(Reuters) - Bulgaria’s long tradition of “zimnina” or preserving food for the winter is a way to survive harsh times but also a bonding activity that reigns over the nation’s culinary taste.
Here are some of the Balkan country’s favorite recipes, part of its Christmas menu for centuries.
THE TSAR‘S PICKLES
* Ingredients - red peppers, cauliflower or cabbage, carrots, celery, garlic, black pepper, bay leaf, vinegar, sugar, sea salt.
* Method - Chop all the vegetables and put them in jars. Add water, 6-7 tablespoons of vinegar per jar, black pepper, sea salt and sugar. Cap the jars tightly and leave in a bottom upward position for several days.
* Serving - Best served as appetizer with cooled or mulled home-made rakia brandy.
SAUERKRAUT (“KISELO ZELE”)
* Ingredients - head cabbage, iodized salt or sea salt.
* Method - Carve out the stumps from the heads. Put salt in the holes. Place the cabbage into a keg and leave it without water for two days. Then pour in enough water to cover the heads. Stir the brine every day for a week to disperse the salt evenly. Put quinces in the keg to add flavor.
* Serving - Ideal as appetizer. It is also traditionally cooked with pork ribs, beans, potatoes and rice. The brine is considered the best cure for hangover.
LYUTENITSA (PEPPER-TOMATO SPREAD)
* Ingredients - 7 kg red peppers, 3.5 kg tomatoes, 1 or 2 kg eggplant (optional), vegetable oil, ground red pepper, sugar, salt.
* Method - Mince the tomatoes and bring to simmer over low heat. Roast, peel and mince the peppers, then add them to the simmering tomatoes. Stir the mixture regularly. Once it thickens add oil, salt, sugar and ground red pepper. Put in jars, bring the jars to boil to preserve the lyutenitsa then store them in a cool place.
* Serving - Ideal as garnish for barbecue grills. Bulgarians love it best spread on a slice of fresh bread.
* Ingredients - pumpkin, sun-dried cherries, honey (or sugar), walnuts.
* Method - Roast the pumpkin in the oven, topping each piece with a couple of cherries, which will color it in purple red.
* Serving - Serve sprinkled with chopped walnuts and honey.
* Ingredients - grape, plum or other rakia brandy, sugar, black pepper, fresh geranium leaves, clove roots or cinnamon.
* Method - Heat the sugar in a pot over low heat, add some water and stir constantly until the sugar is melted and straw- colored. Add the rakia, black pepper, geranium leaves, a clove root or some cinnamon and keep stirring until the caramelized sugar melts.
* Serving - The mulled rakia goes best with pickles, roasted peppers, bacon or dry sausages and is served before the main course.
Compiled by Irina Ivanova and Anna Mudeva