Eastern Europe offers a look into the past where organic family farms produce the majority of their food which is often preserved for the winter by various fermentation methods. Our goal was primarily to learn about the different fermentation’s that are still commonly prepared in Eastern Europe. We also have a passion for traditional farming methods and food preparations. We therefore learned about much more than what we set out to encounter. We traveled far and wide in a little ol’ Volkswagen bus we called baby beluga. We were taken in by the most hospitable Bosnians and the hardest working Romanian elders, all of whom we continually prodded for information on traditional methods of fermentation. We learned so much, but it was certainly more difficult then we anticipated to learn of fermentation recipes, techniques and methods. We inadvertently learned about entire food system, and indeed we saw many differences from our own culture. Perhaps we constantly encountered this different food system simply because it it everywhere and everybody seems to be working towards their own diet. Whether you find yourself in the forest, farm, roadside or marketplace people are collecting, growing, harvesting, preserving and selling food.
One of the first things we learned to say in Croatian was Kisili Kupus, literally meaning sour cabbage. This fermented food was something we had researched upon our arrival in South Eastern Europe and so were very excited to seek it out. Kisli Kupus is whole cabbages fermented in brine sometimes including peppercorns, bay leaves and other spices. Unfortunately we had a very difficult time finding Kisili Kupus. It was widely known and produced in Bosnia perhaps more so than surrounding Croatia and Serbia. Once we entered Bosnia people responded postively to our search, and though we were not having luck finding the actual thing many gave us recipes and shared all sorts of interesting tid bits on the subject. The positive feedback and lack of actual Kisili Kupus created a monster. Luke became determined and obsessed he was not allowing any locals to interact with us without questioning them thoroughly on the subject of Kisili Kupus. Nonetheless, the quest for Kisili Kupus was fascinating aside from the array of facial expressions this interrogation revealed it took us to some incredible places. Everybody, even in larger cities knew of Kisli Kupus and indeed they or the older women in their families made Kisli Kupus to preserve cabbage in the winter. We traveled to the highlands where it was still cold and Kisli Kupus was rumored to still be found in the early summer. We traveled around the highlands (most of Bosnia is highlands) for several weeks and although we did not find what we set out for we encountered a land of incredible beauty and people of unmatchable kindness, all of it seeming to revolve around food. Check out our slideshow to see images of some of the ferments we found.