SAINT JOHN'S DAY /Ivanovden/
STUFFED LEG OF PORK | BANITZA /Cheese pastry/ | APPLE PIE
In the church calendar, this is the day celebrated in honour of Saint John the Baptist who baptized Jesus. It is also the holiday of all who bear the Saint's name. By old Bulgarian custom at early dawn - before sunrise - young women brought water from a river or a well. In a large caldron, referred to as "chebar", they bathed the children for health. The young couples, who had married in the winter before St. John's Day, were also given a bath in this "chebar". Then the lads went visiting all the houses and bathing all boys and men named John. St. John was believed to be the patron of sponsorship and sworn brotherhood. On St. John's Day everybody visits his sponsor, the young couples bring him a ring-shaped bun, cheese- or other pastry and wine, as well as blood-pudding and roasted pork.
In case you have been sponsor at some couple's wedding, or if your name is Ivan /John/, Ivanka, Iva, Ivelina or Ivana and you expect guests on St. John's Day, you really have to prepare a holiday feast to honour your visitors, as well as the Christian festival itself. Here we suggest some traditional Bulgarian Ivanovden dishes coming from different parts of Bulgaria.
The STUFFED LEG OF PORK is one of the dishes most often cooked for St. John's Day. This day does not require lenten fare, therefore the Bulgarian people gladly used to cook fresh pork.
STUFFED LEG OF PORK Ingredients
- a boned leg of pork (weighing about 2 kg)
- 4 spoonfuls of butter
- 1 coffee-upful of vegetable oil
- 1 onion
- 2 carrots
- 2 boiled eggs
- 1 teaspoonful of red pepper
- 1 teaspoonful of ground savoury
- 1/2 teaspoonful of pounded pepper
- 2 pickled cucumbers
The preparation of this meal demands patience and strict observance of the instructions.
Pound the boned leg with a moistened wooden household hammer.
By a sharp knife make a deep cut in its middle and fill the hollow with a mixture prepared according to the following instructions:
In two spoonfuls of melted butter brown the minced onion and the finely cubed carrots.
Take the pan away from the cooking-plate and when the filling gets cool add the cubed pickled cucumbers and boiled eggs, spice with red pepper, pepper and savoury to your taste.
Stuff the leg and sow up the opening with a scalded white thread.
Put the leg in a baking dish greased with the rest of the butter and roast in a quick oven at first. In about 20 minutes lower the temperature. Every ten minutes pour over the leg a coffee-cupful of warm water mixed with vegetable oil. When the meat turns brown, turn it over.
Finally, spread red pepper mixed with vegetable oil on the leg.
If you intend to visit your sponsors or someone whose patron is St. John, the best surprise for him will be a home-cooked BANITZA. The recipe offered here is from Plovdiv district - famous for its masters in cooking and its dishes of unique relish.
BANITZA /Cheese pastry/ Ingredients
- 1 kg of flour, a cube of yeast of match-box size
- 1 teaspoonful of salt
- 1/2 teaspoonful of sugar
- 1 1/2 teacupfuls of crumbled cheese
- 4 eggs
- 2 coffee-cupfuls of melted butter
- 2 spoonfuls of lard
First mix yeast with a small quantity of tepid water and add the sugar. Make a smooth pastry of the risen yeast, flour, 1 beaten egg and salt.
Divide the well-kneaded pastry into three parts and make balls of them.
Lard the balls and cover them with a cloth. Let the dough rise for half an hour in a warm place. Roll out each ball to a thick sheet measuring the size of baking dish bottom.
Make the filling out of the other three beaten eggs and the cheese.
Spread the first sheet in the buttered baking dish and sprinkle it with melted butter. Then lay it with half of the filling.
Repeat this with the second sheet.
Soak the uppermost, third sheet with butter.
Bake the pastry at moderately hot oven.
When made ready, do not forget to cover it with a cotton or linen cloth to keep its crust soft.
The sweet course on St. John's Day you could prepare is an APPLE PIE. Here follows an universal recipe practised in many places in Bulgaria in the winter season. In this period the Bulgarian diet makes use of the apples gathered in autumn. They may be dried, preserved in compotes or jams, or kept fresh in a dark and cool place available in every Bulgarian house in old times.
APPLE PIE Ingredients
- 6 eggs
- 1 teacupful of sugar
- 2 teacupfuls of flour
- 1 packet of baking powder
- 1 packet of vanilla powder
- 1/2 teaspoonful of baking soda
- 7-8 applesDirections:
Beat the egg yolks with the sugar.
Remove the stems and seeds of apples and peel them, Cut them in cubes. Add 2 spoonfuls of water to the beaten yolks and then - the flour and the apples.
Bake in quick oven at first. When the pastry begins to turn red, reduce temperature.
Beat up the egg whites together with three spoonfuls of granulated sugar, grated lemon peel and a pinch of baking powder. Spread this cream on the pie. Bake for 1-2 minutes in the well-heated oven and serve pastry cut in rhombi.
SOURCES OF REFERENCE:
Mantov, Dimiter. Folk Dishes from St. Dimitri's to St. George's Day. Svetulka 44 Publishing House, Sofia, 1997
Petrov, L. et al. Bulgarian National Cuisine. Sofia, Zemizdat, 1984.