When first really cold days approach, Croats begin to prepare wonderful pork delicacies. It is called kolinje, which is a local term for pig slaughtering. We have tried it at the Mamica restaurant, one of the best restaurants in Međimurje. Its owner Mrs Sandra Nedeljko showed us how the čvarci and blood sausage are made, together with hearty lunch.
Čvarci, or pork rinds, is kind of pork crisps, with fat thermally extracted from the lard. It is very popular in all Balkan countries, especially in the rural areas. The best ones, of course, are homemade, and industrial production is not developed.
Preparation of čvarci involves melting the lard. Lard is cut in blocks of about one inch in size and slowly fried in their own fat. Milk may be added at this point in order to obtan caramel colour. Process lasts until all fat melts away and only a kind of tough crispy pork rind remains. Onion or garlic may be added as a spice and salt is always used as condiment. Pieces of skin may or may not be attached. In most common varieties of čvarci, some percentage of pork fat remains.
Čvarci were made in places such as Mamica before the real season begun, as the gastronomy offer should be available before everyone else. For this restaurant in little Međimurje village of Pušćine it is a prime autumn and winter delicacy, together with blood sausage. The family Nedeljko opened Mamica in 2008, but the family is working since 1969, when grandma Marija opened restaurant „K Feriju“. And although many would say that „Mamica“ means „dear mother“, in Međimurje it is a word for grandma.
And while Mrs Nedeljko was making čvarci, another table was reserved for the blood sausage. Blood sausage, made in continental Croatia by cooking pork blood with a filler. Apart from various pig parts, most often the filler consists of buckwheat, barley or corn flour. They’re eaten in winter, usually with sauerkraut and “restani krumpir” – boiled potatoes sautéed on onion.
Our own menu started with Kolinje soup with sour pig lungs, a delicious start in winter time, and legendary soup for hangovers. It was followed by blood sausages in two varients: prepared based on blood and without blood. The varient without blood is usually spiced with picant paprika. One should not forget that Međimurje is very close to Hungary and has a big Hungarian influence both in culture, folklore and music, as in the cuisine. Everything was followed by restani krumpir and sauerkraut.
For the dessert, „Mamica“ offered Međimurje’s favourite cake – the Međimurje gibanica. Probably it is a sweet that perfectly represents Međimurje. By the rule, as wealthier as the region is with fields, the traditional meals are richer in calories. And when one sees gibanica, one can easily determine there is a calory bomb waiting on the table. Međimurska gibanica consists of four layers! On top of dough one can easily see cheese, apple, poppy, and walnut layer. Indeed, a dessert only for the bravest ones!
Mamica will welcome you in any time of the year, with homemade and season meals, and with very reasonably priced lunches and special offers. It fits great with local Međimurje wines. Probably the best way to learn more about Međimurje cuisine is to go for the Mamica degustation menu, consisting of cold appetizers tiblica meat, homemade dried sausage, bacon and cheese with sour cream, followed by the beef soup with homemade pasta and cooked beef with horseradish and celery sauce. Then you will try the hen with bacon and leek, as well as veal with potatoes. To finish the main course, pork loin with mushrooms, cheese strudel and oatmeal will do. And don’t forget for dessert – the Međimurje gibanica!
Mamica Pušćine, Čakovečka 47, 40305 Nedelišće