Preserving Food for Winter in Bulgaria

Though I've been away from the U.S. for over two years now (seems infinitely longer and simultaneously shorter. You know what I'm sayin') I still like to keep my finger on the pulse of some American trends. Maybe that's not quite accurate. Might be better to say I occasionally take a peek (“cop a squiz” as an Aussie friend says. Am I getting that right?) at the finger that is on the pulse. Anyhow, what I'm saying is that I get it. Cupcakes are out. Pie is in. I get it.

Besides the trendiness of baked goods, I've also noticed a trend toward canning, pickling, and fermenting. I suppose this was a natural progression from eating more locally considering that many parts of the U.S. do not have access to much that's fresh during the winter months. So now those trendy folks are doing what their grandmothers likely did: canning and preserving.

Yes, yes Sarah. But how does this belong in a your travel blog? Well it happens that I first became more closely acquainted with pickling and canning right here in eastern Europe when I stayed with a Romanian man in Bucharest and helped him prepare his giant containers of pickles for the winter. I also helped him eat up some of his sour cherry preserves—a tough task.

Now I find myself in the mountains of southern Bulgaria, a region that enjoys its sauerkraut, pickled peppers, preserved plums, and lutinitsa (a smoky pepper and tomato spread). Though I'm staying with and volunteering for a transplanted British couple, Lily and Yan, Lily is a prolific canner, preserver, and pickler so I'm still able to take part in this tradition, albeit through an English lens. This means the emphasis is off sauerkraut and more on marmalades and jams.

Let me give you a tour through Lily's pantry.

Recognize my handwriting? This is a beautiful chili red onion marmalade that I helped make shortly before Christmas. You can't see it from here, but it has the most beautiful pinkish red hue.

Lines of jarred cherries stored since the cherry glut last summer.

The obligatory shelf of marmalades, including lemon, orange, grapefruit, and mixed.

Shelf of chutneys, including apple, tomato, peach, quince (my favorite), and quince apple.

Jars of peaches from the summer glut.

Lily makes and jars some unusual jams like gooseberry, persimmon, and (my favorite) drenki, a wild, sour cherry with a very intense flavor.


  1. That looks wonderful. My partner's grandma cans everything in sight. How do they can over there? I don't see any mason jars with screw lids and flat tops for pressure canning.

  2. Hi Catalina! (I think I recognize your name from the PPK?)

    You're right, there are no mason jars here, and people don't bother with boiling jars afterwards.

    The main focus here (besides fermentation like sauerkraut) is on preserving meat, veg, and fruit through an interesting process. The (uncooked) fruit is prepared and put directly into jars and lidded. Those jars are then placed in a very large pot, surrounded by hay and weighted, covered with water, then a fire is lit underneath. At this point, a sheet of plastic is secured around the pot so that when the water begins to boil, the sheet will puff up. This allows you to know when your fruit has started cooking, even if you are out working a ways from the house. At this point, fruit is cooked for about 40 minutes. After that time, it is finished.

    Jams are also made here, though less commonly. They are cooked for a long time (too long for my taste) then jarred and stored. No worry about sterilization apparently. And it doesn't seem to be a problem.

    This is probably more information than you wanted, but I find it a very fascinating topic. I'm just learning how to preserve myself.

  3. I want a pantry like that someday when I have a steady home! How fun to be able to be a part of this for you!