Strandzanski Etarnik

Cured meats and meat products - Bulgaria

Etarnik is type of traditional sausage called by this name only in the area of Mount Strandhza, in southeastern Bulgaria. It gets its name from its main ingredient of liver, or jetro in old Slavic. It is a seasonal product, typically made around the Christmas holidays, and it has a very short shelf life, and so should be consumed within ten days. Recipes for etarnik may slightly vary depending on family preferences, but in general, pork liver, spleen, heart and kidneys are used. Bacon can be used as well. Kidneys should be halved and first soaked in acidic water. All these organ meats should be cut into pieces, but not minced. The typical seasoning includes leeks, onions, salt, savory, black pepper and powdered red pepper powder. The whole mixture should be heated before being stuffed into a casing. The wider part of the small intestine is used to hold the meat. After filling, both ends are tied, and the filling remains loosely packed so as not to break during boiling. After one to two minutes of boiling, the etarnik is left to drain and air dry. If not eaten within ten days, it may be kept frozen. The final product is dark in color, with a sweet and spicy taste and noticeable leek flavor. It is often served for Christmas or New Year celebrations roasted with bacon and other sausages. While there is no historical recorded data on etarnik preparation, local people tend to remember their grandmothers making it at home from native, rare Black East Balkan pigs. This breed has thousands of years of history and is closely related to wild boars. In the past, it fed free range on acorns from local oak forests. Its meat is of exceptional quality. Today, etarnik is prepared in the town of Malko Tarnovo and villages in the area, including Brashlyan, Gramatikovo, Slivarovo, Stoilovo, Kosti, Bulgari, Kondolovo, Mladejko and Izvor. It can be found in area guesthouses, but is mostly made for home consumption from a family's own animals. With many people leaving the villages for more urban areas, it is worried that this tradition may die out due to a lack of knowledge amongst younger generations, and also due to its labor-intensive preparation from home raised animals.