The Secret of Bulgarian Yogurt and How to Make It

If you’ve ever visited Bulgaria, it won’t take you long to realise how important yogurt is to their health, cuisine and culture. Ask a Bulgarian about their yogurt and you’ll soon be indulging in a conversation in which they’ll proudly convince you that it really is the best in the world due to its magical qualities for taste and longevity. And they’re not wrong.

The Secret of Bulgarian Yogurt and How to Make It

The popular legend surrounding this distinctive creation is said to originate in Thracian times when a young shepherd, whose flock of goats produced so much milk, didn’t have enough vessels to hold it all. Rather than waste any, he made a sack from a lamb’s skin and poured the milk inside it. On waking the next day, he discovered that the alchemy of fermentation had made yogurt from his own body heat.

Bulgarian Yogurt

Dr Stamen Grigorov 

The secret for the uniqueness of Bulgarian yogurt belongs to the friendly bacteria of two vital ingredients: Lactobacillus Bulgaricus and Streptococcus Thermophilus which produce lactic acid and act as preservatives. In particular, the strains of Lactobacillus Bulgaricus are only native to Bulgaria, and is partially extracted from the leaves of a snowdrop flower which only grows there. Lactobacillus was first named and discovered in 1905 by a Bulgarian doctor, Stamen Grigorov when he first isolated it from other yogurt cultures and discovered it was beneficial for the treatment and prevention of a number of diseases. Specifically, they can combat the common intestinal disease that cause toxins which speed up the aging process.

The Secret of Bulgarian Yogurt and How to Make It

Today, the old age traditions of yogurt making are still very prevalent and can be made from cow’s, goat’s, buffalo or sheep’s milk. It’s considered a staple food which is used for a variety of soups, starters, desserts and garnishes in Bulgarian cuisine. Whilst the Western world consider it to be a yogurt, Bulgarian’s refer to it as a sour milk: kiselo mlyako or кисело мляко in Cyrillic.

The Secret of Bulgarian Yogurt and How to Make It

How to Make Traditional Bulgarian Yogurt

Having used the shop-bought yogurt for making traditional Bulgarian dishes such as tarator and banitsa, I thought it was about time I give yogurt making a go. So with the help from my friends at Bacillus Bulgaricus who sent me a starter pack to review, here’s how to make Bulgarian yogurt – without a yogurt maker – and it’s easier than you think!

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Ingredients

  • You can use any milk you like the taste of and you’ll need 2 litres for this recipe.
  • Yogurt Starter Pack (freeze dried)
  • Saucepan, ladle, jars, blanket

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1. First, you need to boil the milk gently to kill off any bacteria. When it starts to bubble, turn off the heat and let it cool down to 110°F / 43°C. If you don’t have a thermometer, dip your finger in, if you can hold it for 5 seconds, it’s ready.

The Secret of Bulgarian Yogurt and How to Make It2. Add 1/4 teaspoon of the starter mix and stir well by hand for 3 to 4 minutes.

3.Transfer the milk into a separate container or jars and cover them.

4. They need to stay at room temperature so wrap them with blankets and leave them for 5 to 6 hours. Note that this can vary depending on how warm they are and if you leave them overnight, you will probably find that they will over-ferment and taste more sour in the morning.

Having used the shop-bought yogurt for making traditional Bulgarian dishes such as tarator and banitsa, I thought it was about time I give yogurt making a go. So with the help from my friends at bacillusbulgaricus who sent me a starter pack to review, here's how to make Bulgarian yogurt:

If the yogurt has set OK, start eating away! (I kept a couple of jars for an hour or so longer to make it more thicker). If there’s any left over, store it in the fridge where it should last for about 10 days. It really is that simple to make!

The Secret of Bulgarian Yogurt and How to Make It

(Click here for a more detailed set of instructions)

Health Benefits of Bulgarian Yogurt

Did you know that Bulgaria is one of the countries with the largest number of people aged 100 years and older? Eating Bulgarian yogurt every day will award you with a range of probiotic and health benefits from all that good bacteria, including:

  • Supporting your digestive system
  • Flushing out bad bacteria to strengthen your immune system
  • Is a natural choice high calcium levels which helps against osteoporosis
  • Maintaining a natural balance of intestinal flora and minerals
  • Reducing cholesterol levels and protects against heart diseases
  • Can help you lose weight and detox your body
  • Improving your skin and is a natural remedy for sunburn

More About Bacillus Bulgaricus

Bacillus Bulgaricus is run by Bulgarian, Ivo, and is inspired by his grandmother’s homemade yogurt. After spending many years looking for the perfect yogurt starter, he eventually found it and it’s now sold in more than 60 countries.

If you’d like to purchase a Yogurt Starter Pack and help Travelin2bulgaria at the same time, click in the window below and make your order. It contains quality freeze-dried active bacteria cultures made from natural sources in ecologically preserved areas in Bulgaria, and you can also buy sirene and kashkaval starter packs too.

You’ll also get a FREE copy of The Yogurt-Maker’s Handbook – Recipes for Preparing Dairy and Non-Dairy Yogurts with your order 🙂

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This is a sponsored post that contains affiliate links. An affiliate link is a link that leads to a shopping page so when you make a purchase from that link, I get a small percentage of commission. I did not get paid for this post but received a product free to review here. I would never lie in a review in order to encourage you to use my affiliate links, a policy I stand by 100%. I understand that some people might be wary of clicking on affiliate links but any earnings I receive goes back to running this blog 🙂

A Foodie’s Cultural Day Out in Sofia

Considered one of Europe’s most affordable cities, Bulgaria’s capital, Sofia, is also receiving well deserved accolades for its emerging food scene. Markets, food tours, trendy restaurants, independent bakeries and cafes are all contributing to local specialties and freshly made offerings catering to all types of food lovers. Eating your way around Sofia in a day is quite a challenge, but here’s a good start to the city’s flavors and sights.

A Foodie’s Cultural Day Out in Sofia

Start out by drinking coffee in Vitosha Boulevard where you can devise your plan for the day while taking in the early tourists and chic shoppers. This pedestrian-only, fashionable shopping street stretches from Cathedral Church Sveta Nedelya to The National Palace of Culture and Park with inspiring views of Vitosha Mountain not far away, making it a perfect spot for a coffee break any time of the day. The streets here are waking up to vibrant diversity as Sofia sheds its former Communist skin and transforms itself into a lively and stylish urban destination for travelers

Bulgarians take coffee seriously, a trait inherited largely from the Ottoman days. But while you won’t find Turkish coffee prepared in any of the al fresco cafes, bars or gelato shops, you’ll easily find a comfortable café to drink some delicious coffee. Young students and working Sofians huddle on cosy sofas, catching up on gossip and exchanging news, and it’s easy to join them for some people watching. Bulgarians generally like their coffee without milk so be aware that ordering a simple kafe here, will mean espresso, and you can choose to have it long or short, with single or double shots.

To continue reading my article and find out more about Sofia’s markets, restaurants and the
Balkan Bites Free Food Tour, head to Real Food Traveler

A Foodie’s Cultural Day Out in Sofia

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Hadji Nikoli Inn, Veliko Tarnovo

The first time I visited the Hadji Nikoli Inn in Veliko Tarnovo, the waiter took the time to point out that the wine we had chosen wasn’t the perfect choice to compliment our food. We listened to his advice, told him our budget and subsequently enjoyed meal with a great bottle of red. Since then, I’ve enjoyed numerous dinners here and always accompanied with an excellent choice of Bulgarian and international wines.

The Hadji Nikoli Inn, Veliko Tarnovo

A diverse Bulgarian and European menu is brought to the table for an authentic dining experience. While prices might be slightly higher than the average restaurants in town, the quality of cuisine and the restaurant’s settings more than compensate for the difference.

The Hadji Nikoli Inn, Veliko Tarnovo

The inn takes its namesake from a famous Tarnovo merchant and the unique architecture was designed by famous architect, Kolyo Ficheto, in the style from the Bulgarian Renaissance. The interior is a reminder of this era and the building is still considered to be a valuable contribution to Bulgarian cultural and historical heritage.

 Restaurants at the Hadji Nikoli Inn

The Hadji Nikoli Inn boasts two restaurant floors where you can dine amongst the elegant decor. Or, if the weather is favourable, sit in their summer garden courtyard with its ornate stonework and iron furniture to enjoy a feast of culinary creations. If you chose to sit inside, enjoy the live piano music as you tuck into rich tastes from fresh, seasonal ingredients.

Their menus cater for meat, fish and veggie lovers with some excellent starters and exquisite deserts attractively presented. Whist you’ll find traditional Bulgarian food on the menu, you’ll also discover some unusual twists and a whole range of sauces: shrimps with Cognac, calamari with Pernod or homemade ravioli with a truffle cream sauce. Wild mushrooms and truffles feature in several dishes and for desert try one of the chef’s specialties, Kadif, (sweet noodles). I’ve been there several times now and each time have had an excellent service; waiting staff generally speak English and have always tried to be helpful to answer any questions about the menu.

Wine is a specialty here and they take their oenology seriously which is great if like me, you’re a lover of good wines! You’ll find the house wines inexpensive and an extensive range of quality Bulgarian and foreign wines to suit all tastes, flavours and budget. If you want to experiment with local wines and improve your knowledge of wine, try out their wine tasting sessions. Not a wine lover? Not a problem: they also have a range of craft beers and rakias instead.

Art Gallery & Museum at the Hadji Nikoli Inn

The building of the Hadji Nikoli Inn also houses an Art Gallery and Museum on the upper floors for a 6lv entrance fee. In addition to authentic clothes, weapons and historic artefacts,you can also currently admire a large collection of silver and gold coins which go back to the time of the Principality of Bulgaria and the Third Bulgarian Kingdom.

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Their Art Gallery showcases both contemporary art from Bulgaria and abroad. Exhibitions change to accommodate different artists and there are many sculptures and paintings on display; and if you like them that much, there are opportunities to buy some of the artwork too. All descriptions are written in Bulgarian and English so there’s little chance of confusion!

 

Tarator – таратор

Tarator is a simple, no fuss cold soup, favourited by Bulgarians as a summer starter but can be made for any time of the year. Loved for its curative qualities, it’s quick to make and involves zero cooking. Using fresh ingredients alongside the infamous Bulgarian yogurt (but any natural yogurt will do), it makes for a healthy and refreshing beginning to a meal or as a compliment to a salad regardless if you’re eating fish, meat or vegetables.

What Gazpacho is to the Spanish, Tarator recipes differ according to each of the Balkan or Middle Eastern countries; some preferring to substitute tahini instead of yogurt. It’s versatility also means you can dilute with water for a soup or make it thicker and use for a dip.

Bulgarian food tarator

What You Need:

500g of yogurt

2 cucumbers

3/4 garlic cloves

small bunch of dill

3/4 crushed walnuts (optional)

2tp olive oil

Choose to part peel the cucumbers or leave the skin on and cut up into small cubes (don’t grate them as it will turn them into mush!). Mix in the crushed walnuts, garlic and chopped dill and pour over the yogurt. Add salt and olive oil and leave to chill before serving. You can add water to the Tarator if you want to have more of a soup consistency or leave as it is.

It’s that easy!

Bulgarian food tarator

 

Buggering Off to Bulgaria

Buggering Off to Bulgaria is a new cookbook which incorporates a generous helping of traditional Bulgarian recipes, a spattering of British-inspired comfort food and a pinch of the same from Eastern Europe, Greece and North America. Organised in seasons, and by the author’s own admission, this cookbook is a mish mash of recipes from Bulgarian and worldwide cuisine. The compilation, put together by Remanon Last, is influenced by her own travels and love of all things from the kitchen larder, but you’ll also find contributions from some of the British expat community in Bulgaria who have supplied some of their own favourite recipes.

download

The principle idea behind the book came from Remanon’s love of animals and trying to find a way to raise money and awareness for the benefit of animal shelters and sanctuaries in Bulgaria. As anyone who has visited, and certainly for those who live here, can’t help but notice, the amount of dogs and cats wandering around the streets of any city or village who have often been neglected and maltreated. This book has been carefully planned and published with these strays in mind so inside the book (and below), you’ll find a list of rescue centres which the proceeds of the book will be shared between to help contribute towards the costs of neutering and caring for these animals.

Buggering off to Bulgaria

Whether you like learning how to cook traditional recipes or prefer experimenting by adding modern twists to them, this culinary tome is full of fresh natural ingredients that encompass appetizers, soups, mains, bread, jams and deserts. Full of variety and unique flavours, choose to cook anything from a Hungarian Mushroom soup to a Pumpkin Curry or a Middle Eastern Mujadarrah, such is the culturally diversity of these recipes. For those who are sweet-toothed, you’ll find out how to make muffins, cakes and even a cheesecake with variations on chocolate based pudding too.

In addition to the recipes, you’ll find references to Bulgarian traditions, history and festivals that reflect the diversity and influences of their cuisine. So, if you need the recipe for Easter bread (Kozunak), what do make using the famously healthy Bulgarian yogurt, or simply just need some inspiration from your garden or market produce, then this book has it all.

Photo: Bin im Garten

Photo: Bin im Garten

 For my own inspiration, I’m looking forward to trying beetroot on the BBQ, something I’ve not come across before, and will wait until the plum season before experimenting with making some bread with it. All recipes are easy to follow, and very economical so even if you’re not an experienced chef, you’ll still be able to create a tasty dish or accompaniment for your pleasures such as Panagyurski Eggs or Nettle Pesto. There are also some very useful Appendixes which are particularly handy for when you’re looking for substitutions or equivalents to certain ingredients which can often be difficult to find in Bulgaria.

Buggering Off to Bulgaria is not just a cookbook worthy of a good cause but our kitchens also deserve a copy so we can all have a deeper knowledge of Bulgarian food and culinary customs. And, with plans for a forthcoming series to include preserving and gardening, we’ll all soon be cooking up a range of feasts from tasty, seasonal produce!

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For further information:

There are plans for the book to soon be distributed in Bulgaria but for now you can buy a copy of the book through Amazon. However, the first five subscribers to travelin2bulgaria can have a copy sent from Bulgaria, (currently a limited supply) – just sign up in the box below and we’ll get back to you with details (Paypal & Ekont) 

You can read more about Remanon and her move to Bulgaria on either one of her blogs: Buggering Off to Bulgaria or remanonlast.com

If buying the book isn’t an option for you, listed below are the links for the rescue centres in Bulgaria so you might want to learn more about what they do and make a donation to their cause instead.

 Happy Endings Retreat and Rescue

Twitchy Noses

Help Bulgarian Street Cats and Dogs

RudozenThe Neuter Network

Kitty Connections