When it comes to cured meats and cheeses, the Balkan countries have got it covered. We’re looking at some of their artisan produce that are full of rich, deep flavour that are guaranteed to transport your raki table.
Lukanka is usually finely sliced and served cold as a meze dish across Bulgaria. Slightly flattened, semi-dried and brownish-red in colour, its mix of small pieces of meat and fat give it a grainy structure like no other. Its flavour is formed under the influence of the typical microflora of the local geographic environment making it vary dependant on natural characteristics of the region it’s produced in.
Pastirma is a highly seasoned, air-dried cured beef of Turkey’s Anatolian origin. Its name derives from the words for ‘pressed meat’, giving us more than an inkling to how it’s produced. Heavily salted and spiced with cumin paste, fenugreek, garlic and hot paprika, it’s air-dried to achieve a deep flavour.
Sujuk is a dry, spicy sausage is eaten from the Balkans to the Middle East and Central Asia. Typically it’s made from ground beef flavoured with spices such as cumin, sumac, garlic, salt and red pepper and allowed to dry for several weeks. Raw, sliced sujuk is often served as mezze with Yeni Raki.
Kolbász is a variety of smoked Hungarian sausage, flavoured with garlic, pepper, caraway and Hungarian red paprika. There’s lots of versions of Kolbász, it’s most popular, Gyulai is so special it has PGI (Protected Geographical Indication). It’s produced by simultaneously slow cooking and beech wood smoking the sausage. Served in thin slices it’s often eaten simply with bread.
Halloumi is a Cypriot, semi-hard, unripened brined cheese made from a mixture usually of goat’s and sheep’s milk. It has a high melting point and so can easily be fried or grilled as a hot mezze dish.
Sirene or Sirenje is produced across South-Eastern Europe. It’s a type of brined cheese from goat’s milk, sheep milk, cow milk or a combination of milks. In Greece it’s better known as Feta but across Europe it’s referred to as ‘Bulgarian cheese’ or ‘white cheese’. Made in blocks, it’s slightly crumbly and grainy texture, which makes for a lovely addition to salads, such has Shopska and other mezze dishes, but it is just as good as a table cheese.
Tobă or “caş de cap de porc” means “pig head cheese”, doesn’t sound like the most appealing food but this traditional sausage has stood the test of time in Romania. Popular in the region of Transylvania, the 4 inch wide sausage is stuffed with all sorts of pork; stomach, jelly and liver wrapped up in its skin.