Sunday, 20 August 2017

Serbians' Buttery Pride

Balkan Travellers   
Like all nations, the people of the Balkans also have their culinary obsessions: the Turks put aubergines over everything, the Greeks – oregano, and the Bulgarians – a herb known as tshubritsa (a kind of savory), thus making the meaning of the saying "Every meal – with savory" literal (the proverb is normally used in reference to people who stick their nose in everything).

For the Serbs, the ingredient of fixation is kajmak – a fluffy, fragrant and quite heavy dairy product, a mix between butter and white cheese. To them, it is the same as butter to the Danes – besides being tasty, important and bringing a sense of prosperity, it has become a part of the national identity.

The truth, obnoxious as it may be, is that kajmak was not invented by the Serbs. It is part of the traditional cuisine of a wide geographical region, encompassing India, Turkey, Iran, the Near East and large parts of Eastern and Southeastern Europe. Serbia, however, has the right to count it as its own, because no other nation has let it dominate its national cuisine to such an extent.

Traditionally, on the Balkans the soft buttery cheese is consumed with a thick slice of white bread – better yet if warm, as to make the kajmak melt slightly, like butter on a toasted slice of bread. This simplicity, however, is misleading – contemporary chefs display extraordinary creativity in its application. They combine it with anything, from potato broth to meat balls, and even stuff pork steak with it.

An interesting detail about kajmak is that for decades on end, it has managed to escape industrial production. In order to preserve its taste, the Serbs refuse to make it in any way other than the complicated and time-consuming technology by hand. The kajmak, considered to be the most delicious, is made in Čačak, in Central Serbia, and its fiercest rival is that of Užice , 60 kilometres to the West.



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