The Chair of the cheese production co-operative in Smilyan village Mrs Milkana Yordanova demonstrates to tourist how butter and jumble can be extracted at home.
Do you like your eating in abundance delicious foods while you are on vacation? Then do not hesitate and choose the Rhodope region for their vacation. Because in addition to its beautiful landscapes, the mountain will charm you with its irresistible flavors and aromas that float from each house or family hotel. Here tribute is paid to the traditional cuisine, cooked according to old wives’ recipes and products typically used are by home production. This means they are environmentally friendly and non-GMO. So you can rest assured – eat as much as you want and without remorse. Because Rhodopean dishes menu is healthy and easily digested by the body. Be sure to stop by local dairy farms and organic farms who organize tastings of typical Rhodope foods.
No wonder that for many Rhodope Mountains have become synonymous with juicy patatnitsi, with soups imbued with the flavor of a variety of herbs and spices, with melting in the mouth roasted lamb pieces and … to inevitably adding a few pounds to your normal weight. Once back home from holidays, however, one can quickly regain his previous fit shape. However, the culinary emotions experienced leave indelible memories that can make you permanently change your attitude towards food. Because once you feel the sweetness of healthy eating, at honor in this part of the Balkans, one will hardly again reach for hamburgers, chips or your favorite ready-made desserts.
For native people is a matter of honor to serve the table with plenty of typical local delicacies prepared with products from the family farm. It is common here people to make cheese by them-selves. Milk, of course, comes from the cow in the yard. Eggs are generally freshly laid and feature a large yellow-orange yolk. A variety of fresh and dry sausages made by beef are also home-made. Vegetables, arranged in neat rows in the garden behind the house are fresh, fragrant and delicious as anywhere else. Not to mention the incredible variety of sweets, compotes, jams and honey! There is no way you would escape being treated with a “hot” home-distilled brandy (rakia) – distillation in a special cauldron has become something of a family ritual.
Typical of this region is a drink with sharp taste that amazes both Bulgarians and foreigners called “jumble” (barkanitsa). It is prepared by the liquid which remains after taking away the butter content of the yoghurt. Beating of butter from yogurt at home is still part of everyday life for native people. So says the chairman of the cooperative for the production of cheese in the village Smilyan – Mrs Milkana Yordanova, which often demonstrates to tourists how butter is extracted at home. The cooperative produces typical Rhodope cheeses that in no way are inferior to some of the most famous Swiss, French and Italian species. Anyone who visits the dairy’s tasting room will be convinced in this. But the pride of the people of this region is the Rhodopi cheese brewed by a very old technology.
“We call it also “male cheese” – explains Milkana Yordanova. – It is a prototype of Parmesan and in many cases even it competes in flavor, spice and hardness. Unfortunately, the world does not know about it. It is made from cow’s milk here in the Rhodope Mountains, distinguished by a very high fat content. It turns out our altitude and high barometric pressure influence the process of fermentation. Because of that Rodopi cheese can be produced only here, in dairies in the Rhodope region.”
Do try the Rhodope yogurt that is so dense that a knife is needed to prune! Not to mention its miraculous health effects! The hosts will gladly show you how they make it at home with its own yeast containing the famous Lactobacillus Bulgaricus. The bacterium – “culprit” for the fermentation of milk can be found mostly on the leaves of geraniums and on the bark of willow trees dotting the Rhodope slopes.
“Sometimes it happens the milk to curdle by itself, because this bacterium grows in abundance in our pastures and is transmitted in milk” – says Mrs Yordanova. The specialty of local restaurants, however, is the Smilyan kidney beans grown only in Central the Rhodope Mountains. One will lick his fingers eating the delicious bean stews and soups, and one of the culinary attractions in the area is lima beans, stewed into a pumpkin. If healthy eating is part of your lifestyle a must is to stop by the village of Bachkovo. There is the first “Biodynamic” farm of Stoyanov’s, a family which meets tourists permanently. Guests are introduced to their unique ecological methods of cultivation of fruits, vegetables and cereals … according to the different phases of the moon.
“We have a kitchen that guests can use, or if they wish, we offer them our organic food”, – says the owner Dimitar Stoyanov. – We make them pancakes, pastries that are baked on hot clay plate or special Bachkovski meatless stew with vegetables from the farm. Tourists can taste our products at any time of the year they.”
Whether they will treat you with products grown according to the phases of the moon, or simple peasant dishes, one thing is sure – in the Rhodopes you will experience a culinary adventure that will pleasantly tickle your palate and ignite desire to finally start living healthy and in harmony with nature.
Photos by Veneta Nikolovа
*The present article is prepared within project “Communication campaign for encouragement of domestic tourism in the Republic of Bulgaria”, supported by Regional Development Operational Programme.