No Spring Chicken in Bulgaria

It was a case of fully intending to keep fit, maintain a healthy diet and live beyond the date of receipt of my UK state pension at the age of 66 when returning to Bulgaria.  However, this year has been a catalogue of pain and discomfort and I think I know why.

Spring Chicken, Bulgaria,
Typical Healthy Food on the Dinner Table 
With all good intentions, the regime created of being very active on the fitness front would seem a good idea and touches on all the good buttons to a healthy and life of longevity. On top of this, a wonderfully healthy diet of many vegetarian and fish dishes with the occasional treat of meat with very little fat content would weigh up compliment fitness to a tee.

Well, the results haven't gone to plan and it has taken nearly 18 months to find out why. Let's start from the beginning....

Whilst in the UK I remained pretty fit, despite getting knocked off my bicycle and lying dormant for six months during that time. Once in Bulgaria in April 2017 it was a Summer of bike riding and jogging throughout the long summer, all was fine up until that point. Then late Autumn and cold and wet weather saw bike riding taking a rest and Galia and I signed up for a month with a gymnasium. That's was the start of most of the problems that followed.

Galia was fine, she took up as a trainer and went with the advice given. Of course, this was the sensible thing to do, but you guessed it, not for me. Straight in with 2 hours sessions on the treadmill machine and cycle turbo trainer, then more with weights work on the upper body. This was done on a daily basis five times a week. No pain, no gain was the thought throughout the duration of the sessions. To be quite honest I was completed knackered and found it a real struggle to walk the kilometre back home.

Spring Chicken, Bulgaria,
Home weight-lifting
When will I realise I am no spring chicken; mentally I am, physically obviously not. Even now the repercussions of those 'kill yourself' gymnasium session still affect me. Will this stop me thinking I am invincible? Probably not as I not have planned a 2-mile swim event in September in London and have a strict daily weight lifting and fitness regime set up in our apartment. Funny how I put up with pain from endurance but cannot stand the pain from injuries.

And Galia? She just thinks I'm crazy hurting myself and wasting energy with this strange compassion. She says it certainly isn't the Bulgarian way of things. I agree, but I can't help myself.

Yambol Bucket Yoghurt

Yambol Bucket Yoghurt

Yoghurt one of the foods that you cannot live without, especially here in Bulgaria. Bulgarian is famed for being the only country in the world where the bacteria can be found to culture yoghurt.

Homemade yoghurt production has been going on ever since I moved here in 2005. The result have always been very good to excellent whilst experimenting with various methods.

My methods had gone through various stages using unpasteurised village milk in Skalitsa from farmers and in Yambol City centre where milk can be bought from vending machines filled with local village imported milk topped up each day. This meant I had to put it through the heat treatment by boiling the milk and cooling before it could be used. It may be slightly cheaper to buy but the gross amount of time waiting whilst boiling and cooling down kept nagging me along with the cost of heating and then seeing that energy run away whilst cooling was annoying and the waste of energy (and money at the end of the day) didn’t feel right. There was the consideration to not put it through the heat treatment and I did try this once although with a history and culture of good hygiene the risks were too great to take chances with potential harmful bacteria.

During the time of experimenting, it wasn’t only cow milk that was used. Sheep and goat milk were conjured up in the process, but it was only me that like this variant of yoghurt. Galia couldn’t cope with the overpowering smell and pungent tastes of these smaller mammals’ yoghurt.

After all this time I have come up with an ideal method to make yogurt that give perfect results each time and uses the minimum of tools, is extremely economical, eco-friendly and takes up a minimal amount of time and work. Also you have a choice of what type of yoghurt you prefer, whether a low fat content or full bodied creamy textured yoghurt depending on the type of milk you choose.

I call it the bucket yoghurt as it is made in a plastic container (small bucket) that original was designed to hold 1 Kg of yoghurt. Yes I did buy this from a shop in Elena with some deliciously rich locally homemade yoghurt in, but now the bucket is again firmly into another homemade yoghurt production line here in Yambol.

My favourite textured yoghurt come from milk that has a 3% fat content which gives a good sound textured finish with lots of taste. Funny enough experimenting with milk that has different fat content felt a bit like the routine Goldilocks had tasting the three porridges on tree bears table. Likewise, I’ve tried 0.5%, (too thin and watery) 1.5% (okay, but not fully bodied enough) and 3% (lovely slightly creamy and perfect for everyday use). I also tried the 6% fat content milk, but couldn’t live with the thought that the lovely creamy rich texture wouldn’t serve our health much good. Although perfect for special occasions and guests.

Tools needed are so simple.

  1. 1 elastic band
  2. 1 litre plastic bucket with lid
  3. 1 tea towel, bath towels, jumpers and coats or indeed any material to insulate 1 Tablespoon to mix

That’s it!

Ingredients to make bucket yoghurt is simple.
Yambol, Bucket, Yoghurt,
Yoghurt Left Over From Previous Batch

  • The last couple of tablespoons of yoghurt left in the 1 litre bucket from the previous batch of yoghurt. (Or from a fresh live yoghurt from the shop if doing this for the first time.)
  • 1 litre bottled/carton of UHT milk

The method is just as simple.

Around 5 Minutes in Microwave
Put the milk in a microwave oven on full for five minutes or until the milk is slightly warmer that blood temperature (40 C). Add the milk to the bucket with the last remains of the previous yoghurt and mix well with a spoon. 

Place the bucket on a towel and cover with a tea towel tying the elastic band to the top is tight and doesn’t sink into the yoghurt. (The plastic lid is not used as it would cause condensation and subsequently drip into the yoghurt; we want a water free yoghurt with the evaporation of any condensation being absorbed by the tea towel cover.) Cover with many extra layer of materials collected and leave for 8 hours or overnight.

Yambol, Bucket, Yoghurt,
Bucket Yoghurt Under Covers
Yambol, Bucket, Yoghurt,
The Finished Product
Remove all the insulation material, the elastic band and tea towel and leave the bucket with the fresh yoghurt to stand without the lid on to reach room temperature then place in the fridge now with the lid now on and it is ready to use after an hour.

My yoghurt keeps for up to 10 days in the fridge, but rarely lasts that long. But don’t forget not to use all the yoghurt and keep a little back to be used for the next batch.

Yambol City Life and New Book Started

Well it has been nearly two years since moving into our apartment in Yambol and things have settled down well. Galia is due to start work this month and I have a set routine of various fitness programmes, piano playing based around housework and preparing evening dinner for Galia every evening.
Yambol, City Life, New Book, Started,
A Yambol Apartment Block
Life here is very different from the village life which was experience when first arriving in Bulgaria in 2005. The contrast of so many things rawly stand out in the City of Yambol. Some good some bad, but to many here, especially the older ex-village folk. City living in an apartment is a luxury compared to the never ending work laden village life they left behind. Rural life living off the land has always had an idealistic picture in the minds of many who haven't experienced it. In reality, in the midst of poverty it is no fun and a hard labour needed just to survive is how is for thousands still in those folds.
It is still question of survival in the City of Yambol where I see many Bulgarian folk, (not  just Gypsies) begging for money for a loaf of bread. In the rural areas there is food, in the City there is also food but you have to buy it!
Yambol, City Life, New Book, Started,
Cycling in Yambol's City Park
There are many things I have noticed with City life. Having said City life I guess many would think of the grand cosmopolitan Cities such and London, Paris, New York etc. That's the thought I have when someone says they live in a City. Yambol is a City but probably one of the smallest I know of more equivalent for small town, but with the accolade of the bigger title.
Yambol, City Life, New Book, Started,
Yambol City Centre and the Cultural Museum
Having written about village life in a book published called Simple Treasures in Bulgaria back in 2008 I now turn my attentions to current times of 2019 with my new chapter of living in Yambol and a home in one of the many concrete panel built apartment blocks. Many aspect which probably expatriate would never get a chance to experience as it certainly would be the choice of living here when village life appeals to most.
So, coincidently with the New Year just arriving,  I have started writing a new book based on what I see, hear and experience here living near the City Centre in an apartment. (No, it wasn't intended a as New Year resolution.)
As mentioned, Galia is due to start work. That was the trigger with the thought of more time on my own and dominoes into using that time start writing again. During the current winter and early spring months when inclement weather tells you to stay indoors is also and ideal time to start.


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