Breznitsa Maize Couscous

Cereals and flours - Bulgaria

Breznitsa maize couscous is locally known as couscouz. It is a creamy whitish colored pasta made from corn ground to a fineness of about 2 - 3 mm. This ground corn is called cushlya. The ground corn is placed into a wooden container called a noshkovi for kneading. Cornstalks are used to stir the corn, which is mixed with water and corn flour. The mixture is rolled by hand to create granules, and in the next step water and this time wheat flour is added before being rolled out again. The third rolling is done with another addition of corn flour, and finally the mixture is sifted. The finest portion is collected and allowed to dry in the sun for a few days.   To cook the Breznitsa couscous, water is poured into a large metal cauldron. Small stones are put on the bottom of the cauldron to signal when the water starts boiling. A trivet is put in the water with wooden sticks placed above it. The couscous is put in a linen cloth and then onto the trivet in the cauldron. A baking tin is used to weigh down the couscous, and the cauldron is covered with a lid. The couscous is steamed, then crushed in small pieces and dried in the sun. Breznitsa couscous is served only for breakfast with pure butter.   Bulgarian Muslims (or Pomaki) are the predominant inhabitants of the Breznitsa area of southwest Bulgaria. The couscous-making tradition is borrowed from Arabic culture, but is prepared in Bulgaria with local corn instead of wheat or millet. Today, Breznitsa couscous is made for home consumption, but the tradition is in decline. The preparation is quite labor intensive and corn couscous is being replaced by commercially made wheat varieties.