The Ministry of Agriculture and the Association of producers of Istrian prosciutto and other pork products based in Pazin have signed a contract on co-financing the development of a product specification for the protection of the name "Istrian sausage". Thus began the official procedure for protection of this Istrian traditional product, which will bear a mark of geographical origin.
The head of the product protection project, Blanka Sinčić Pulić, from the County Department of Agriculture points out that the technology of production has been harmonized among producers, while the most demanding and expensive work will be laboratory analyses that need to define the chemical composition of the product.
Just as Istrian prosciutto is considered to be a top-quality certified product protected by a European designation of origin, on the Istrian peninsula they would like the same status for Istrian sausage. However, in the meantime, European regulations have been changed, the raw material for a product with a mark of origin must be of regional origin and this means that the Istrian sausage cannot obtain a mark of origin because it does not contain raw material produced in Istria.
Mirjana Žugec Pavičić brings a story from central Istra - she talked to one of the best and most awarded lovers of Istrian gastronomic heritage - Milan Udovičić from Žminj.
“I am originally from the country, it's not very giving land, but we always had cows, pigs, chickens, this is the minimum that was used for the household, for milk, for calves, we always had two pigs and the meat was for the whole year,” said Milan.
When the meat was being processed what was being done?
“Those were special days, we butchered a little before Christmas or later, it all depended on the weather, and we always took care for it to be during a low temperature. It was a real fiesta when it came to butchering. The family called over, we all cleaned together, stuffed our sausages, salted the meat and I remember those days, it was very, very comfortable,” responded Milan.
Was it also a custom then to give some meat to all those who helped?
“Yes, that was interesting, since there were a lot of relatives there, usually those who came from the city, Pula, Pazin, ours from Trieste, Italy, we gave them meat and had a rich dinner, cabbage was cooked, there was roast and it was great. This is the specificity of production in Istria, good air circulation also helps, the Učka mountain is close to here, it's air drying, there is no need to use smoke, we have a bora wind, it's a wealth of flavors because no additives interfere with it, we are proud of this because we are moderate, we do not over salt the product, we do not add paprika, and mature animals have a better taste of meat than suckling pork, and simply, when the meat is not smoked, when the meat is spiced minimally, the quality of the meat comes to the forefront, you must have good raw material if you want a quality product,” said Milan.
At the moment when the process of protecting Istrian sausage is officially starting, one more doubt must be resolved: ever since protecting Istrian products has been talked about, it has always been said that after ham, the Istrian sausage, Istrian pork loin, Istrian pork belly and Kosnica salami will come next for protection. However there is no money for all four products, and therefore no money for a specific dry meat delicacy - Kosnica salami.
“Kosnica salami is an Istrian traditional cured meat product made from mature pork, so the pig must weigh at least two hundred pounds and I mostly use the shoulder, neck and of course solid fat, meaning bacon to produce it, because without that the bacon it is not good. So this is stuffed into a large intestine, at least 60 or 70 centimetres in diameter, and since it stuffed into a large intestine, it had to dry for a very long time, somewhere until May or June, when mowing began, that was the hardest agricultural work, a lot of people took part who we needed to offer something for breakfast and lunch and then after the meal the mowers did a better job,” explained Mr. Udovičić.
Protecting Istrian sausages undoubtedly benefits from the fact that the product has been successfully promoted at the "Sausage in Europe" fair in Sveti Petar u Šumi in recent years, where sausages are graded, and that means that a system of evaluation for their qualities has already been developed, which for the traditional manner of production is satisfactory if certain rules are adhered to.
“At that time, in December or January, the meat was put to dry, the drying process itself was the most natural possible, that is, air circulation and the bora wind, which often blows in Istria, meaning there is a flow of air, if there was moisture due to rain, then a little fire was lit and it was combined with the cold smoke, but in principle only natural air circulation was used,” noted Milan.
How much do you use these traditional meat-processing practices today, how much does that legacy mean to you and what you learned as a child?
“Well, as much as possible, I have to adapt to the modern production method in some segments, you know, the climate has changed, the winters are no longer so cold, and if you have some serious production like I'm trying to have, you have to create the conditions that once were at this time of year in winter - meaning, in December, January and February.
This way we can dry the product well and have a consistent quality. So, with as little chemistry as possible, I use those classic additives for my products - salt as a preservative; this is certainly our domestic salt from Pag (meaning salt from the island of Pag); the best is coarse salt that dissolves gradually, it slowly enters the meat and gives the required effect, then there is also pepper which you can't do without and there is also garlic.
In Istria, it is specific for us to peel the garlic and cook it in Malvasia (this is wine), add some bay leaves to give the sausage its aroma, this must be cooled and then added to the sausage mixture, let it penetrate for a while and in the end fill the intestines.
The Malvasia is of course domestic, we have significant wine production in Istria, I inherited a vineyard from my parents and I nurture it, I don't have large quantities, but for my needs I have plenty,” explained Milan.
Source: Mirjana Žugec Pavičić/Voice of Croatia
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