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Bosnia and Herzegovina - Cooking and Food
Overview of Bosnian Cuisine History
Bosnia and Herzegovina is located in the south- east side of Europe.
The country is inhabited by three major ethnical groups: Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks. Bosnia and Herzegovina was one of the six provinces of Yugoslavia from World War I until the end of Cold War, and in March 1992 gained its independence. In 1992 a war broke out in Bosnia that ended by international intervention in the December of 1995 with the signing of the Dayton Agreement. The Bosnian War was rife with ethnically based war crimes from Serb aggressors. The country borders Croatia in the west, and Serbia and Montenegro in the east. It has a sea opening for about 20 kilometers near Neum.
The capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina is Sarajevo which is also the biggest city in the country. It's geographical position is very complex; the Bosnian region in the north is predominantly mountainous covered with thick forests while Herzegovina in the south has a flat ground perfect for agriculture.
Due to the location of the country, Bosnia and Herzegovina enjoys productive agriculture, especially in Herzegovina where the land is fertile. The most popular fruits and vegetables used in Bosnian cuisine are plums, carrots, onions, tomatoes, beans, and spinach. Because in the southern side the relief is not as high as in the north and the weather is gentler the crop of grapes is produced in Herzegovina where you can find the best wines in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
There are good local beers (try Sarajevsko pivo) and wines to accompany meals. Quality wines Zilavka (white) and Blatina (red) are made from autochthonous varieties grown in Herzegovina.
Locally produced rakija (a sort of brandy) comes in numerous flavours, such as grape and plum. Coffee drinking is a favourite Bosnian pastime and part of the culture.
Average Meal Prices:
- Low 5-10KM ( 2.5-5€)
- Mid 10-15KM ( 5-7.5€)
- High 15-20KM ( 7.5-10€)
Although Bosnia and Herzegovina reunites three major ethnical groups the preparation methods of cooking and the cuisines are mostly the same. Being a Balkan country, Bosnian cuisine are mainly dishes made out of meat particularly Beef, and Lamb. Still, traditional so-called vegetarian dishes like beans or Grah are cooked. Part of Bosnians do not eat pork because they are Muslims. Fast food, except cevapi and pita/burek are stew (čorba (pron: chorbah), soup (supa) etc. Bread is consumed with all savory foods. Anywhere you go in Bosnia and Herzegovina you will not find spicy food - for spicing their food they use Vegeta which is a mixture of dry vegetables and in a very small quantity chilly.
The most popular food in Sarajevo are Cevapi, the omnipresent Balkan kebab, and numerous variations of pita/burek, a pastry made of file dough and stuffed with meat (Burek), cheese (Sirnica), spinach (Zeljanica) or apple (Jabukovacha). On special occaions Bosnians eat a lamb on a spit (janjetinu) or like a pie (pita/burek) or a meat like a patty (cevap) for dinner nut for desert, Bosnians eat Baklava and other delicious sweets and cakes like doughnuts mainly with jam (krofne) or tulumbe.
Preparation Methods for Bosnian Cooking
Because in the Bosnian cuisine all the meals have to contain meat, there are plenty of preparation modes for it but the most common is smoked meat. Smoked meats like smoked neck, smoked ribs is practically the basic mode of consuming meat in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Bosnians have a special way of preparing smoked meat. The meat is kept in salt for a few days in order to dehydrate it and to conserve it from spoiling. After removing it from the salt, the meat is rubbed with spices and then it’s hanged over a wood fire. The special taste of the smoked meat is given by the wood fire which is made out of fruit trees like apple or cherry trees. The meat is kept in a small room, usually made out of wood, outside the house because the meat is usually smoked in the winter because low temperatures and the salt permit the meat to resist a long time without spoiling. In this time, the Bosnians smoke the meat for about four times a week for eight to ten hours a time. The smoked meat has a dark color while the commercial meat is red and fresh and it is more delicious than fresh meat. Bosnians usually eat smoked meat for lunch. Bosnians enjoy eating a lot of stew-type meals like boiled beans prepared with smoked meat. One of the most common smoke meats is Suho Meso, or Dried beef.
Special Equipment for Bosnian Cooking
Bosnian cooking doesn’t require special equipment. The most frequent tools for cooking are pots, in different sizes, used for boiling the vegetables, the stew-pans, food storage containers, Potato mashers, garlic pressers, frying pans, grinders. Bosnians use the coffee grinder for roasting and grinding spices. For cooking “Lamb on the spit” it is necessary to have a wooden steak and it has to be rotated over firewood for a couple of hours.
Bosnian Food Traditions and Festivals
There are many traditions and festivals held in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The national holidays include National Day (November 25), Christmas (December 25), New Year’s Day (January 1), Velika gospa or Western Christian Assumption (August 15), All Saints Day (November 1), Labor Day (May 1). Because of the religion variety (Muslim, Orthodox, Catholic) the traditions and festivals differ from a religious group to another, but it is extremely common to celebrate each other’s holidays. Religious occasions attract large crowds. During the most important holidays like Christmas, catholic Croats and orthodox Serbs prepare the Pogaca which is a very soft butter bread and Hljeb another special type of bread. Also in some special occasions, Bosnians cook the famous Janjetina or the “Lamb on the spit”.
One of the most popular dish is cevapi which is cooked for special occasions like weddings, baptize and other important ceremonies. During the winter festivals the most common plate is sarma which is made out of sour cabbage topped with Beef and rice. There are also savory versions of Burek. They are commonly filled with potatoes, ground lamb/beef or spinach and feta. It can be eaten dry, or topped with a gravy or kajmak (pronounced kay-mack), which is like a cross between cottage and feta cheese. I've never seen it in the States so sour cream was probably substituted. Burek is also popluar in Croatia, Serbia and the rest of the Balkans.
People in Bosnian Food
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In the Bosnian tradition, mostly everything related to cooking, baking or preparing the food is done by women. The women have the chore of organizing the meals of the day according to their husband’s preferences and with the economic possibilities of the family. Not only women cook, for example the janjetina (Lamb on the spit) is a dish generally prepared by men. Bosnian people are known for being hospitable, they serve their guests with coffee and meza, a large platter of arranged smoked meat, cheese and ajvar, boiled eggs and a variety of vegetables like tomatoes, cucumber and, of course, bread.
In the old town of Sarajevo there are a lot of restaurants which combine Bosnian meals with Turkish style dishes. On the other hand the Middle Eastern influences give an exotic flavor to the food. If you eat cevapi in one of the restaurants in Sarajevo you feel the taste of the most famous grill dish recognized in the whole world. Cheese is also one of the tastiest products that the Bosnian cuisine can offer. The Lamb on the spit is specific for the Jablanica town.