Delicious ideas for New Year's celebrations
In Slovenia, jolly December is connected with an interesting culinary tradition. During Advent, Slovenian housewives have always baked a lot – biscuits, bread, and the Potica Cake, the most famous Slovenian dessert, which is made from rolled dough with various fillings. On the day before Christmas, many people still adhere to the “Nativity Fast” that was once typical of the Advent time. According to tradition, only healthy dishes were served before Christmas: legumes, cereals and gruels, cod with polenta, and potato soup. Only after midnight, on Christmas Day, was meat served. Often this was pork, as people believed that it is not good to claw backwards, but push the pig snout forward. Allow us to introduce some traditional dishes that people in Slovenia like to prepare for the holidays.
Holiday preparations are sweet
Before the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, cleaning up and baking traditional desserts is in full swing in Slovenian homes. One of the oldest customs includes the preparation of poprtnik or Christmas bread, which is said to have been preserved from pagan times, when the return of light was celebrated during the winter solstice. This sweet and decorated milk bread made from white flour symbolised the desire for health and abundance in the new year. They used to believe that it also had special powers to bring a good harvest, so a few pieces of this bread was also given to livestock or was buried along the edges of fields.
Meat specialities for good luck in the New Year
According to old Slovenian tradition, the table is so full on Christmas Day that not even a glass can be placed on it. They used to believe that, right after midnight, it is good to eat at least some home-made sausage made at the neighbour's koline (pig slaughter). Preparing and processing meat at home is still a common practice just before Christmas. Recipes for meat delights differ from region to region, and every homestead has its own secret family recipe for krvavice (blood pudding) and pečenice, pork sausages, which can be found on menus just before the New Year in particular. In accordance with the desire for progress in the New Year, an old rule has it that: “a pig should be eaten at the end of the year because its snout is pushing forward.” For this reason, a well spiced pork tenderloin is still an indispensable part of the holiday menu in many places.
Regardless of this saying, poultry can also often be found on holiday menus. An interesting and slightly exotic bourgeois holiday speciality from central Slovenia is capons, young castrated roosters no older than eight months. Their meat is tender, savoury, and delicious, and it can be prepared in the oven like a roast, filled with various kinds of stuffing, or be used to prepare different stews. A few ways to prepare capons were mentioned by the Slovenian poet and linguist Valentin Vodnik in the first cook book in Slovenian titled Kuharske Bukve. It was published in 1799.
A table full from one end to another
In the holiday season, roasted potatoes are the most common side dish. Potatoes seared in lard and onions are especially tasty if prepared in a cast iron skillet. A crunchy crust is created on the bottom, which simply melts in your mouth. The oldest recorded Slovenian recipe for roasted potatoes can be found in the Slovenska Kuharica, which was published in Ljubljana in 1868. This side dish is incredibly popular in Slovenia, and there is even a society for lovers of roasted potatoes.
To enrich the taste of roasted potatoes, housewives like to add cracklings. Cracklings also go well with sauerkraut or pickled turnip, which are a very tasty addition to a holiday dinner. They say that sauerkraut and pickled turnip contribute to one’s well-being, establish a healthy ratio of micro-organisms in the body, and enhance digestion. This is excellent for enhancing the immune system in the cold days of the holiday season.
There's nothing like satisfying your sweet tooth in Slovenia
Despite the rich table and delicious dishes, we always find room in our stomachs for something sweet after dinner. Štruklji (dumplings with various fillings) are among the most recognisable dishes in Slovenia. They are made from various types of dough with a plethora of fillings, and they can be either baked or cooked. We recommend walnut štruklji, but you can also enjoy those with tarragon, skuta (curd) cheese, apples, poppy seeds, or prunes. Fruit lovers can enjoy the flavour of fruit bread. Dried fruit in leavened dough is a savoury speciality that is prepared differently in every Slovenian region. Some housewives like to add nuts and others also use fresh fruit.
Similar to štruklji, the Potica Cake is the most typical holiday dessert known in all 24 gastronomic regions of Slovenia. It is made using various types of dough and nearly 80 different fillings. The most typical ones include walnut, hazelnut, almond, honey, carob, and poppy seeds. One of the Potica Cakes is called ocvirkovka, and it is filled with cracklings. According to old Slovenian tradition, it was stored in the pantry until midnight on Christmas Eve. It’s also a great hearty Christmas breakfast, even though most Slovenians prefer to dip other, sweeter types of the Potica Bread into their coffee with milk on a holiday morning.
Taste Slovenia in the holiday season! Enjoy your meal and happy holidays.
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