Palamud lakerda has been made for centuries in the settlements along the Bulgarian Black Sea coast. Lakerda is a delicious way to use salt to preserve bonito (palamud), a fish that is seasonal to the area and is fished from September to October. It is served as an appetizer in winter months. It is thick and soft with a pleasant fish flavor. When made with particularly large fish, it is called turuk.
To make lakerda, the bonito must be cleaned perfectly. Particular attention is paid in the removal of vertebral artery. After that, the fish must be cut into slices with a thickness between 1.5 and 2 cm called trahuli. Some more demanding producers prefer to debone and fillet the fish. (If one removes the main spine after being salted and put in jars, the smaller bones dissolve completely over 2-3 weeks.) The meat is often bloody and should be soaked in ice water that is changed regularly for a few hours until the meat becomes white.
Palamud lakerda can be prepared either through dry salting or with brine. Dry salted lakerda is made by curing layers of sliced fish in salt for 24 hours, then cleaning them and storing them in jars covered with olive or vegetable oil. To prepare lakerda with a brine, 2 kg of salt is added to 5 liters of water. The bonito is soaked for 13-15 hours and then removed to drain. It is then stored in jars with oil, with the addition of bay leaf, pepper, allspice and rosemary if desired. In some preparations, vinegar is also added over the oil. Palamud lakerda can be stored for over a year, but its exact shelf life depends on the amount of salt used. Lightly salted versions, with a subtler flavor and soft texture, are made that are intended to be consumed within three weeks. A high level of craftsmanship is involved in knowing how much salt to add. If too salty, the fish will become unpleasantly hard.
It is likely that this product has its origins in the Greek populations that lived along the Bulgarian Black Sea coast. In fact, the word lakerda in modern Greek has the same meaning as the Bulgarian word. As recently as 40 years ago, it was easy to find palamud lakerda in local markets and even larger shops along the costal area, sold in bulk and portioned out to customers with large spoons. Today, it is made on a small scale, and can still be found in some specialty shops. It is available seasonally (mainly in winter and spring) in several restaurants in the areas of . These restaurants may prepare lakerda themselves, or purchase it directly from producers. Unfortunately, today, the traditional preparation is considered complicated and time consuming, and requires skills and close attention. Industrial versions of the product are being sold, but cannot compete with the quality of the traditional palamud lakerda.