Meurche with Deshka

In Bulgarian, there is a very popular phrase: “Който не работи не трабва да яде”, which means… “those who don’t work, can’t eat”. A dedicated group of people from the village of Gorno Draglishte, gather together for one weekend in December to slaughter a pig and preserve the meat, as is in common in Bulgaria. The whole animal is utilized to make a variety of cured meats and sausages. The highlight of this trip was to prepare Meurche. A special treasure, which is produced in the valley that separates Vidin mountains and Rila. For three days, we ate beautiful food, drank the newly made rakia and shared many laughs. It was a group affair, everyone did their part.

At Deshka’s House, a guest house for green tourism located in Gorno Draglishte, 6km outside Razlog, which is near Bansko. I spent the weekend with a wonderful group of people that are all members and proponents of Slow Food… “Good, Clean and Fair food”. The main task of preparing Meurche, which is a Presidium product supported by Slow Food International. The goal of the Presidium is to protect small-scale farmers and safeguard quality artisan products. I had the pleasure to become acquainted with our hostess Deshka, while at Terra Madre in Torino, Italy this past October.

What is Meurche? It is a rare and unsmoked cured meat produced in the Balkan region. The woman in the village work together to mix fat, leg meat and the shoulder of the pork with salt and a special blend of toasted spices; caraway, dill and coriander seeds that are grown in the garden of Deshka and her mother the unique Baba Villi. The mixture is then packed into the stomach and bladder and hung to cure for 4 months, then stored in ash from the fire for up to 16 months. Meurche is enjoyed sliced and on bread with a bit of Deshka’s special blend of “Sharen Sol”, which is a spice and salt mixture famous throughout the Balkans.

What sets this cured meat apart from other cultural foods is not only the respect of the tradition by the care and selection of the ingredients, produces a product of superior taste.

Beside from the work to prepare the meat, which happened outside in the garage, people floated from the kitchen, which radiated warmth on this frigid weekend from a traditional wood burning stove… imparting a smoky flavor to all the dishes created.

I arrived on Friday, to enjoy a feast prepared by Deshka and Baba Villi, we gather around a large table, ate and danced. The saucy duo, Baba Villi and Baba Yanka, in my opinion the Lucy and Ethel of Gorno Draglishte, entertained us with song, dance and jokes… which at times bordered on risque… 

A few of the ladies were dressed up in tradition garb to make our experience more authentic, I was included in the group and quite enjoyed my new threads.

Saturday, the main event was dedicated to cooking and preparation; spices were toasted, bread was baked, meat was braised with wine and spices… The kitchen was filled with recipes and ideas, the future of food and the fate of small farmers were just a few of the topics.

The cured meat/ sausage making process that I observed were almost exactly the same ones that I learned at The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Garde Manger. These traditional methods were the foundation for the techniques that are used today. This traditional knowledge and these unique regional recipes are disappearing from Bulgaria. The youth today are not rushing to the villages to preserve this culinary and cultural heritage, so as people from Deshka and Baba Villi’s generation fade away, they will take Meurche with them, unless the perception of the agricultural lifestyle change.  The work that Slow Food is doing in Gorno Draglishte is very important to allow this cured treasure to be enjoyed for generations to come. 

Deshka’s Guest House/ Къща за Гости “Дешка”
Gorno Draglishte, Razlog
Горно Драглище, Разлог
+359 (0)886 436 708

If you want to see more photos from my weekend in Gorno Draglishte, please visit my Facebook page for Eating, Gardening & Living in Bulgaria.

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Author: caseyangelova

Eating, Gardening & Living in Bulgaria

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