Cure for the winter blues

 As spring comes in, and we head for the garden, we can't miss the collection of rapidly curing bacon, hams and salamis  as we pass through the back kitchen.  They've been hanging there for the past three months, a tribute to Chris' winter work. Here he explains how he does it.

The process is all about the cold weather and fine sea salt. We dry cure the pork bellies by laying them on a bed of salt and then pour more of it all over the meat like snow. As time passes, the salt draws out the juices and hardens the meat and fat turning it into streaky bacon.

A few years ago, one of our guests from Wales gave us the recipe for air-dried ham and at first it seemed impossibly exotic.  But it is surprisingly easy to make this prosciutto style ham. The whole ham is placed in a large box or tub and completely covered in salt for two weeks. When you pull it out the salt has crusted and hardened like ice. The red meat has turned purple and the fat feels hard to the touch. Then you hang the ham in a cold place. I always like it to be close by so I can watch it slowly curing and drying over the  months. The first thin slices are ready to sample in early summer and the taste is strong, sweet and smoky.

Then there is the salami. They always say ‘use the pork to make what you like to eat.’ And my favourite is the French saucisson sec with its cubes of fat and its deep red colour. I picked up a very simple recipe in France and it is a wonderful process. I mix the minced shoulder with tiny pieces of cured fat. Then I add salt, lots of garlic, pepper and red wine and leave the mixture overnight so that the smell of wine and garlic fills the cold room. If you hang the salamis in the same place this smell never really goes away. Two months later you can start eating your sausages.

Tasting all of this charcuterie is fine reward but it is almost more enjoyable to watch the slow process or the curing throughout the cold months of winter and into Spring.

Exciting Day

We had an interesting day yesterday.  Firstly a group of 15-16 year olds came to visit with their teacher.  They are from one of the local schools in Popovo and are studying Village Tourism.  Yuliana from the Village cultural centre organised the trip.  Not sure what they thought of our set-up but they did enjoy sampling the homemade produce, especially the wine!  For us, it was fun to meet local young people.

Shortly afterwards, Galia from Nova TV arrived with her crew and we had a fun time talking to her with our neighbours from the village.  Needless to say, the wine and cheese sampling continued!!  

Watch here.

Thank you

Singing from the heart

The Bulgarian singing holiday was a wonderful experience.   Stela, our singing teacher and Mitko, our accordian player,  did an amazing job.  The students sang their hearts out for 3 days and amazed themselves by learning 5 songs. 

Yuliana and the village choir were delighted to host them for a final concert in the village bar.  They cooked up a storm of village food washed down with plenty of rakia, the local drink. It was heart warming to see the women of the choir listen to their own songs sung to them in foreign accents.  They loved it and joined in to support at every opportunity! Watch a clip here. 

Looking forward to our next one in 2018.  Click here for more info.

The perfect Bloody Mary

In early May, an email arrived asking if we had any horseradish.  ‘A few plants’.  ‘Wonderful, book us in.  We’re on a quest to find the ingredients for the perfect Bloody Mary!’.

So it was that in June we had a crazy week with Matt and Ruben tracking down some horseradish in the village. 

Our neighbours, Anna, Simeonka and Colio and our shepherd Yomeer were all stars of the show.  Colio even had a makeshift cocktail bar pop up in his garden.  He took it all in his stride after a few shots of complimentary vodka! 

And then off Matt, Ruben and their crew went to source tomatoes in Italy and spices in Morroco!

Delighted to receive the videos:

Click here for Palamartsa. 

Click here for Italy, Morocco and Palamartsa!

A highlight for us was seeing Anna and Yomeer’s faces watching the final films in our living room on the laptop!

From the kitchen

Wild Thyme Farmstay

Delicious food all season from the garden – from our first fruit of the season (cherries) to pumpkins!  We’ve also included a photo of what we receive from our neighbours every start of November.

In this beautiful tradition, they spend all day lovingly preparing gifts of food to pass to all the neighbours, in memory of their ancestors.  There’s always a little candle included which we burn and remember ours too!