Pihtije, or pivtija (Macedonian), pača (Bulgarian) or piftie in Romanian, is an aspic – like dish, generally made from low grade pork meat, such as the head, shank and hock made into a semi – consistent gelatinous cake -like form. In some varieties, chicken is used instead of pork. Some recipes also include smoked meat.
Pihtije are commonly just one component of the traditional meal (or an appetizer), although it can be served as a main dish. It is usually accompanied by cold rakija (usually šljivovica or apricot rakija, but quince brandy is good as well), and turšija (cold pickled vegetables, usually horse – radish, bell peppers, hot peppers, green tomatoes and cabbage).
First, the meat needs to be cleaned, washed and then boiled for a short time, no longer than 5 – 10 minutes. Then the water is changed, and vegetables and spices are added (usually pepper, bay leaves, onion, carrots, celery). All together is cooked until the meat begins to separate from the bones by itself, then the bones are removed, the meat stock is filtered and the meat and stock are poured into shallow bowls.
Garlic is added, as well as thin slices of carrots or green peppers, or something similar for decoration. It is left to sit in a cold spot, such as a fridge or outside if the weather is cold enough (this is a traditional winter dish). It congeals into jelly and can be cut into cubes (it is often said that the good pihtijas are “cut like glass”). These cubes can be sprinkled with dried ground red paprika (aleva paprika) as desired before serving.
Pihtije must always be cut in equal sized cubes, and they are frequently used during many celebratory occasions in Serbia.