Bela Rechka Kozya Izvara
Milk and milk products - Bulgaria
Kozya izvara (“goat curd”) is a dairy product that is made in the area of Bela Rechka (in the Montana Province of northwestern Bulgaria) from goat’s milk. Goats are the prevailing livestock in the area, and this cheese is prepared in late summer, at the end of the lactation period, when the milk is thickest. Kozya izvara is prepared in a large, 10-liter jar. Initially, the milk ferments into yogurt, and fresh milk is added to the jar each day. Fermentation and additions continue until the jar is full, after about a week. Then, the fermented milk is put into a pot and boiled very slowly until the water evaporates and the mixture caramelizes slightly from the melting of the lactose. The izvara is strained overnight, and in the morning placed into small jars (usually 300-800 grams) and sterilized for further storage. Kozya izvara can be stored for up to a year, until the next milking period. This traditional product dates back to a time before refrigeration and was a way to collect and preserve milk throughout the year for periods when it would not be available. The izvara from Bela Rechka is different from the curd commonly found in other parts of the country, due to the length of time it takes to obtain enough milk for a batch. The fermentation process gives it a distinct flavor, and izvara from Bela Rechka is brown, due to the caramelization. The name “izvara” possibly refers to the process of boiling down (from the word izvaryavane/изваряване) used in the creation of this product. Kozya izvara has historically been produced in Bela Rechka, but also in neighboring villages. It is mainly made for personal or family consumption, but since the early 2000s has also been promoted on a small scale particularly at the recently created Goat Milk Festival. However, depopulation and the abandonment of villages in the region threaten the traditional knowledge connected with making typical foods like kozya izvara, and if not passed on to future generations, this dairy product may be lost.