Four rivers and rich soil
The Karlovac county lies in western Croatia and is best known for its proximity to the Plitvice Lakes National Park to the south, and the city of Zagreb to the north. The region lies on the crossroads of four rivers: Kupa, Korana, Mrežnica, and Dobra. Rivers make it exceptionally rich with water and biodiverse. With a continental climate and four distinct seasons, the cuisine of the area is seasonal, and therefore very diverse. For generations, people have fished the various species of river fish, hunted game, and foraged mushrooms and other fruits of the forest from the generous nature. With plentiful rainfall and fertile soil, the area has also proven ideal for agriculture, beekeeping, and raising cattle. This results in the production of many types of local delicacies which can be readily bought directly from producers. If you ever visit Karlovac county, make sure to try these five foods:
It is only logical that a menu of a county that lies on the crossroads of four rivers should prominently feature freshwater fish. Trout, carp, pike, catfish, perch, and even crayfish are commonly found in traditional dishes of the area. Unlike Adriatic fish which is prepared with extreme minimalism, freshwater fish is fattier and bolder in flavor. The traditional cooking methods commonly include breading the fish, stewing it, encrusting it in seeds, or battering it in beer dough. The resulting dishes are complex in flavor, robust, and better suited to the cooler continental climate.
In Karlovac County, with vast areas of dense forests and plentiful games, hunting has always been a traditional means of obtaining food. Traditional dishes often feature games such as pheasant, wild duck, deer, and wild boar. While deer and wild boar are often raised for restaurant consumption, there are also numerous licensed hunting clubs that, following guidelines and quotas, provide meat from the wild game which is especially sought after. Wild game is valued for its natural diet and intense gaminess of the meat which pairs well with other local ingredients.
With vast rural and woodland areas, wild mushrooms are one of the main features of the local
cuisine. The most praised ones in Karlovac county are Porcini (Vrganji), as well as bright yellow Chanterelles (Lisicarka – literally translated “the Fox”), and Honey Fungus (Puze). Although certain mushrooms can be foraged throughout the year, some of the most sought after are mostly found in Autumn. Mushrooms are a common ingredient in many Autumn and Winter dishes like soups, stews, pasta, and risottos. Various mushroom side dishes also go very well with other seasonal ingredients such as chestnuts and game meat.
Cheese and dairy
One of the first things you notice while driving through Karlovac county are the cheese vendors selling cheese and other local products off roadside stalls. Increased awareness of the value of local products and an increase in demand has led to an increased number of family-owned dairy farms producing small batches of cheese using traditional methods. Karlovac county traditionally offers a wide array of cheeses made of cow’s, sheep’s, or goat’s milk and in the form of soft, hard, cooked, smoked, and cottage cheese, as well as variations of those.
Just like the main dishes of Karlovac county, the deserts are suited to the climate of the area resulting in robust and filling creations featuring the best of local ingredients. The most traditional desserts are pastry-based and come in the form of strudels or dumplings with fillings of cottage cheese and cream, jam, preserved or fresh fruit, and best of all – chestnuts in Autumn and winter.
So while you’re enjoying beautiful nature and the great activities that Karlovac county can provide, be sure to taste local produce. Mind the season, and watch out for people selling their homemade dairy, hand-picked mushrooms, and other fruits of the forest, or other local delicacies that can make a perfect souvenir of your vacation.
DISCLAIMER: A permit issued by the Croatian government is required for foraging mushrooms, chestnuts, and other fruits of the forest, as well as for hunting. Never wander the woods on your own, and do not pick forest produce without the license and knowledge and/or an expert.