Milk and milk products - North Macedonia

The name bulamach comes from an old Turkish word meaning “porridge” or “thick paste.” This creamy cheese, visually similar to Italian mascarpone, is made in the Maleshevo region of eastern Macedonia from the milk of Ovchepolka Pramenka sheep. It is traditionally made late in the sheep’s lactation period, from late August to early September, when the milk has a higher percentage of solids. Bulamach is thick and creamy, and can be cut with a spoon to expose bubbles created by a slow fermentation. It smells of sheep milk and has a complex, sour and salty taste, but without the strong lactic acid taste that some dairy products may have. To make bulamach, freshly milked milk is heated in a sort of double boiler to avoid scalding the milk. It is cooked slowly until it reaches 30°C, stirred occasionally with a wooden spoon. It is brought to a boil and then cooled down to 25°C. Then salt is added and the mixture is left to rest for three or four days, stirred every two to three hours, and one additional day without being stirred. As no starter cultures or rennet is added, the cheese coagulates and ferments on its own due to residual microflora in the milk. Once the process is complete and the bulamach is thickened, it can be packaged, traditionally into an earthen pot or wooden vessel, but today usually into glass jars. It can then be stored at 0-5°C for up to one year. During storage, it will gain a more dense consistency. Bulamach is a winter supply food, a rich supply of protein and fat. Its late summer production was connected to the migration of pastoralists in grazing areas. Livestock production is the main activity of Maleshevo, and the area is full of green pastures and vast meadows. Bulamach was traditionally saved for the Christmas holidays, served as an appetizer accompanied with local brandy or served with fresh or roasted peppers. In the past, it could be found at markets in the Berovo region, but today it has always been made for personal consumption. Unfortunately today, social and economic conditions are forcing farmers to abandon their traditional ways of life, and therefore, particularly shepherding is in decline. As a result, transformed dairy products like bulamach are also found less and less frequently. Today, this product is still made by just a few families in the Maleshevo villages for their own use or for selling to tourists.