Ovcha Pastarma

Cured meats and meat products - Bulgaria

Ovcha pastarma is a sheep pastrami that originates from the Muslim villages near the town of Gotse Delchev, in southwest Bulgaria's Blagoevrad district. Hoggets (one year old lambs) are preferred for the preparation of this product. The meat is processed after Saint Dimitar's day (Kasam in Islam) on October 26. The carcasses are cut into quarters, and the pieces are hung in a well-ventilated area. After a couple of days, these cuts are broken down into smaller pieces, salted with sea salt and layered in a wooden box with salt between the layers. After two weeks the resulting pastrami is ready, and salt is added for further storage if being preserved for winter. If any pastrami is left in spring, it is removed from storage and further dried in an airy place.   The lean meat of sheep pastrami has reddish-brown color, and the fat is yellowish. It can be prepared and served with beans, with pilaf, with potatoes, grilled over the fire or consumed as it is. For the Pomaki people (Islamic Bulgarians) in this region, sheep is the main source of animal protein. This method of meat preservation is similar to the one used by area Christians for the curing of pork products. Ovcha pastarma is made only for family consumption, and is not generally found for sale commercially. However, some families purchase meat for their own preparations instead of raising and slaughtering their own animals. Today, a year round supply of fresh meat is also thought to have contributed to the decrease in the production of this product.