At first, everything seemed fine. The spicy taste on the tip of the tongue gave room for relaxation. Then, as if from an ambush, a pure taste of pepper appeared that glowed and burned. The strong taste of the hottest pepper in the world, Caroline, flushed cheeks and ears, and drops of sweat ran down our forehead. It is Cimitar, ie a cemetery translated from the Labin dialect, and it is created by the family craft Forto. We are at their production place in Viškovići near Koromačno, where the rugged Istrian land hides plantations of some of the strongest flavours in the world.
Spicy is one of the most demanded flavours in the world, and when Mladen Petrović planted the first hot peppers, he had no idea that his son Stefan would make the whole business out of it, creating a line of very interesting hot sauces. Right from the start, Stefan turned to the 20 strongest peppers in the world. It should be reminded that chilli is one thing and peppers are quite another, in order to avoid already acquired impressions. There are many hot sauces on the market, but the main feature of Forto is the quality, without additives for density and aroma. "I worked on the recipe for almost two years and I tried to make a homemade sauce, in which only vinegar and spices go with the peppers," says Stefan as we sit in a tasting room full of antique items from his great-grandmother.
Quality seeds are very difficult to come by, and peppers are expensive. That is why it is amazing to listen to the enthusiasm and will for this production, which is already slowly moving towards new products. Seeds are procured from all over the world, but the great struggle was to create their own seeds. The Petrovićs have succeeded in this and now have over 30 species of their own in their garden. This is a great success, because the soil and climate in Istria are far different from that in, for example, Mexico, especially because a large number of seeds fail to grow into a fruitful plant. Two kilometres from the sea, with a constant bora and south wind, and nutritious soil favour Forto. Blessed Istrian land!
What sets Forto apart from many other sauces we’ve tried is that these sauces are really spicy, not sour. You can feel the paprika and each sauce is made from a mixture of local Istrian flavours. We tried them all, trying to keep our coolness after spicy bites. Fortunately, the Petrovićs prepared prosciutto and cheese, homemade olive oil, and Stefan's brother Marko is responsible for the fire service, since he makes wine from a very local sort of pucovina. This is a traditional vine of the Labin region, one of the oldest in this area, named after it gives a crackling taste on the palate. Mild and rose-like in colour, but the hosts tell us not to overdo it because this vine is treacherous!
While Mladen uses only Cimitar, the strongest of all sauces, we still went from the mildest to the strongest. Already with the mildest sauce, Jugo, which is made with homemade honey, we felt the quality hotness of the pepper. This is a sauce with which lovers of spicy flavours will enjoy all the combinations. Kogo is perhaps the mildest of all sauces, it is made with homemade carrots and onions and goes well with minestrone. Treska is also a milder sauce, but real treska (which means a slap) comes with a slight delay when paprika that has been fermented for almost a year is felt on the palate. It serves as a certain tabasco in the Istrian way. Strela (an arrow) is ideal for meat, such as steaks and tartars, has a denser structure, is a more pronounced sauce and slightly sweet. All these sauces can be easily combined into various recipes, burgers, cocktails and marinades.
"We eat these sauces for breakfast, lunch and dinner, which is healthy because it is a natural process and pure products that improve blood pressure," says Stefan, who received all the praise from Haccp for his products that do not have a shelf life. For those who overdo it, he recommends wine vinegar, which will reduce pain. This is definitely recommended for Cimitar, which can also be put in all foods, but often this also increases the strength of its taste. Therefore, caution is required for the delicate palate; otherwise, Cimitar is no longer just a nice name but also a potential destination! And for relentless lovers of spicy food additives, Vapor, a BBQ sauce that will surely change the flavours of Sunday barbecues, will be of particular joy.
With the products, Stefan, a student of shipbuilding in Rijeka, wanted to promote the Labin Cakavian language and old Istrian words, which can be clearly seen in the names of the sauces. Even all the design is made within the family. "Which pepper is in which sauce is our secret," Stefan tells us, explaining that the structure consists of homemade vinegar, Mediterranean spices (sage, rosemary, basil), and certain peppers. All this is carefully and with a lot of effort planted and stored in greenhouses that we visited ourselves. Before that, we also tasted a special brandy called Tošik (translated as poison), which was made for personal use. How could it not be, when strong brandy is paired with hot peppers! But, it is also worth trying, because the slogan of the Forto is anyway: "Whoever doesn't try, cannot know!"
Everyone is welcome on the doorstep where they can taste and buy these spicy products, and soon some new ones will be on offer. Those who can't get to Viškovići can use the benefits of the webshop:
Forto - Hot Sauce
Viškovići, 52222, Koromačno
+385 (0) 99 663 1963