Eastern Europe

Grandma of a small family homestead high in the Transylvania Mts.

Grandma of a small family homestead high in the Carpathian Alps

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 ferments that are still commonly prepared in Eastern Europe(click here to see “Fermented Discoveries of 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 we 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 ferment, many locals 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.  After traveling around the highlands (most of Bosnia is highlands) for several weeks we did not find what we set out for, instead we encountered a land of incredible beauty and people of unmatched kindness, all of it seeming to revolve around food.

2 comments on “Eastern Europe
  1. ferid says:

    I wish that you know me before you went on your trip to Bosnia. I was born in Sarajevo and finished restaurent school before I come to US 30 years ago. I go to BOSNIA every year to visit family and own home on Jablanicko Jezero (Jablanica lake). I live in Florida and diferent foods are my hoby and pashion. I am available most of the time for sharing food info

  2. admin says:

    Wonderful, We spent time around Jablancia lake it is so beautiful! Do you have any fermentation recipes you want to share? Kisli Kupus and Smreka were the ones that we found, are you familiar with these, are there other variations on these recipes? Thank you for your comments!

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