Sunday, 20 August 2017

Macedonia Goes Back to Culinary Roots

Text by Zoran Nikolovski for Southeast European Times*   
The holiday season this year confirmed a new trend in Macedonia: people are getting back in touch with their culinary roots.
Traditional winter season foods are seeing a resurgence, while the experimentation of recent years has abated.

For awhile, it looked like Macedonians were moving towards a more "modern" Christmas menu, with a more globalised flavour. Chinese, Mexican or Italian food was starting to take its place on the table alongside the home-grown recipes. Those traditional recipes, however, are now coming back in a big way.

One distinctive feature of Macedonian holiday cooking is the abundance of vegetarian dishes. Traditionally, the dinner consumed on Christmas Eve must be meat-free. This dinner marks the last day of the 40-day Advent fast, during which the faithful must abstain from meat.

Tavce-gravce, or salty and roasted Tetovo beans, is a favourite food. The beans serve as a main course -- and can be cooked in many ways.

Another staple of vegetarian cooking is sour cabbage. It can be boiled and served with rice; alternately, fried rice is wrapped in the cabbage leaves to create a dish known as sarma. A traditional salad is easy to prepare: just chop the cabbage, stir in some dried red peppers, add oil and salt.

Macedonians let cabbage sour in the autumn by salting it and leaving it in large, water-filled barrels. A favourite winter drink is juva. This consists of brine from the barrel, which can take on a reddish tinge if beets have been added to the cabbage.

Salted fish is another winter favourite. In riverside villages, it is usually prepared by women using wooden barrels. The recipe is simple: add a layer of fish and then a layer of sea salt successively until the barrel is full.

Canning and preserving fruits and vegetables are another winter tradition. Families gather to prepare various products, including many types of peppers. They make compotes of pears, sour cherries and apricots, as well as fruit preserves or stewed fruits using cherries, figs, plums, apricots, pears, cherries, strawberries and blackberries.

Macedonians also string up peppers, onions, garlic and corn and let them dry. In rural areas, a passerby can see stringed tobacco leaves hanging on the porch.

Christmas brings a return to red meat. The menu is abundant in pork, chicken or veal, sarma with ground veal and pork, various meat and vegetarian pies and fruit.

*This text is courtesy of the Southeast European Times (SET), a web site sponsored by the US Department of Defense in support of UN Resolution 1244, designed to provide an international audience with a portal to a broad range of information about Southeastern Europe. It highlights movement toward greater regional stability and steps governments take toward integration into European institutions. SET also focuses on developments that hinder both terrorist activity and support for terrorism in the region.

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