If you are a big fan of Croatian food, and know your ways with the country’s unique cuisine, you are probably aware of delicacies such as kulen, krvavica or prsut. These dry-meat products are very popular servings on an average Croatian table, and were one of the first exports to countries of European Union once the country became an official member.
Yet, in order to produce these tasty additions to the menu, a skilful butcher needs to respect a wide range of procedures. Most of these start during the same period of the year. During the colder season of November, people of Croatia practice the custom of kolinje, also known as svinjokolja.
The literal translation would be ‘hog butchering’. And while this sounds somewhat gruesome even to modern Croats, the name to the custom reflects the usual occurring in rural areas. Without slaughtering of animals, there would be no food, after all. And a lot of them find their end during this part of the year.
The practice of kolinje is very strong in Croatia’s Panonian parts, located in the country’s northeast territories. These include regions such as Slavonia, Baranja and Srijem, as well as surrounding areas of Sava and Drava Rivers. Most settlements agree to organize the butchering in the same days, so that people can help each other with the processes. People of Dalmatia are also keen to organize kolinje in coastal areas of Croatia.
Once the pigs are killed, they are usually chopped or halved in order to harvest various parts of their bodies for food. Blood is also removed in order to make blood sausages, while fat is reserved for the popular chips-like delicacy called ‘cvarci’. In old times, the local craftsman would use the animal’s hair to produce brushes or similar tools. To remove the hair, Slavonians burn the skin of deceased animal with enflamed hay, while Dalmatians use very hot water.
All of these processes are usually taking place in the farm’s outdoors, serving as a sort of neighborhood gatherings. As a final step, the meat is processed with spices and smoked according to the butcher’s wishes.
Due to change of culture and pressure of animal rights organization, kolinje is not as popular as it used to be several decades ago. However, it is still a viable tradition for people of Croatia, leading the way towards prime meals and exquisite options on the menu.