tastily touring: visiting bulgaria & organic homemade yogurt
Bulgaria, a Southeastern European country bordered by Romania to the north, Serbia and Macedonia to the west, Greece and Turkey to the south and the Black Sea to the east, is our next stop as we “tour” the world. Bulgaria is one of 7 countries whose borders lie completely within the region known as the Balkan Peninsula.
The Bulgars, a central Asian Turkic tribe and the local Slavic inhabitants merged to form the first Bulgarian state in the 7th century. Bulgaria has been a historical crossroads situated between Europe and Asia. Many civilizations have flowed through the region which was marked by fierce fighting as well as rich cultural history due to the many people who came and went.
In the 7th century Bulgaria emerged as a state to only have to struggle against the Byzantine Empire and then by the 14th century succumb to the rule of the Ottoman Turks. Northern Bulgaria was free from Ottoman rule in 1878 with the remainder of the country gaining its independence in 1908. Unfortunately, after World War II, Bulgaria became a part of the Soviet Union. Upon the fall of communism and the dissipation of the People’s Republic, Bulgaria began moving towards a democratic government and free market economy.
With a population of 7.37 million people, Bulgaria is the 14th largest European country. Most of the population resides in an urban setting and the most commerce and cultural activities are based in or surrounding Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. Most Bulgarians are ethnically Bulgarian (84%). The other ethnicities present are Turk and Roma as well as a small percent of others from the Balkan region. The official language is Bulgarian.
Any society that is born in a crossroads is bound to be culturally rich. Bulgaria is just that, culturally rich because of the Thracians, Ancient Greeks, Romans, Slavs and Bulgars (to name a few) who have left behind a bit of their cultures that is now woven into the tapestry of Bulgarian culture. Bulgaria is rich in the art, music and literature. Bulgaria is rich in ancient artifacts such as: The Borovo Treasure, discovered while a field was plowed, dates back to the reign of Odrysian King Cotys I (383-359 BCE). There is the Rogozen Treasure dating back to the 5th and 4th century and consisting of over 150 items that are silver or gold plated. And, there is the Vratsa Treasure which is a collection of artifacts from the grave of a Thracian noblewoman. (Check out this site: Vratsa Regional History Museum)
Bulgaria, rich in culture, has, of course, a diverse cuisine. Bulgaria also has a climate that is hospitable for farming and because of its geography a varied of produce can be grown. Bulgarians eat salads regularly as well as hot and cold soups. Most Bulgarian dishes are oven baked, steamed, or in the form of stew. Lyutenitsa is a popular mixture of tomatoes, eggplant, garlic, pepper, parsley and hot peppers. Lyutenista is a dish that will vary from each Balkan country to the next, but can; nonetheless, a variation can be found. Banitsa is a pastry eaten hot or cold for breakfast and it is served with yogurt. Yogurt is another food that is not only commonly eaten in Bulgaria, but high quality yogurt is produced in Bulgaria. Yogurt is not only a staple food in Bulgaria, but throughout the Balkan region.
Yogurt is extremely beneficial to our health and it is the yogurt that is made in the fashion of Bulgarian or that of the Balkan region that is even better than those highly sugary flavored varieties. We, at myFudo, make this healthier form of yogurt a part of our daily breakfast. Eaten with seasonal fruits, honey and/or granola, yogurt is a very healthy way to start off the day.
These healthier, richer yogurts can be a bit expensive at the market and if you eat it every day you might want to try making your own. You do not need special equipment and we found this amazing tutorial that illustrates how easy it is to make your own yogurt:
How to Make Yogurt: A Step by Step Tutorial by Michael W. Reeps
(This recipe was given to us from a friend who got it from a friend. We are unsure of its origin.)
- 2 ¼ pints of whole milk (organic)
- 2 to 3 tablespoons of already made plain yogurt or home-made yogurt from a previous batch, at room temperature. (Mix the yogurt with a little milk for easier incorporation)
- Bring the 2 ¼ pints of milk to just under boiling point and then pour the milk into a glass bowl (Don’t use metal).
- Let the milk cool to about 104°F. Pour the already made yogurt into the milk carefully without disturbing the skin that may have formed on the surface of the milk.
- Cover with a cloth, place in a warm location for 8 to 12 hours or overnight.
- When the yogurt has thickened after 8-12 hours drain the extra liquid and store in the refrigerator.