A Tradition of the Golden Valley

When choosing a professional culinary career, it is especially important to have an appreciation for the fruits of the earth. Every meal or dessert preparation begins with buying quality ingredients, which is why our programs at Kul IN include field trips to various local production centers. The journey that our food makes on its way to the table is thorny, and demonstrates a major shift in human culture and livelihood. However, the hard work, effort, and knowledge that have been passed down through generations to today’s dinner tables deserve our appreciation. Because mankind’s love for good food is as long and wondrous as humanity itself.

We left for our trip early in the morning because work in Papuk Factory begins at dawn. Papuk factory marks the beginning of the meat processing industry in the Požega region. The factory was opened in 1906 and was the first official city slaughterhouse. Technician Helena Marčetić walked us through the entire track which was busy slaughtering and processing pigs. Although Papuk produced cured meats until recently, today the factory deals exclusively with processing raw pork, beef, and veal. Very little is thrown away, because today almost all animal parts have a place in the market. Helena notes that today the best-selling products are traditional čvarci (pork crisps) and lard. Papuk factory, along with raising its own livestock, also cooperates with local farmers from whom they buy livestock. Meat products from Papuk Factory can be found at factory butcher shops as well as almost all larger Croatian and foreign grocery stores.

You can’t tell a good story about Croatian gastronomy and leave out kulen (spicy cured sausage), and when you mention kulen in the Požega region, everybody will send you to OPG Hruška. Vjekoslav Hruška studied agronomy in college, and bravely chose to leave his full-time job and start his own family farm and sausage production center. Along with the large farm where he raises the autochthonous black Slavonian pig amog other livestock, Hruška has managed to succeed in the market. Today his farm produces 80 tons of kulen, kulenova seka, ham, and bacon. He has also opened a kulen-tasting bar that has been visited by tourists from all over the world.

The drops of wine over which so many songs have been sung and toasts proclaimed were our main motivation for visiting the Požega-Slavonia County. The oldest wine cellar in Croatia, Kutjevački Podrumi was built in 1232. The cellar was owned by the church for most of it’s history, but it is interesting that even when the Ottomans conquered the area in 1536, they continued the production of wine eve though their religion forbids the consumption of alcohol. The wine cellar was privatized in 1882.

The Turković family has been leading the orchard and wine cellar successfully for 3 generations, and the married couple Zdenko and Greta wrote and illustrated the first Ampelographic Atlas in which, for the first time, Croatian varieties of wine grapes were identified. This is the first oenology bible and best describes the wine oasis of the Golden Valley of Croatia. A fraction of that history still exists today, on 400ha of orchard where chardonnay, merlot, pinot, traminac and graševina (for which Kutjevački Podrumi is most famous) are cultivated. Our students had the opportunity to try some of these wines under the leadership of oenologist Zrinka Vinković Jergović, who showed us the way through the maze of wines and told us the very lively and interesting story of Kutjevački Podrumi and the surrounding hills.

Although it was with heavy hearts that we left behind the ice-cold harvest of graševina, the kulen, and the Kutjevo region, we have already begun organizing our next field trip. Stick with us to find out what we’ll be tasting next!