Photo by Maja Danica Pečanić

This Meat Is So Delicious Because It’s Made By The Wind

Croatia’s gourmet quality is undisputed, but where to start with your gastronomic voyage of discovery? We know! With two regional giants of the Croatian cold platter starter– kulen and pršut. Croatia’s cured meats are a source of regional pride, and no less than six have received EU protection in the register of protected designations of origin and protected geographical indications.

PRŠUT – Adriatic star

Krčki pršutthere’s more than fish on Krk

Famed for its golden Žlahtina wines and excellent lamb, Krk is the only island whose cured ham is protected. Similar to Italian prosciutto, an essential part of the pršut production process is its slow drying, and the dry bura winds on Krk provide an ideal backdrop. Authentic Krčki pršut must be produced from pigs from the region. Unless they swim to Krk by themselves. Then they deserve the honor of becoming a part of magnificent krčki pršut. 🙂

Istarski pršutnon-smoked pršut

The land of truffles and Malvazija wine is one of Croatia’s gourmet hotspots, and the production of Istrian pršut follows strict traditional methods dating back centuries. Unlike pršut from other regions which are always smoked, Istrian pršut didn’t crumble under peer pressure and it is not smoked! It is left to the charms of the wind, sea salt and natural spices such as pepper, bay leaves and garlic. After drying in the cold bura wind for a few months, it is left to age for a year. It can only be produced on the Istrian peninsula.

Drniški pršut the royal pršut provided by bura

Although the pršut from the inland Dalmatian town of Drniš only attracted EU protection relatively recently, its fame dates back generations, and indeed it was served both at the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, and again by the Royal household 50 years later when the original menu was reenacted. The secret to Drniški pršut lies in the specific conditions of the local micro-climate, with the famous bura wind accounting for 50% of all winds in the area. Be aware of the bura! Even though it does make great pršut by buffeting it all over, it’s not so fun when it does that to you. But hey, who are we to stop you? If you want to be great like Drniški pršut, go for it! 🙂

Dalmatinski pršutthe fight between north and south couldn’t be more delicious

In addition to Drniš, pršut from the wider Dalmatian region is also protected, and unlike Istria, its production is a combination of that famous bura wind and smoking. Locations with a combination of the bura (north) and jugo (south) winds give the best results, and no other additives apart from sea salt are permitted.

KULEN – the Eastern Croatian sensation

Continental Croatia provides its own star attraction to match pršut – kulen. A spicy sausage from eastern Croatia and much coveted by locals on the coast, it is a product of minced pork, seasoned with red pepper and garlic, of which there are two specific types.

Baranjski kulenthe coolest mix of paprika and meat

The mystical region of Baranja, with its heavy Hungarian influence and love of paprika, was the first kulen to achieve EU protection. Kulen from Baranja is famed for its smoky aroma and spicy taste, with that famed paprika a defining feature, with the additional key ingredients being garlic and pepper in the minced pork. Reasonably uniform in its oval shape and weight (from 0.80kg), Baranjski kulen is a prized ingredient for weddings and special occasions. Because of paprika this kulen might seem a bit hot but don’t worry because every coolen has a bit of cool in it. 🙂

Slavonski kulenkulen is good but with bacon it’s better

Slavonia, the bread basket of Croatia and a region famed for its hospitality, also has its protected kulen (often called kulin), a popular gift and souvenir from the region. Similar to its Baranja cousin, the main difference is that there is more paprika and white pepper in the Baranja version, with more bacon fat in Slavonian kulen, with some homemade recipes even containing another local staple – rakija. You know Slavonians – when in doubt add a little bacon. And rakija!

Whatever you choose, bon appétit or as Croatians say – dobar tek!