask, you might stumble upon an origin story so grim that you'll think of it every time you see a jar of utopenci.

As the legend goes, about a century ago, a man named Šamánek owned a pub in Beroun, a quaint town in the Central Bohemian Region. He had figured out that pickling thick Czech sausages would extend their shelf life without refrigeration — and lend an interesting sour flavor to the pub staple. Soon, the marinated sausages became a hit and drew more customers to Šamánek's pub.

Unfortunately, Šamánek later died in a drowning incident while working on his mill. Given the Czechs' penchant for dark humor, people collectively decided they would call his special dish utopenci, which means "drowned men." 

You don't have to go to a Czech pub to try utopenci

Fiction or not, the story does make it hard to forget about utopenci. Luckily, they are criminally easy to make at home. Thick sausages like Czech špekačky are ideal for this snack. Besides the meat, the process for making utopenci is largely similar to any other pickle recipe. You'll want to boil a mixture of white vinegar and water with a handful of peppercorns, whole allspice, salt, and sugar. While you let the mixture cool, slit the sausages and stuff them with sliced onions and chili peppers. Place the stuffed sausages in a glass jar, pour in the spiced vinegar, and let the pickling process commence. Your utopenci will be ready to enjoy in about a week.

The Czechs have no rules when it comes to making utopenci. The level of spice can be adjusted according to your personal preference. Vegetables like cabbage and peppers can also be added.