EPIPHANY (ST. JORDAN’S DAY)
CLUSTER LOAF | CABBAGE LEAVES STUFFED WITH GROUTS | WHEAT IN THE STARA ZAGORA STYLE
On 6 January the Bulgarian people observe Epiphany or St. Jordan’s Day. This festival has different names in the different parts of the country, some of them are Krastovden /Day of the Cross/, Voditzi /Waters/ or Vodokrashti /Waterchristen/. The night before St. Jordan’s Day is the last one of the ”incensed" nights. Once again there was ritual bread on the table, but this time, in honour of millet, it was not made of pure wheat flour but of mixed wheat and millet flour. In some Bulgarian regions maize meal, instead of millet, is added to the flour. The feast diet includes also mashed haricot, boiled cabbage or stuffed cabbage leaves, walnuts, wine. All the dishes are lenten fare, although the Advent is already over. The meals would be censed by the eldest man in the house. According to the popular belief, in the dead of night on Epiphany the skies open and everyone who sees them, will be given by God all things he/she wishes. In the past, many people used to sit up all night watchfully awaiting the heaven to open. The twelve dirty days end up on St. Jordan’s day too. From then on till the First Sunday before Lent weddings were permitted. To keep healthy, everybody took part in the blessing of water, when the priest threw the cross in water - in a river, or if there was no river near by - under running fountain water. Young men would dive in the cold water regardless of the frost (below-zero temperatures are typical of the weather in Bulgaria in this time of year) and take the cross out of the water. The priest sprinkles the people attending this ritual with water, using a bunch of basil, and then everybody goes home to feast.
In the past, most Bulgarian women used to make a special loaf of bread for the festive dinner. If you wish to immerse in the atmosphere of St. Jordan’s Day, prepare a cluster loaf.
CLUSTER LOAF Ingredients
- 1 kg of flour
- 1 teaspoonful of salt
Mix the sieved flour with the salt and some lukewarm water and make dough.
Knead for 20 minutes - until bubbles show up.
Take one third of the dough and shape five or seven little pieces.
Arrange them on top of the loaf so that one of them is in the middle but spread it to become larger than the rest. These pieces form the cluster and they are called “kupencheta”.
Bake the loaf in a hot oven.
When ready, wrap the loaf in a cotton cloth to keep its crust from getting too dry.
The main course on this day may be cabbage leaves filled with grouts.
CABBAGE LEAVES STUFFED WITH GROUTS Ingredients
- 12-14 leaves of pickled cabbage
- 2 teacupfuls of grouts
- 3 coffee-cupfuls of vegetable oil
- 1/2 teaspoonful of red pepper
- 1 onion
- 1 spoonful of dried savoury
This meal has a rich flavour and relish-admirers would like it. Sometimes, however, spices irritate sensitive stomachs, and individuals who are not accustomed to spicy dishes should be particularly careful.
The first thing to do is to pour water on the grouts and boil it on a moderate fire.
When grouts begin to soften, add the vegetable oil and the minced onion. Spice with the savoury and the red pepper. Stew for 10 minutes more.
Let the boiled grouts cool and then fill the cabbage leaves. Cover the bottom of the cooking pot with sauerkraut and then arrange the stuffed leaves.
Pour water and sauerkraut juice in equal proportions.
Boil on slow fire till leaves grow soft.
If you have no pickled cabbage available, or if you live in a country where the climate does not allow pickling, apply leaves of fresh cabbage. Of course, the taste will not be the same, but if you follow the instructions, the result will be satisfactory.
The sweet course for St. Jordan’s Day that we suggest here is wheat in the Stara Zagora style. This is a recipe typical not only of the city of Stara Zagora, but in the whole surrounding area. This dish is wholesome, tasty and suited to the winter season.
WHEAT IN THE STARA ZAGORA STYLE Ingredients
- 2 teacupfuls of wheat
- 1 teacupful of ground walnut kernels
- 1 coffee-cupful of raisins
- 1 spoonful of bread-crumbs
To cook this meal is very easy and it is prepared in almost no time.
Pour 6 teacupfuls of lukewarm water over the wheat and boil it on a moderate fire until it becomes soft.
Then take the pot off the cooking-plate, cover it with a twice fold towel and let the wheat “bloom”.
When it gets cool, salt it and add the bread-crumbs, the walnut kernels, the raisins and flavours to your liking. Grated lemon peel and cinnamon are best suited. Mix well.
Sugar the boiled wheat to your taste before serving it.
SOURCES OF REFERENCE:
Grozeva, Vera. Orthodox Traditions and Old-time Bulgarian Folk Beliefs. Sofia, Ivan Vazov Publishing House, 1997.
Petrov, L. et al. Bulgarian National Cuisine. Sofia, Zemizdat, 1984.
Kancheva, Nevyana, Ada Atanassova. Modern Cooking. Kolhida /Colchis/ Publishing House.