Mixed salt (Шарена сол, sharena sol)

Mixed salt in a typical Bulgarian mini bowl

History and interesting facts

If we make a list of the 10 most used Bulgarian spices for our traditional dishes, the mixed salt will most certainly top it. It is the most Bulgarian spice that has existed up to this day. Many generations have been familiar with it since long ago and have grown with this magical spice on their home tables. It is not a coincidence that an ancient tradition of formal folk Bulgarian reception involves an offering of a morsel of home-baked bread dunked in mixed salt. This spice is deeply rooted in our history and national cuisine. A lot of Bulgarians that go abroad include the mixed salt in their luggage. This totem of our motherland evokes many powerful memories about in the mind of anyone having the honor to be born in Bulgaria. It reminds us of the place where every Bulgarian face the sunlight for the very first time.

It is the most iconic and dear memory of everyone’s childhood – you and the mob of kids wearing slingshots in their pockets and joyfully chirping to each other while running around barefoot holding a slice of freshly baked, still warm bread spread with butter and sprinkled with mixed salt. There is virtually nothing more delicious than this breakfast for any kid between the ages of 2 and 13. Do not think that mixed salt is a supplement for only bread slices. You can garnish a wide variety of foods with this – for example to sprinkle a sandwich with the spice, to drizzle it over a steaming vegetable soup, to dredge it over a hot crescent of a freshly boiled egg.

There are countless recipes for preparing mixed salt. It is so widely popular that in almost every municipality people have come up with their own secret recipe and ways of making this unique ingredient with its own proportion, types of base ingredients and technology of mixing them. The recipe has evolved during the centuries depending on one’s taste. Unfortunately manufactured mixed salt is not as tasty, enriched and diverse as the home-made one. In addition you can never know what exactly they put into the fabricated mixture. That’s why we offer you to learn the classic ingredients of this magic.

Base ingredients of the home-made mixed salt:

  • Fenugreek – Besides being the main contributor to the magic of the mixed salt, the fenugreek is regularly included in the sausage and flat sausage preparation processes, as well as other delicacies made out of meat and fish. The fresh fenugreek’s leaves and twigs are used to add an unforgettable fragrance and tasting to meat dishes.
  • Savory – The savory can without a doubt be adorned with the title “The most popular flavoring in the Bulgarian cuisine”. Or at the very least it is one of the runner-ups. The savory is one of the main ingredients of our beloved mixed salt. Its usage doesn’t end up with its culinary features. The savory as a herb has diverse benefits regarding human’s health.
  • Salt – The salt has been the most valuable raw material in the Ancient world. It is estimated that this spice has been more precious than gold. The reason behind its scarcity was that people hadn’t discovered a way of obtaining salt from the sea water. Back then people acquired salt by excavating the deposits located in the Earth’s crust. Knowing this, it is not a surprise that people used it as means of payment – in China they traded with salt coins, and in the Roman empire the soldiers received the salt as a remuneration. So some cities like Rome, Salzburg (The Salt city) and Munich thrived because this valuable commodity had rich deposits in the ground beneath them, while for others, like the citizens of North Europe for example every pinch of salt was pure luxury.
  • Black pepper – Along with the salt, black pepper is one of the most universal flavorings. Its uniform and rich taste allows this seasoning to be used in virtually every spicy meal. Usually it is ground but you can purchase the whole seeds version as well. It goes really well with meat, milk, sea food, eggs, vegetables, haricot beans, beverages and even fruits. It is best if you sprinkle it over the plate right after you grind it.
  • Red pepper – Red pepper is one of the most beloved and widely used seasonings in the Bulgarian cuisine. There is hardly any dish that cannot receive it as an additional flavoring. It adds a very distinguished and characteristic sweet tinge to the meal and that’s why it is used mostly for seasoning vegetables, chicken, pork and even beef.
  • Roasted ground corn seeds – The maize descends from Central America and allegedly has been cultivated since at least 7000 years BC. At the beginning people have used only the flour made from its ground seeds. In modern times it is widely applied in the culinary. One can feast their eyes on the corn in form of popcorn, flakes or they can add it to salads or as a garnish. People use it in bourbon producing.
  • Thyme – Thyme’s roots of origin stem back to Asia, South Europe and the Mediterranean. Thyme’s Latin name is Thymus vulgaris. This seasoning is deeply embedded in mankind’s history because of its culinary, fragrant and medical features. Ancient Egyptians have used it as an embalming agent to preserve their mummified pharaohs.

Here are a few additional ingredients that you can add in order to personalize your blend.

  • Roasted pumpkin seeds – Pumpkin seeds have been renowned for the rich amount of the metal Zinc. WHO (world health organization) encourages their consumption.
  • Dried dill – Because of its usefulness virtually any part of this plant can be used in enriching a dish’s impression on the consumer. Freshly cut fine twigs are inseparable part of a variety of plates. Dill is very suitable for flavoring tarator (Bulgarian cold summer soup), soups in general, green salads, curd, cheese, fish, sauces, boiled beef or lamb.
  • Dried parsley – Parsley is a universal seasoning and that is why Bulgarians use it in all kinds of meals – soups, stews, salads, meat and vegetable plates. Because it is so widely known and popular with its excellent culinary qualities sometimes parsley becomes the show star – for example when we fry it in egg and bread crumbs or when we make parsley croquettes out of it. To wrap it up parsley is rarely being cooked, usually we add it at the end of the cooking process or right after the meal is ready for serving.
  • Dried basil leaves – Basil is an irreplaceable ingredient in a variety of Italian dishes. Italian chefs primarily add it to pizza, baked poultry and beef. Basil is the main ingredient for the world-famous dressing Pesto. Basil takes part in many recipes for marinades and boulions. It is very well suited to beef, quail and pheasant meat, as well as potatoes and vegetable dishes. Accompanied by dill and tarragon, basil is one of the ingredients of the balsamic vinegar.
  • Hot pepper – Hot pepper has proven its benefits in preventing gastrointestinal disorders, cancer, heart attacks and gastric ulcers.
  • Oregano – Oregano intensifies the appetite and helps in digestion (eupepsia). Dried roughly ground oregano leaves can complement quite well fish, tomato dressings, baked meat and stews. Oregano can be added to vegetables, cheese, yellow cheese and mushrooms. It is suitable for hot dishes like sandwiches, tomato soup, chicken meals, haricot bean meals and egg meals.
  • Rosemary – Rosemary is broadly present in the Mediterranean region, however this does not stop it from thriving in the more moderate climate of Europe and America. It has been very well-known to humankind since eons. In the ancient times people used it as a remedy. Its popularity is increasing in more and more areas around the world because of allegedly its memory boosting features.
  • Ground garlic – Garlic is titled as “The almighty healer” in Bulgarian culture. It is often used in the culinary both as a spice and as a main product. We use garlic fresh and after heat treatment. In our country this spice is widely used in the form of a paste mixed with salt, as a complement to tarator, tripe soup, jellied pig’s trotters, fish dressings, as well as thickening for meat dishes and stews. Above all, garlic is one of the main ingredients of pickled vegetables. A common combination is garlic with parsley. The latter neutralizes to some degree garlic’s heavy odor.

Because of its popularity there is no standard recipe for mixed salt. The proportions for the preparation can vary greatly, but the following is ubiquitous:

2 parts parsley

2 parts fenugreek

2 parts finely ground corn seeds

1 part of everything else

Let me know what you think about this recipe. I would like to hear your impressions! That is the story behind this magic.

One thought on “Mixed salt (Шарена сол, sharena sol)

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