As we promised to get you familiar with some of the core elements of Croatian coastal life, we are continuing our article series The story of.
Last week we introduced you to Riva, a unique place of social and cultural life. As we proceed, today we bring you a supreme delicacy – Pršut.
There are not enough words that one could use to describe pršut. Lets just say that it would be very hard to find one person that doesn’t like it. The old Romans had much to do with it. Being the hedonists they were they found ways of preserving, drying and smoking meat in order for it to last longer.
Today, we can all thank them for each bite of this heavenly pleasure.
We wrote about Croatian cuisine many times. Traditional preparation, fresh produce, unavoidable olive oil and various herbs add to some pretty extraordinary plate creations. Trying new and different foods is a journey in itself. Often paired with hard cheese and wine, pršut is a sort of dry ham. It is often seen on celebrations and events and is also a subject of gastronomical discussions.
The rivalry of Istrian and Dalmatian pršut has been going on for quite some time now, but by the end of this article we are sure you won’t really care for it, you will just want to try them both (and you’ll be right).
Salt, herbs and Bura
Dalmatian and Istrian regions are both costal areas of Croatia each with slightly different climate conditions that are crucial in pršut production.
Pršut comes from the same family as bacon does wich basically means you’re gonna love it! After the pig harvest the ham is processed into pršut. Famous Croatian cold north wind called “bura” is a key element in making the best tasting pršut every year. It is a wind that helps properly dry and preserve all of the juicy goodness of pršut.
Although “bura” can sometimes stir up the seas enabling ships to leave the harbor and make local resident’s hands to dry everyone agrees with the divine purpose of the wind in pršut processing.
Istrian pršut has protected geographical origin, it can be produced only in the inland part of Istria, 12 kilometers from the shore.
It is salted with clean sea salt, compressed and treated with a mixture of pepper, garlic and certain spices. The drying process takes up to 5 months and maturing process up to 12 months. But the waiting makes it all worth it because Istrian pršut is award winning delicatessen. Inland air is suitable because of its average temperature of 3-4 degrees and relative humidity 65-70%, which allows proper drying and ripening of pršut.
Dalmatian pršut is made a bit differently. It is smoked.
Before the drying, ham is coated with a mixture of flour, fat, pepper, ground chili peppers and ashes from only selected wood. It is placed in a cool room with a flow of fresh air and a source of smoke. Usually it is a smoke from burning quality wood pulp that gives a specific color and aroma of Dalmatian pršut.
After 12 month it is ready to be devoured, although 2 years old pršuts are considered to be best.
Tasty pleasure rolled on a plate
When it comes to serving of pršut the most important part is cutting.
It must be cut by hand and served chilled. In most cases it is a delightful appetizer combined with hard cheese, drizzled with olive oil and garnished with black olives, capers and tomatoes. It can be folded or rolled on a plate depending on personal preference but no matter the shape, pršut doesn’t stay on the table for too long. It is served almost on all special occasions like anniversaries and birthdays and of course on holydays like Christmas where it is an absolute ruler of the menu if you don’t count cakes.
Some chefs love to explore the diversity of pršut and make edgy combinations for the bravest. Pršut has been paired with figs, asparagus, honey and even scampi. Yes, the last one is not false, we promise.
All of these combinations re-invent the role pršut plays in Croatian gastronomy and make pršut what it is – an original authentic Croatian product. Perhaps the best way to enjoy it is to visit “konoba”, indigenous restaurants along the coast. This jummy food served in such a domestic environment accompanied with klapa singing gives a life-long impression.
Make sure to stick with us so you wouldn’t miss The story of: Konoba where we will explore the specific ambiance, history and traditions of this irresistible authentic space.
Have you tried Croatian pršut already?
Would you dare trying the cheeky combinations with pršut?
What is your favorite appetizer?
Do you plan on visiting konoba on your Croatian trip?
Author: Nikolina Dukić
Photo credits: Adam Brill (cover), Mike (1), Arnold Fang (2), Damir Fabijanić (3), Alpha (4)