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Monday, 23 October 2017

Gastronomy

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When speaking of the fragrances of Serbia we are once again perplexed... Let’s start with “dunjevača”, brandy from quince fruits. Or its sister plum brandy, or "komovača", "travarica", oh...let's slow down before we get light headed. 

Preparing food was the central activity in a traditional Serbian family. The prepared dishes, their quantity and quality were often the deciding factors of a reputation of the family and its leader in society.

Yet still: the Serbian layer cake, a gentle pastry dish filled with fresh cheese is simply a wonderful experience. At the beginning your host will offer "slatko" a sort of caramelized fruits sweet.

Serbians fill paprika and cabbage, not only with meat, they also use cheese and to top it off cover the paprika with breadcrumbs and fry it. All kinds of vegetable are traditionally preserved in jars and offered anytime. In Serbia the love of pork is strong; they prepare it in many different ways – from sausages to entire pigs (as well as oxen) on the grill. Traditional celebrations (birthdays, christenings, weddings, “slava” – the holiday of the family saint) sometimes contain grilled suckling pig for breakfast...

Let’s mention another speciality – a stake reminiscent of the royal family Karadjordjević filled with ham and “kajmak”. Of course Serbians couldn’t survive without “čevapčiči” and other minced meat dishes, yet they prepare the mixture with pork or combine different meats. They also like cracklings as well as “kavurma” a dish from pig or sheep entrails. It’s not very popular in the west. The undisputed first place is reserved for dishes from the grill. Serbians are the European champions, since they throw almost anything onto the “roštilj” – from meats to vegetables, to “leskovački” stake, and minced meat dishes, paprika, fish...

Serbians are fond of bread – they use all kinds of meals to make it. They are very proud of corn bread – “proja”. But that’s not nearly all.

Bread is the basis of Serbian meals and it is often treated almost ritually. A traditional Serbian welcome is to offer the guest with just bread and salt; bread also plays an important role in religious rituals. Some people believe that it is sinful to throw away bread regardless of how old it is. Although pasta, rice, potato and similar side dishes did enter the everyday cuisine, many Serbs still eat bread with these meals.

In most bakeries and shops, white wheat bread loafs (typically 600 grams) are sold. In modern times, black bread and various graham bread variations regain popularity as a part of more healthy diets. In many rural households, bread is still baked in ovens, usually in bigger loafs.

A number of foods which are simply bought in the West, are often made at home in Serbia; this include rakija (fruit brandy), slatko, jam, jelly, various pickled foods, notably kiseli kupus (sauerkraut), ajvar and even sausages. The reasons for this range from economical to cultural. Food preparation is a strong part of the Serbian family tradition.

Serbian cuisine is generally lacking in spices and herbs: practically only black pepper and ground paprika are in widespread use, along with parsley used for soups. Other spices sometimes used include white pepper, allspice, Coriandrum sativum, laurel celery and clove.

Meals

Here, some typical meals of Serbian cuisine will be presented. Note that a number of them might originate, also be typical, or at least known as local meals, in other parts of the world. Also, some links below point to similar meals from other cuisines and/or better known to English speakers; the traditional Serbian recipes may differ in details.

Pljeskavica, also a national dish of Serbia

Barbecue is very popular in Serbia, and makes the primary offer of main courses in most restaurants. It is often eaten as fast food.

Pljeskavica (hamburger) National Dish

Ćevapčići (ground meat sticks) National Dish

Vešalica (grilled strips of pork loin meat)

Various sausages

Mixed grill (mešano meso)

Skewered kabobs (ražnjići)

Leskovački roštilj (Leskovac barbecue)


Dairy Products

Kajmak holds special place in Serbian cuisine. It is something between butter and cheese, full of calories but incredibly tasty. The other diary products are kiselo mleko-Buttermilk, yoghurt, white cheese, Zlatar cheese, donkey milk cheese, most expensive cheese in the world

Pies

Gibanica

Serbian word for pie is "pita", which should not be confused with Greek pita. Greek pita is a kind of bread and is not called pita in Serbian (a similar pastry is called lepinja), while in Serbian language, "pita" refers to a pie in general, either one eaten in Serbia or a foreign one (such as apple pie).

A Serbian pie could, in general, be called in two ways: according to its mode of preparation, and according to its filling (although not every pie is prepared with every filling). For example, a "bundevara" is a pie filled with pumpkin and could refer to either a savijača (made of rolled phyllo) or a štrudla (made of rolled dough). Both sweet and salty pies are made, and some pies could be prepared in the same way with either sweet or salty filling.

Drinks

Non-alcoholic

High quality and quantity of fruit and abundance of water result in a number of high-quality fruit juices and mineral waters produced in Serbia, and being among its most widely known exports. There are few domestic carbonated soft drinks however. An interesting traditional soft drink, made from corn, now less commonly consumed is boza. Kvas is also being made by some breweries.

Of dairies, yoghurt is common, as are kefir and similar varieties.

The famous Serbian Knjaz Milos mineral water is considered a national brand and can be used in any meal, also with the traditional greeting sweets "Slatko".

Alcoholic

Sljivovica referred as Rakija is a famous alcoholic drink in Serbia

Rakija

Of distilled beverages, the most popular are various fruit brandies called rakija. Comparatively many people brew their own rakija, which is highly prized by friends and relatives. Various kinds of rakija are named after fruit they are made of; among the most known ones are:

Šljivovica (slivovitz, plum brandy), National Drink, Lozovača (grape brandy),  Viljamovka / Kruškovac (pear brandy), Klekovača, Jabukovača (applejack), Stomaklija (rakija with herbs), Pelinkovac, (a wormwood liqueur milder than Absinthe)

Beer

Beer is widely enjoyed in Serbia, which has 14 breweries. Most famous brands are Jelen and Lav, but there are several small breweries with very special taste of beer. On the other hand lots of world famous brand beers are made in Serbia, and that’s why you can enjoy it at popular prices (Becks, Carlsberg, Staropramen… )

Wine

The history of wine-making in Serbia dates back to prehistory. Viticulture was rich during the Roman period. Wine has been part of Serbian culture since the establishment of statehood, especially during the reign of the Nemanjić dynasty (1166–1371), which encouraged and promoted viticulture.

Former Yugoslavia was among the top-ten world wine producing countries. At its peak in the 1970s, it produced over 6 million hectolitres annually. However, largely due to the constraints of the socialist state, emphasis was put on quantity rather than quality. Many wines were mass-produced in large agricultural combines such as Navip and Rubin, with generally low quality standards in all stages of the wine-making process. The 1980s saw a sharp decline in production and exports, a development that continued in the 1990s with the Breakup of Yugoslavia and the subsequent breakdown of the Serbian economy.

But in the 2000s, Serbian winemaking started not only to recover, but to take a sharp and decisive turn towards quality and distinction. Numerous small and medium privately owned wineries entered the market, often run as family businesses, and with very high regard for standards of quality and taste. Some near-forgotten traditions, such as Bermet of Sremski Karlovci, were revived. The country's economic recovery also contributed to increase of domestic consumption. Wine consumption per capita is 16 liters (2006).   High-quality and quality wines constitute about 60% of production.

The most important Serbian vineyard areas are situated in Negotinska krajina (250 km in the east from Belgrade), in the area of Vršac (100 km on the north-east from Belgrade), on the slopes of Fruška Gora (80 km on the north-west from Belgrade), in the Subotica area (200 km on the north from Belgrade), Šumadija (100 km on the south-west from Belgrade) and Župa (230 km on the south-east from Belgrade). Long lasting tradition of Serbian wine growing in the last 10 years was renewed by numerous private producers that built contemporary cellars and already became well known out of the borders of Serbia.

Major varieties include the Belgrade Seedless, Prokupac, Sauvignon[disambiguation needed], "Italian Riesling", Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot blanc and Pinot noir, Hamburg, Muscat, Afus Ali, Vranac, Tamjanika, Krstač, Smederevka, and Dinka. Some rare varieties survive in Serbia, too, such as the Muscat Crocant.

The eldest authentic grape sorts are considered to be Prokupac and Tamjanika. Prokupac is the sort of red wines and was known even in early Middle Ages, while Tamjanika is a Muscat sort originated from Southern France, known in Serbia for more than 500 years.

Beside these sorts, today in Serbia are mostly raised Chardonnay, Sauvignon blanc, Rhine or "Italian" Riesling, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

White wines constitute about 64% of production, and red about 36%.