Thursday, 28 July 2011

Slivovitsa, Bulgarian Plum Schnapps

A traditional Bulgarian drink, Slivovitsa, pronounced Slee-vo-vee-tsah. Made with the smallish plums we all have on or around our properties in the villages here. The tree's are plentiful & make a wonderful very strong tipple. I make mine with my own home distilled Rakia (off course).
I make large quantities & adjust the quantities accordingly.

4lb Plums
2lb Sugar 3lb for liqueur
32oz Rakia, Brandy or Vodka

Put the washed plums, complete with stones, in a large jar, pot, urn, jug or kilner. Pour over the sugar & coat well. Cover the pot with muslin & lid (let the air in if there is no hole in the lid.
Stir the mixture daily for two weeks to ferment. Make sure the sugar is dissolving & the plums are coated well. You will end up with lots of liquid in the pot. Add the Rakia/Brandy or vodka to the fermented mix. Seal the pot & leave to macerate for 3 months, you could use it after 1 month but it will be much nicer if you wait the full 3.
Strain the liquid through a muslin cloth into sterilised bottles & seal.
Enjoy with friends :-D

Alternitively you can......
Put 10-15 plums in a large glass jar, cover with Rakia. leave to steep for 3 - 6 months. Shake lightly from time to time. Strain & filter through a muslin cloth into sterilised bottles & store for a further 2 months.

I have also got this version steeping away but boy what a long time to wait, we will see which is the best & I will update this blog accordingly :-)

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Chilli Time Soon, Storms, Hottest Days so far & Stalker Beware!

Well the chilli's are growing well & we have lots of fruit on the plants. I was also given a chilli plant in a clay pot by our local potter, lovely gesture, when you buy things she gives a gift :-) Well this was back in May & I never thought to ask what type. As it has grown it has proved to be a lovely decorative plant & I love it but
what is it & just how hot will it be? I was hoping it would be a nice mild chilli that I could munch on in a salad but the shape of it sort of alerted me to the probability of it being a hottie.
Well I think I may have identified it through the thousands, well that may be an exaggeration, of chilli varieties out there. The plant & shape & colour certainly looks the same! It is, I think, called Abbraccio & its origins are from Italy. It will look beautiful soon with lots of different colours all at the same time. At the moment it is at the first stage.....
I have decided to try them fresh in a mince dish, just to see then also to dry them in a ristra & grind them or I quite fancy making a chilli sauce so I can add to different dishes as & when, perhaps I can sweeten it up?
My friends Claire & Peter Kidd gave me a bag load of their chilli's too so my first Ristra's hanging outside the kitchen drying out :-)
They also gave me two lovely Marrows A bag of spuds & a bag of my favourite white plums, yum, Thanks guys xxxx We all grow similar stuff & I love to preserve. Friends & neighbours pass around surplus produce & I pass around jars of preserves I have made with it :-)
I went to pick our first Marrows, as Nigel told me there were some beaut's ready, but when I went down to pick one for a frittata found they were butternut squash & not ready yet :-( I have lost my marrow's!!!!!
I guess when we clear the weeds (well over due) we will find them :-) Good news is the tomatoes are now ripening & we are picking them every day.
We have four varieties this year Huge beefsteak tomatoes (my fav's), plum, heart & medium. Hopefully we have covered all the bases hahaha. Normally I just grow the beefsteak but this year we have 100 plants, nothing compared to Yovo's 1,000! The runner beans are coming along nicely as are the aubergines, love this time of year :-)

I have been really busy preserving jams & chutneys, baking a friends birthday cake & breads, I love it but at this time of year with the high temps its grueling! I am starting to pickle the gherkins today & more jam to make with the last of our plums & the ones from Claire & Pete.
Not long now till my daughter Claire her partner Tom & my granddaughter Hope arrive for a holiday with us, I can't wait, it's been far too long & I am soooo looking forward to it :-D Lots of house & garden work to do as they are not used to the dusty conditions here so we must try & give them a good impression & a nice outside space  :-)
Phew the weather here is still boiling hot even with the storms we have been having. I was so relieved on Sunday when we had rain I stood in it reveling in the coolness after such a hot day food shopping. This then turned into a huge storm & we got home to find no storm (yet) but also no electric! To say I was not amused is definitely an understatement as we left in the morning with no water! I was sitting in the garden on the phone to my mum when the storm was right above us & I must have deafened her with my scream as the almighty crack of thunder shook :-) Reggie scrunched up into a corner & Mini was running round the living room :-) I told mum I had to ring back while I cowered inside just till it moved off, then I sat back outside to watch the show. The sky was alight & we had fork lightening, sheet lightening coming in all directions & I saw fork lightening going up in all directions too, amazing!!!!!
Well it cooled down for a day then just heated up again. We are all knackered from the heat & mugginess of it all but I don't want to change it, I am just thankful to be living in a beautiful country that gets wall to wall sunshine for most of the very long hot summer. Too many years in UK with no sunshine & months of rain & flooding during the so called summer, let alone the rest of the seasons!
We have been socialising rather a lot lately which is rather nice, its a great time of year for that. There is a group of us & we have all been having BBQ's.
We all have pool's so its great to cool off when we start to over heat while enjoying good food & company, very different to anything we have ever done in UK :-D
Tomorrow its our Russian friends birthday party. Looking forward to it as its going to be massive. I have baked her a birthday cake & we are off to find her a gift. Galia is a very beautiful & stylish lady who is/was a fashion designer, she loves beautiful things & I hope to find something lovely for her :-)
   On the downside I have a stalker! A bitter & twisted woman who follows me around facebook under assumed names pretending to be different people & adding me as a friend! I have caught her out minimum 4 times & now have to vet everyone on my friends lists who are newish & decide if they could be another made up person! Not only on my personal page but on other groups too. I am a reactionist & tend to respond to nasty comments but this seems to backfire & I may have just come across as a trouble maker when in fact I just stood up for a particular group or a friend. So I am going to try my hardest to keep my fingers quiet & get rid of anyone who is an imposter.
Oh I have to say the biggest downside to living here is the people who love to spread lies & innuendo's amongst people. It has been a real eye opener to me, I did wonder if I was strange, but others have suffered this phenomena too. Isn't it sad, we all move here to get away from the rat race, nasty people & yearn for a quiet life & make a living at what we are good at, then have to put up with this rubbish! Well I am no chicken & will not put up with people who want to spend their life sniping, lying & spying on others just because their lives are not what they want & they are bored out of their brains!!!! To those people I would say Get a life!
Right enough of my soap box back to real life ;-)
   Yesterday we went to a get together with other ex pats. We met some really nice people, always good to meet new people, & enjoyed a very full day with friends. On the way back from the market I spotted this very fine looking specimen of insect, anyone know what it is? Oh & is it harmful?
It was very beautiful & also very aggressive! Pete got a stick & moved it onto the grassy area, as it was on the pathway, & it went mental as all the weeds were anoying it. It twisted itself front & back trying to get at whatever was touching it! It has a horn on the front was quite plump & large but what a beautiful thing I am very pleased we got to see it!
Comparison by the side of a large size mans shoe ;-)
A friend (in England) has just told me it is a Deaths Head Hawk Moth caterpillar, Thank you Rachel x

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Overheating, Jam making in the garden & Booze, Booze, Booze

My goodness the weather has taken a turn for the better, or worse depending on an individuals tolerance to heat! Personally I love it but it makes doing anything at all very difficult! Oh it's such a hard life;D Nigel spends a couple of hours every day naked, cooling off in the pool or relaxing by it hahaha, mind you most of the day is spent working very hard as everything he does is physical & in this heat he is entitled ;D;D;D
Plums, plums, plums, plums, plums, plums, plums! Its plum season here, the small damson type. three types at the moment but not the victoria plummy purple plum just yet. We have small red/blush plums, small white plums & even smaller red plums in our garden & all around the village. Nigel has been picking the plums from our property every day 2.5 - 5 kilo a day, with still more to harvest :)
We have also been scrumping from the village, got 14 kilo's yesterday, as I am making lots of plum brandy, schnapps & liqueur, yummy :) We make our own wine every year from our small vinyard & off course after the wine we develop mush into Rakia.
Slivovitsa ( Slee-vo-vee-tsah) fermenting process.

 I have also been making the jam every day which has been difficult in this heat with temps in the evening of 30c, forget making anything in the day! Nige has fixed me up an outside cooking area with our camping gas cooker,, as the kitchen is unbearable while cooking now even with the door open & the extractor hood & room fan on! I have managed to cook dinner & quite a few batches of said jam out there.
I have turned to making the booze now though as we have so many gallons of home made Rakia (Bulgarian brandy) which has matured beautifully :) We get great compliments from Bulgarians, Russians & English. We even sent some to England to a Rakia loving friend & he loved it saying it was the best he had tasted & he has only had bought over the counter Rakia's, So a real compliment. As we will be brewing the next batch in September/October, I decided to make some flavoured brandies & liqueurs from it & also have kirsch maturing away :)  Nigel thinks I am mad as we very rarely drink, never just on our own & very little when entertaining (mind you we don't need much Rakia) but I love the making of it. Same with the wine we have gallons coming out of our ears but its gorgeous now as it has matured & people really enjoy it, I also use some in cooking :)
Next on my list is plum muffins & I have an idea for a new batch so if they are successful I will be blogging it in my food blog, http://www.bulgarianvillagerecipes/ the link is down the side of this blog page :D
We are visiting friends on Friday & I will be making some for them, I hope they turn out ok but I do have a standby trusted recipe to make too, just in case but I am sure they won't mind being my guinepig's :D
We popped in to meet Karen who owns the cave book store, in Veliko Tarnovo, last week. Its a great shop where we English speakers can buy books we can read. Obviously we are starved of reading matter here as the shops are not going to sell English speaking books, Although saying that I did actually find a Martina Cole book a couple of years ago along with a small handful of other books in a book  shop in VT, but this is a real rarity. Having a place we can go & find a new book is great, they also sell some at a car boot that is held once a month, near Veliko Tarnovo. I am blessed with a full book load at the moment though as I bought a sack full of them off Ebay & Nigel drove them back when he came home after spending 6 months working in UK last year :)
Karen was telling Nigel about talking books & Nigel, who has only read three books in his life, has now gone on the rampage looking for books to download! First his MP3 player broke, then his Clio has a faulty memory card or something, not a happy man.......Until he remembered my Clie. So now he has some 6 books downloaded & is currently listening to A Christmas Carol :D Bless him, he is such a techie It appeals to his nature, whereas I love books & need to own something I can hold & read myself.
So village life here now is all about the Fruit & veg tending it, harvesting it & quickly preserving it. For me that is about it but for villagers its a different matter as they grow enough food to see them through the winter. Our friend Yovo has a thousand Tomato plants to our 100!!!!!!! His day starts at 5am tending his crops & animals & finishes at 9pm after a 2 hour  siesta at lunch time. He has goats chickens & turkeys. He used to have sheep & Pigs but he had someone break in & steal them so he sticks to breeding & eating his goats now! A lot of ex pats also have animals usually Pigs, donkeys & almost everyone has chickens. A lot have horses, if you are a horse lover its the perfect fit here as your property would have room & the horses need love & people to care for them. We are sticking to domestic animals :) well we say domestic they are free'er than that, 5 cats & 4 dogs all dogs are rescued. We moved here with just 1 cat, then was adopted before we walked through the gate on arrival from th UK :) Saskia, as we named her, then proceeded to get pregnant & produced 3 kittens who are now 2 yrs old. Enough is enough I say hahaha No chickens for me as there is no way I want to traipse down to the chicken houses in 3' snow to clean & feed them, Nope!!!!

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Sights & Sounds of My Bulgarian Summer, Nigel One Year Older

Phew we finally have a break in the weather 27c today with mostly cloud & some sun, its a nice break. The heat has been intense here. Bulgaria had a yellow warning for dangerous heat, but that is nothing compared to what August will bring :D The last week or so has been up & down though with a mix of rain, overcast & blooming hot days. We are fortunate here as we miss big storms they tend to get the surrounding villages ;D
We have settled into a routine lately with shopping in the local markets for all our fresh fruit & vegetables. Twice a week we get in our supplies the rest of the time is taken up with the garden & renovation on the house. I personally love Wednesdays. We go to Polski Trambesh market & I buy as much as possible from the small stalls, people who are selling their own grown produce, the rest will be from the stalls that have purchased from local people. You can tell the difference believe me :D The markets are still full of luscious deep red Bing cherries, we buy 1 or 2 kilo's to eat between us Yum! Its also come into peach & apricot season so we are enjoying lots of fresh fruit at the moment, all my favourite's :D They are also teeming with Marrows, Courgette's, Cucumbers, Peppers, New Potatoes, gorgeous Garlic & Tomatoes all locally grown but under polly tunnels I would guess as mine are no where near ready, mind you we did plant them later than the locals! I have lots of tomatoes fruiting so it won't be long before I can start eating mine instead of buying them. I will then be inundated with them & making lots of soup to freeze for lean times & winter & freezing for using in chillie's & sauces :D Our courgette's are growing nicely too & they will produce many throughout the summer. We are also growing plum tomatoes this year so I will can them as I spend a fortune on jars of toms, I buy jars to re-use but for 1.5lev you only get 3 tomatoes in each!!!! There are also lovely big mushrooms being sold there & millions of chillie's. I love the markets & also go end of week to the Gorna Oryahovitsa market along with the supermarket for essentials & Lidle for meat :D but I like Polski the best, with two markets in one really. One side of the railway track is the clothes & everything from cherry pipers to gutting knives & guns, fishing paraphernalia to buckets with lids, secondhand power tools to brand new brush cutters anything & everything you can imagine :D I love browsing the stalls, the smell of hot doughnuts permeates the air whilst the sun is hot on the skin. Occasionally you hear an English accent & everyone, including them, shuts up till out of earshot :D:D:D We have all met the gruesom's here! The other side is fresh fruit, vegetables & live fish! There is also a restaurant & a portable food van. We go for lunch in the restaurant which we have seen built & developed since we have lived here & it is getting better & better, it also has a proper toilet which is well needed by then :D then when all the shopping is done its off to our favourite cafe for the best coffee for miles, but hole in the ground loo :(
Veliko Tarnovo market is great too, its an everyday fruit & veg market but the produce here is really good. This is where you get good quality & so cheap! It also has a shopping mall above it with a cafe with pretty good coffee, so a great place to relax after your partner has been laden down with heavy shopping :)
Bulgaria is great right now with the Sunflower fields coming to life, always an uplifting sight.
The Storks nests are filled now with chicks & the swallows are attacking us as we go up & down the stairs. We also have a nest built in the grape vine outside the kitchen & the little bird seems quite at home there, lets just hope the cats don't see her!
We have had wonderful dance shows performed by the fire flies who kept us rapt for days with their displays in the night gardens but alas now seemed to have left :(
The last few weeks the Grasshoppers & Crickets have been populating our properties & we welcome their lovely soothing noise alone with the toads who's ribbet chatter we love, it all merges together & tells us reassuringly summer is here :D
So Nigel has turned another year, which means a party in this house! The weather turned against us but that did not put us off we had a house party instead of the garden party that was planned. I didn't care at least he was here with me :) as last year he was working in UK & I was here in Bulgaria, sad times! It was a shame though as Nige had worked really hard making sure the pool area was trimmed & set out lovely, still everyone had a good time & we all fitted into our little house comfortably, all 13 of  us.

Sophie & Kamishka find space for a snooze ;D
Now I have a lack of photo's as even though we have found the charger to Nigel's very old digital camera (thank God) we have just changed computers, so most of what is relevant to here is on the broken netbook :( still hopefully now I can get everything sorted.
It is always a busy time when a party is being planned as I do all the cooking from scratch & this was no different. I had baked 36 muffins of three different kinds, a two tier apple cake filled with whipped cream for Nigel's birthday cake. There was two kinds of potato salad & two kinds of carrot salad as well as two different pasta salads. A huge chilli with rice, tarragon baked chicken drumsticks, cocktail sausages & a shopska salad. Friends bought Banitsa, one was homemade the others bought & cooked at home both were delicious. Pavlikna also made a walnut cake & Bev made a Crème Caramel neither of which was touched, along with a choc dessert I made which still languishes in the fridge!