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 🙂

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

 

 

 

 

Bob Chorba (Bean Soup)

P1040036Bob, pronounced ‘bop’, is centuries old soup recipe and has hugely been part of the Bulgarian staple diet, partially due to the high volumes of bean cultivation, and partly because it’s a simple, yet filling food for the table.

I’ve stuck to the ‘original’ recipe here but there are numerous alternatives on this soup: vegetables included can be changed according to whatever you have in your cupboard; choose another variety of beans; or you can opt for a meat version of pork bob chorba or slices of sausage. If you’re a vegetarian, it’s an ideal meal or accompaniment to a main, and for the budget traveler it only costs a few Lev so makes for a filling lunch.

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Ingredients

3 cups of white beans, 2 carrots, 1 onion, 2 large tomatoes, 2 (bell) peppers, celery

1 chilli, tsp dry mint, tsp paprika, tsp chubritza, parsley for garnish

I also sometimes use a veggie stock cube and a lot of garlic but this is optional

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Method

Depending on which beans you choose, you’ll have to soak them overnight. Drain them the next day and cover with fresh water. Slice onion, peppers, and tomatoes and add them to hot oil with the garlic, paprika, mint, chubritza and salt. Add the beans and stock and allow it to come to the boil before simmering over a low heat until its ready to eat! Crumble some sirene cheese with parsley to garnish before serving.

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Homemade Tomato Ketchup

Tomato ketchup is something in our kitchen that we take it for granted without even thinking we could actually make our own. This recipe will have you ditching shop bought ketchup for a much tastier alternative.

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What you need:

2 kilos of tomatoes, chopped
2 medium sized onions, chopped
3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
4 garlic cloves – or more if you prefer!
1/3 cup of sugar – brown or white
Black pepper and salt
Generous handful of basil leaves

At this point you can add some ingredients to suit your palette: I also use a few large peppers but you can put in chillies or different herbs to spice it up.

Method

Fry up the onions and garlic until they are soft and then add the chopped tomatoes (I add my peppers here too). Season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil and simmer until the sauce thickens. Add the basil leaves and any other seasoning you’ve decided to use. You need to reduce the sauce so don’t worry if the liquid diminishes a lot in this part but you may need to add a cup of water to stop it burning. You should be stirring the pan frequently.

Next, use the blender to puree the sauce and then comes the messy bit: strain the sauce through a sieve. This can be a little time consuming as you have to push the sauce through to ensure larger bits and tomato pips are not going to be in the sauce.
Place the puree back in a saucepan and add the vinegar and sugar. Taste the ketchup and add more seasoning or sugar according to your preferences. Simmer again and this time you should really see the thickness looking more like the consistency of ketchup. However, it took me quite a while to get to this stage!

Place the hot ketchup into sterilised bottles or jars. If you don’t have these to hand you can also freeze it freezer bags. Once opened, keep refrigerated, and it’ll keep for up to a month. The excess pulp which was strained can be kept for a lovely rich pasta sauce.

The final, and best stage is to try out your ketchup…with anything!