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Charcuterie Croatia

Updated: Jan 30

The one thing we all enjoy snacking on is cured meats and all types of cheese. Croatia boasts with its charcuterie diversity which is an exquisite blend of continental and Mediterranean. Its beauty lies in five diverse regions that spread throughout the coastal area, mountains, central Croatia, and the green valleys.

These delicacies are deeply rooted in the Croatian way of living and an inevitable part of any event; A company banquet, wedding, christening, or birthday. Often accompanied by wine and rakija - the clear grapevine spirit which is the Croatian equivalent of the Italian grappa. Cold platters make a great appetizer too - salty and savory, perfectly paired with local olives, grapes, figs, dried fruit, or pickled vegetables. YUM!

We singled out those with a long tradition, carrying a  designation of geographical indication on a European level:


Must-try Croatian cured meats

Croatian Prosciutto

The coast across the Italian boot is extremely good at making prosciutto, with special thanks to gusts of the strong Bura aiding the curing process. This cold sharp wind coming from the mountains and developing near the coast mixing with salt particles contributes to its taste, making four different Croatian denominations of #pršut internationally recognized and branded with strict European PDO standards - you can rest assured that these products never encountered any additives and preservatives other than sea salt. Prsut is produced in several locations across the Croatian coast, all imparting subtly different regional textures and aromas. You can find Croatian prosciutto across supermarkets and specialty stores with designations from Istria, Krk Island, Dalmatia, and Drniš.


Charcuterie board with prosciutto from Croatia

Istrian Boškarin Sausage

Made from the indigenous ox found only in the Istrian peninsula. #Istria is a leading region when it comes to recognized gourmet delicacies, and this rustic and aromatic salami won’t disappoint you. It will somewhat taste familiar because of the texture and looks of Italian sausage but will twist your taste buds with the explosion of intense aromas of local spices. #Boškarin beef is often blended with local pork in a smaller ration and comes in many forms: It can be deliciously prepared as goulash and other dishes.

Check how this Timeout article covered Istrian food.


White Boskarin cattle from Istria
Boskarin cattle

Croatian bacon: Pancetta & Speck

Again, something familiar but produced with customized procedures of different regions. All made from pork belly meat, they differ not only by contrasting natural conditions that will shape the meat but are also made using different procedures. Panceta (same as Italian pancetta) isn't cured at all after the specific brining process, while špek (same as speck, also known as slanina), is air-dried after brining, on a beech or hornbeam tree to be precise. If you ask an average Croatian, they’re all great additions to any dish, adding that hearty and mildly smoky flavor.


Slavonian Kulen

This classic is coming from lowland Croatia, the region of Slavonia, but Kulen is thoroughly enjoyed across the country. Made from premium pork cuts and heavily flavored with spicy paprika and garlic, rounded up with a distinctive smokey aroma. The Slavonian staple spicy sausage is paired best with mild cheeses and light red wines to balance the layered kick. Lovers of hot foods, rejoice! If you’re a fan of Spanish chorizo or Italian nduja, this is your cup of tea.


Wooden cuttin board with sliced kulen sausage
Slavonian spicy sausage Kulen

Pecenica

The Dinara Dalmatian mountain region is notable for producing the finest cured meats and this is where Pecenica was born. A smoked pork loin of premium cut and local origin is salted, pressed, and slowly smoked and dried on the powerful Bura wind. The sea salt or brine contrasts the naturally delicate flavor profile of the pork loin. Awarded with a denomination of origin on an EU level, pecenica is part of every casual and formal charcuterie board.


Notable Croatian cheeses

Paski sir

Hard sheep cheese from the island of Pag. The No. 1 cheese in #Croatia, appreciated and enjoyed on any occasion. Made from an indigenous sheep breed that feeds in a micro-ecosystem of herbs, clovers, and grasses. The Paski cheese is the champion of artisanal cheeses produced in Croatia and has won numerous world-range cheese contests, including the gold medal at the 2019 Global Cheese Awards in Somerset, UK.

Tasting notes vary depending on wheels aged for a few months or those left to mature up to two years, allowing the aromas to intensify, and introducing a tangy, pecorino-like kick. Paski sir is aromatic, fully flavored, and butterscotchy without excessive dryness.

Reels of cheese from on shelves
Reels of Paski sir left to mature in a temperature controlled room

Paska skuta

Made as a byproduct of Paski sir, skuta is the whey leftover when producing the renowned firm cheese. Skuta is similar in flavor and texture to Italian Ricotta, fresh and creamy, packed with protein and a great addition to any meal - try it in the morning with coffee like the shepherds and their families from #Pag used to do. Once a necessity, today a delicacy that is incorporated into the most elaborate dishes of fine dining restaurants across Croatia.


Cottage cheese from Zagreb

A cottage cheese like this cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Made from fresh, full-fat cow milk, Zagrebacki sir delivers a mild pleasant taste with balanced acidity and a leafy structure -the reason why it can be often found in sweet recipes such as the cheese strudel or baked palacinke ( Croatian blintzes) For a simple savory variation, in the Zagorje region it's mixed with artesanal whipping cream, garnished with chives, and served as a side to boiled Croatian Easter ham


Older Croatian woman traditionally dressed in black selling vegetables
Kumica is typically an older woman selling local produce at the fresh market

Skripavac

Cow's cheese Skripavac comes from the green slopes of the mountainous region of Lika. With a long tradition of cheesemaking, Skrpavac which stands for "squeaky" thanks to the specific sounds it produces when bitten into. Soft and white with a nutty flavor, makes a nice contrast to the popular Croatian aged cheeses.


Kordun smoked cheese

A good smoked cheese is what makes a cheese platter complete. Try this hard-smoked cow milk cheese produced in the mountain region of Croatia. Full of smokey applewood aromas and a rich buttery taste, the tradition of making this cheese was passed through generations of women who used a specific technique of marrying the rennet with the liquid.


I am off to make myself a plate now!

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