Cooking Bulgarian Cuisine
Bulgarian cuisine: is a representative of the cuisine of Southeastern Europe. Essentially South Slavic, it shares characteristics with other Balkans cuisines. Owing to the relatively warm climate and diverse geography affording excellent growth conditions for a variety of vegetables, herbs and fruits, Bulgarian cuisine is diverse.
Famous for its rich salads required at every meal, Bulgarian cuisine is also noted for the diversity and quality of dairy products and the variety of Bulgarian wines and local alcoholic drinks such as rakia, mastika and menta. Bulgarian cuisine features also a variety of hot and cold soups, an example of a cold soup being tarator. There are many different Bulgarian pastries as well such as banitsa.
Most Bulgarian dishes are oven baked, steamed, or in the form of stew. Deep-frying is not very typical, but grilling - especially different kinds of meats - is very common. Pork meat is the most common meat in the Bulgarian cuisine. Oriental dishes do exist in Bulgarian cuisine with most common being moussaka, gyuvetch, and baklava. A very popular ingredient in Bulgarian cuisine is the Bulgarian white brine cheese called "sirene". It is the main ingredient in many salads, as well as in a variety of pastries. Fish and chicken are widely eaten and while beef is less common as most cattle are bred for milk production rather than meat, veal is a natural byproduct of this process and it is found in many popular recipes. Bulgaria is a net exporter of lamb and its own consumption of the meat is prevalent during its production time in spring.
Traditionally Bulgarians have consumed a notable quantity of yoghurt per head and is noted historically for the production of high quality yoghurt, including using a unique variety of micro-organism called Lactobacillus bulgaricus in the manufacturing process. It has even been claimed that yoghurt originates from Bulgaria. Though this cannot be substantiated, Bulgaria has been part of a region that has cultivated and consumed yoghurt from as far back as 3000 BC.
Certain entries, salads, soups and dishes go well with alcoholic beverages and the alcohol of choice for some is Bulgarian wine.
There are several holidays that are characterized by specific meals. On Christmas Eve, it is a tradition to have vegetarian stuffed peppers and vegetarian stuffed grape leaves. On New Year’s Eve, there are dishes made with cabbage. On Nikulden (Nicholay’s Day; December 6), people usually cook fish, while on Gergyovden (George’s Day; May 6), it is a tradition to eat roast lamb.
Traditional Bulgarian drinks: Grape growing and wine production have a long history in Bulgaria, dating back to the times of the Thracians. Wine is, together with beer and grape rakia, among the most popular alcoholic beverages in the country.
Officially Bulgaria is divided into five distinct viticultural regions.
Danubian Plain (North Bulgarian)
The Danubian Plain or North Bulgarian region encompasses the south banks of the Danube and the central and western parts of the Danubian Plain. The climate of the area is temperate continental, has a hot summer and many sunny days a year. Typical styles are Muscat Ottonel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Aligoté, Pamid and the local Gamza.
Black Sea (East Bulgarian)The Black Sea region is where 30% of all vines are located. The region is characterized by long and mild autumns that are a favourable condition for the accumulation of sugars to make fine white wine (53% of all white wine varietals are concentrated in the region). Wine styles include Dimyat, Riesling, Muscat Ottonel, Ugni blanc, Sauvignon blanc, Traminer, and Gewürztraminer.
Rose Valley (Sub-Balkan)The Rose Valley region is located south of the Balkan Mountains. It is divided into an eastern and western subregion, with styles such as Muscatel, Riesling, Rkatsiteli, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot dominating. The region mostly produces dry and off-dry white wine and less red wine. The region includes the Sungurlare Valley, famous for its wine from the Red Misket grape variety.
Thracian Lowland (South Bulgarian)
The temperate continental climate in the area and the favourable distribution of precipitation are good premises for the developed red wine growing in the lowlands of Upper Thrace. The region includes the central part of the lowland, as well as parts of the Sakar mountain. Mavrud, a famous local wine, as well as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Muscatel and Pamid are grown. The Balkan Mountains serve to block the cold winds blowing from the plains of Russia, and the region to the south of the Balkans, the valley drained by the Maritsa River, has a Mediterranean climate, with mild, rainy winters and warm, dry summers.
Struma River Valley (Southwest Bulgarian)The region includes the southwestern parts of Bulgaria, the valley of the river Struma in the historical region of Macedonia. The area is small in size, but is climatically very distinct and characteristic, owing to the strong Mediterranean influence from the south. The local style Shiroka melnishka loza (taking its name from Melnik), as well as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are cultivated.
Rakia:is an alcoholic beverage that is produced by distillation of fermented fruit; it is a popular beverage throughout the Balkans. Its alcohol content is normally 40% ABV, but home-produced rakia can be stronger (typically 50% to 60%). Prepečenica is double-distilled rakia which has an alcohol content that may exceed 60%.Rakia originally appeared in Bulgaria in the 9th century. Rakia is considered to be а national drink in a number of countries, including Albania, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey. Common flavours are slivovica, produced from plums, Kajsijevaca, produced from apricots and lozovaca, made from grapes. Fruits less commonly used are peaches, apples, pears, cherry, figs, and quinces. A popular home-made variant in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Serbia is rakia produced from mixed fruits. In the Istrian and Dalmatian regions of Croatia, rakia tends to be home-made exclusively from grapes, where the drink is also known locally as trapa or grappa (the latter name also being used in Italy). In Albania, rakia can be made out of grapes (mostly in mild climate regions) or out of plum (and sometimes out of mulberry) in colder climate areas. Plum and grape rakia are sometimes mixed with other ingredients, such as herbs, honey, sour cherries and walnuts, after distillation.
Mastika:is a liquor seasoned with mastic, a resin gathered from the mastic tree, a small evergreen tree native to the Mediterranean region. The name of the resin, whence the name of the drink, is derived from the Greek "to chew, to gnash the teeth". In Bulgaria mastika is a strong anise-flavoured drink, consumed chilled. Mastika is often combined with menta, a mint liqueur, to make a traditional cocktail called "cloud". According to Bulgarian law, "Mastika is an alcoholic drink with minimum 47% vol. of alcohol, made of natural ethanol flavoured with anethole, extracted by rectification of essential oils from star anise (Illicium verum), anise (Pimpinella anissum), fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) or other plant, containing the same aroma component with concentration at least of 2,5 grams per litre, sugar at least 40 grams per litre, with or without addition of mastic and/or aroma destilate and has specific organoleptic characteristics."