A beautiful family business awaits everyone visiting the town of Vodnjan, usually known for the excellent extra-virgin olive oil. There is olive oil here too, of course, but the family Buršić is known for its superb prosciutto, sausages, and other dry meat products. Several generations work at an estate that was once the family’s farm and today it hosts a large restaurant, prosciutto tasting room, beautiful small olive grove, and dry-meat production. Every year, the Buršić family also organises the “Days of Špaleta”, a unique reminder on this almost forgotten meal.
We came to the Buršić farm in early March, a perfect time for the dry meat products. We met there Mr. Milan Buršić, the owner of the place. He is also the president of the Istrian Prosciutto Makers’ Association, which gathers the qualified prosciutto producers. The whole estate is simply called “Kod Milana” (At Milan’s) and it is in fact first prosciutto manufactory in Istria that started having tasting room. It was soon enlarged in a real restaurant which is very good place for family gatherings or tour visits. Also, the Buršić’s are the only family in Istria to live completely from the prosciutto and dry meat production. The family includes three daughters Barbara, Daniela and Michela and their husbands who are employed in the family company, as well as six grandchildren, of whom we met two!
While we talk, the table is filled with prosciutto, špaleta, and sausages, brought by Mrs Darinka, the lady of the house. The beautiful red coloured Istrian prosciutto ripe without skin, it has no fat, and is dried without smoke; these are the main characteristics of this Istrian master-product, for which this region is known nationwide and beyond. It matures thanks to the mild climate and more or less constant wind that blows in the Central Istria. Vodnjan is somewhat south from the usual area for prosciutto making, but it is situated in a place known for wind. Here the durok or Yorkshire pork meat mature in the tasty delicacy which Istrians cherish as one of the most important foods ever.
In 1997 Buršić family initiated a prosciutto makers’ association in order to protect this gastronomy treasure on the European level. After all, there are not only different prosciuttos in Croatia itself, but also there are so many varieties in Slovenia, Italy, Spain. The battle was tough, especially against the Slovenian prosciutto produces in the Slovenian part of Istria, but specific methods were enough to gain the protection of Istrian prosciutto on EU level in 2012. This protected sort, based on the local production method and Croatian-produced pork is present in small amounts among the 16 members of the association, which includes some famous names such as Antolović, Milohanić, Dujmović, Jelenić, and more industrial production in Pisinium. Buršić’s prosciutto is lovingly mild, with meaty flavour and scent and excellently cut.
Slicing prosciutto is an art by itself. Istrians often compete who slices best and Milan shows us how it is done. Neatly cut prosciutto is best savoured when it is not thick, and where the meat membranes are clearly visible. Together with prosciutto, we also try the slightly spicy sausage, meaty ombolo, and olives from the nearby grove, where the family olive oil is produced. The oil is used also for špaleta, pork butt, which was eaten traditionally in Vodnjan. Somehow, everything in Vodnjan evolves around parts of pork: špaleta greets the spring; ombolo is reserved for summer months; in autumn last slices of old prosciutto is cut before making new one; and winter is filled with Istrian sausages. What a dreamland for the pork-lovers!
In order not to forget špaleta totally, Buršić family devoted entire April day for špaleta and welcomes visitors from near and far away. It is a family day, when fresh asparagus, eggs omelette and špaleta are made. The whole day music plays, children participate in various workshops, and apart from špaleta, different traditional Istrian dishes are made, such as pljukanci, polenta with Mediterranean herbs, fuži, Istrian Easter bread pinca, etc. Špaleta itself is quickly baked over the olive oil and is eaten warm. It gives strength, at least to run 5-10 kilometres long marathon through the olive groves, which is also part of the festival.
Our visit ended with tour of a small shop of Istrian products (where we also witnessed many prizes and awards Buršić family received) and the manufactory itself, where the prosciuttos and sausages wait to mature to its gastronomic glory. With a large sip of homemade red wine, our visit to Milan Buršić and his family was a total success and it may also be yours if you visit him in Vodnjan:
Fažanska 25, 52215 Vodnjan Tel/fax: 052/512 131 (meat shop), 052/511 264 (prosciutto manufactory) Mobitel: 098 421 333 (Darinka), 098 255 197 (Milan)