Sujuk is a traditional Bulgarian delicacy made from chopped meat. It belongs to the lukanka family, which has an elongated rectangular shape. Lukanka in the shape of a horseshoe is actually called sujuk.
As a proud representative of meat specialties from Bulgarian traditional cuisine, sujuk is a raw dried meat product prepared from chopped pork, veal or a mixture of partially fatty pork meat, with the addition of animal fat, saltpeter (which serves as a preservative) and spices such as cumin, sugar, salt, black pepper.
This symbiosis of meat and spices is stuffed into natural intestines, while the ends are tied off with cord. The next step in making sujuk is to give it its characteristic horseshoe shape and to put a weight on it to get it flattened. Then the sujuks are hung to mature and dry.
Lukanka, with its typical red brown color and elongated straight shape is characterized by an even coating of white noble mold on the outside. The structure of this appetizer on the inside consists of separate small pieces of salo and meat.
Traditionally, lukanka is made from a mix of pork, beef and spices such as black pepper, cumin, salt, all stuffed in beef intestines. Often in industrial production of lukanka and sujuk however, they use artificial sausage wrappers.
Usually drying and maturation of lukanka takes about 20 to 30 days, never longer under any circumstances. There are strict requirements for the temperature and air humidity. While drying, lukanka is pressed 2-5 times to obtain its characteristic flattened shape.
Another unique trait for appetizers such as sujuk and lukanka is that their one-of-a-kind taste depends on the environmental characteristics of the region they are produced in. When it comes to lukanka, the effects of noble mold, specific to a given geographical region, also play an influential role on the taste. The most popular lukanka in Bulgaria are from Smyadovo, Panagyurishte and Karlovo, while Karlovo lukanka even has a designation of origin from the Patent Office in Bulgaria.
Types of Sujuk
There are several locales in Bulgaria known for their skill in preparing sujuk. The best and most popular sujuks are made in Bansko, Gorna Oryahovitsa and Chiprovtsi. In Bansko, sujuk is only made from pork and offal - heart, liver, seasoned with traditional local spices - cumin, fenugreek, savory.
They host a traditional festival for the Bansko appetizer and red wine, during which appetizers and the grape elixir are the most celebrated by locals and visitors. In 2011 the town even set a record for preparing a sujuk 984 ft (300 m) long, which was grilled right there in front of everyone.
There is also a centuries' long tradition behind the Gorna Oryahovitsa sujuk, which in 2012 became the 1st Bulgarian Protected Geographical Indication in Europe. There is also a newly established tradition of having a celebration for Gorna Oryahovitsa sujuk as well, one that brings together appetizer master chefs and consumer fans.
During the celebration, these experts reveal centuries' old secrets and tricks for sujuk preparation and demonstrate a special method of cutting the delicacy. Sujuk and lukanka are traditionally sliced into thin diagonal pieces at a slight angle. A sharp knife and steady hand are needed to demonstrate true skill when cutting it.
Gorna Oryahovitsa residents themselves have been making sujuk for centuries. The centuries' old tradition states that a sujuk only turns out delicious when it is made of pure beef and a special mix of spices. There exist dozens of legends trying to explain the passion of the locals for delicious and masterfully made appetizers, whose ingredient proportions follow an old authentic recipe, where if even the smallest change is made, this ruins the harmonious taste of the sujuk.
One local story tells of the renowned Gorna Oryahovitsa resident Atanas Burov, who brought the 1st investors to the town. During that time, the characteristic smoke from sujuk grills rose over the town and for a split second foreign visitors became confused and thought they had wound up in industrial England.
Culinary Use of Sujuk
Sujuk can be classified as one of the earliest Bulgarian appetizers. A favorite of millions of Bulgarians, a fine sujuk makes wonderful company for red wine. Like other sausages, sujuk can also be put into all kinds of dishes, especially various oven bakes, pastas and pizzas. Let us offer you a tried and true recipe for homemade sujuk.
Ingredients: equal parts pork and veal, spices. For 2 pounds of meat you will need: 1 2/5 tbsp salt, 2/3 tsp black pepper, 1 1/3 tsp coarsely ground cumin, 1/5 tsp saltpeter, 1 tsp sugar.
Preparation: Clean the equal parts of pork and juicy veal well from any tendons and skins and chop them finely. The chopped, if necessary minced, meat needs to be kneaded well with the corresponding amount of spices. Leave the mixture in the refrigerator for 10 to 12 hours, laid out in a layer up to 4″ (10 cm) thick.
The next step is to stuff it in dried intestines, twist them several times every 5″ (13 cm) or so. Hang up thus prepared sujuks in a well ventilated area and roll them out hard using a rolling pin every 2 days to give them that flattened shape.