Zagorski štrukli - a story of a new European protected product
Baked, cooked, in soup, covered with bread crumbs or fruit, only with cheese or sour cream, štrukli are an unavoidable food of Hrvatsko Zagorje and from now on a protected product of the European Union. Namely, Zagorski štrukli / Zagorski štruklji received the protection of geographical origin (ZOZP), while Zagorje acacia honey received the designation of origin (ZOI). With two new registered names, Croatia now has 35 agricultural and food products whose name is protected in the European Union, which ranks it seventh at the EU level.
These strudels are made from a thin dough of corn and wheat flour, stuffed with a mixture of fresh cheese and eggs, topped with sour cream and baked in a brick oven. Due to the constant growth of demand for gastronomic experiences and the influx of visitors to local restaurants, the traditional recipe for this dish has been lost over time. In order to revive the traditional dish, which will be prepared in the future, a number of agronomists, gastronomes and local tourist boards decided to promote štrukli as an original, domestic brand, which will be promoted as part of traditional cuisine Zagorje.
Štrukli are inseparable from the soul of Zagorje and are the regional pride for which Hrvatsko Zagorje is known. A whole menu can be made from this popular cheese version of Central European strudels, starting as a cooked appetizer and part of the rich Zagorje štrukli soup, then as a memory of past times when štrukli were often the main dish for Zagorje peasants, to today's pride of chefs who offer štrukli as a dessert, often in leading Croatian hotels such as the Zagreb Esplanade. In fact, štrukli have just taken root in Zagreb as a Zagreb dish, although it is clear to everyone that they come from the kitchens of Zagorje grandmothers.
And while štrukli can be made everywhere, there is still something special in Zagorje štrukli made from local cow's cheese. And every household in Zagorje will make some departure from the general recipe we know from the 19th century, as well as in the descriptions of Croatian writers Đuro Deželić and Eugen Kumičić. For example, in the oldest Croatian agrotourism, Rural Tourism Masnec, landlady Fanika Masnec will serve classic Zagorje štrukli with a pinch of cinnamon, which completely changes the expected taste! In the restaurant Zelenjak-Ventek, a poetic place of authentic Zagorje cuisine, štrukli are offered as salty and sweet, and especially popular are baked sweet štrukli with raisins.
And then the štrukli came to international acclaim. Štrukli was first prepared at the Esplanade Hotel in 1951, and it all started with the idea of offering guests and hotel guests at gala events something attractive, original and proven good from different parts of Croatia. Culinary experts have recognized the value of national dishes as the most attractive invitation for guests wishing to enjoy local delicacies, and štruklji have since become part of Esplanade’s menu. Crossing the path from country kitchens to elite restaurants, this delicious treat has reached the top of the offer thanks to its quality, handmade and local tradition. Esplanade štrukli were tasted by many famous guests, including foreign statesmen, members of the royal family, athletes, actors, singers and others. Numerous media outlets have written about them in the most remote parts of the world.
Finally, they are protected at the level of the European Union. The procedure for the protection of the name "Zagorski štrukli" / "Zagorski štruklji" began in August 2018, when the Association for the Protection, Preservation and Promotion of Traditional Zagorje Products "Tradition of Zagorje" submitted a request to the Ministry of Agriculture for protection of geographical indications. The geographical area of their products includes the area of Hrvatsko zagorje, with their specific, traditional method of preparation and recipe, characteristic of this geographical area and preserved to this day. They are produced according to an old and tried recipe by a special process with the use of traditional ingredients. The speciality of the preparation consists of the method of making the dough, manually rolling out and filling the dough with the filling and shaping the finished štrukli. It takes special skill and experience to roll out the dough by hand, because it is important to roll out the dough as thinly and evenly as possible without breaking it. The štrukli have the characteristic shape of a pillow, they have a soft consistency in a fresh form and a white-yellow colour.
All this can be seen at Štruklijada. The Zagorje local community has designed an annual food festival, known as the Štruklijada, with the main goal of affirming Zagorje štrukli as an internationally recognized brand. The festival attracts not only many tourists, but also local caterers, who want to show their own skills in preparing štruklji and win the title of the First Zagorje štrukli. And finally, let's remember the traditional song "Mommy baked štrukli":