The best kulen masters gathered yesterday in the youngest Croatian town, Otok, more precisely in the Spačva forest, in the green oasis of Otok at the Bioecological Education Center Virovi for the 19th “Otočka kulenijada”.
The 19th “Otočka kulenijada” saw the best kulen producers have their products tasted and rated with prizes for the best awarded. A novelty this year was that only approved and registered kulen producers had the right to participate in the competition.
The day began with an expert lecture for kulen producers by lecturers from the University of Zagreb and the University of Osijek.
The Head of the Administrative Department for Agriculture of the Vukovar-Srijem County, Andrija Matić, said the lecture was purposeful, and the response of existing and potential producers as extraordinary, adding.
“In addition to other very useful information presented, it was interesting to hear how research has confirmed that the meat of pigs fed oak acorns does not have a significant impact on the quality of kulen, and our intention was to dispel some doubts in this regard from both producers and consumers.”
The Otočka kulenijada, which is held as part of the “Otok Spring” event, has been moved from the city to the Virovi Bioecological Education Center this year with the aim of promoting and better recognising this new tourist destination, which opened to the public more than a year ago.
“This event means a lot to the Otok region. The Otok Kulenijada has been held for 19 years, and from the day it was launched until today, we have managed to maintain this tradition, but also to achieve certain changes in the quality of organisation and implementation,” said Otok’s Mayor Josip Šarić, adding that as of this year, only kulen registered kulen had the right to participate in Kulenijada.
“We do all this in order to better present the kulen we love, appreciate and are proud of on the Croatian and European gastro-scene, in order to support kulen producers with this promotion, but also to promote our city.”
From January 1 next year, Croatia will introduce the euro, and Šarić suggests an initiative from this year’s event to make the price of kulen to be 50 euros from next year, in order to follow the prices of other products like čvarci, bacon and others.
Having the best kulen has always been a prestige and a great recognition, so the interest in this event was great.
35 samples from 21 individual producers were registered for this year’s Kulenijada. The kulen of the family farm of Slavica Đinić from Stari Mikanovac was declared the champion, the title of vice-champion was awarded to the kulen of the family farm of Janko Čuha from Soljan.
The samples were evaluated by a five-member evaluation committee, and the kulen was evaluated on the basis of six criteria. The opinion of the commission is that the kulen was very non-standard this year, and with large oscillations in quality.
It was emphasised that the ideal kulen is difficult to describe, because every manufacturer thinks that it is exactly his. The winning pattern stood out with a uniform colour, a texture in which neither muscle nor adipose tissue dominates, and did not show large deformations in terms of colour or shape.
It was characterised by an enticing aroma, mild smoke and spices, and harmonious aromas of meat can be seen in the background.
“We have the right to be proud of these high-value products, and I thank you for doing everything from year to year to make the product better and more recognisable. In the last year and a half, Croatia has received the designation of origin or geographical origin for more than 10 products, which makes a total of 35 protected products at EU level, with over 20 products in preparation from the transitional label to the EU label. Such labels are valued and recognised, and will give added value to Croatian products,” said the Minister of Agriculture, Marija Vučković, on the occasion of awarding the best kulen.
She added that kulen has a protected geographical indication, and labels for the meat of black Slavonian pigs and Slavonian sausage are being prepared, which have a transitional designation at the national level.