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12 Nov

Touch Brač

I perceive Brač as a continent, island always throwing a nice surprise as well as experience in many different ways, in original and unique Mediterranean style-

The taste of Brač is a challenge hard to resist. Dol, an old village on Brač was first recorded in 1337 in church books. Vineyards interchanging with olive groves across island slopes neatly furnished by human hand, scent of the sea, pine trees and aromatic plants suggest our location – Mediterranean. Soon our clothes absorb that fresh fragrance following us around.

We came to Dol just to visit Gospodnetić family that shall introduce us with old Brač delicacy: hrapoćuša – a tasty pastry, people from Dol call cake, a symbol of this part of the island. It was named after rough rocks that can be seen on all old Dol houses. Mrs. Gospodnetić started preparing the cake. Home-grown eggs, everything from the scratch, respecting the traditional rules of preparing this delicacy. Delightful aroma travelling from the kitchen bestirred us from the past and stories grandpa Frane was sharing with us. The cake layer is in the oven. The cream is almost finished – walnuts, sugar and whipped egg whites, vanillin sugar and freshly squeezed lemon juice just picked from the tree. Cream comes on the top of the yellow crusted cake layer. While I was observing the cream roughly smeared on top of the cake layer I realized the origin of its name – Hrapoćuša (rough cake). The surface of the cake looks rough reminding of the rough mountain massive observed from distance. The cake was melting in my mouth and every bite was a revelation for my senses recognizing ingredients I have witnessed of. We enjoyed this moment of genuine creation. This was a presentation of genuine traditional island cuisine, which has survived and played along with time, of course, thanks to human element. As the first sun beams have touched the Earth we reached part of the island belonging to sheep breeders.

On this part of Brač, where sheep have been traditionally bred, only young lambs that haven’t tasted grass are used for preparation of vitalac. It is served hot and eaten instantly. Timing is important in order to sense all food ingredients. It is recommended to eat directly from the spit, usually with two slices of bread soaking up fat draining from the spit. Meat pieces are served on wood tray and eaten with hands. Crispy and salty taste of the wrap is blended with taste of the bowels composed of different ingredients: lamb liver, lungs and kidneys, representing the most genuine and original taste of Brač. Simultaneously while preparing vitalac, amazingly simple Brač meal is also prepared, cooked lamb stomach. In a pot with salt water washed lamb stomach is placed, two peeled onions and a few lamb legs. When the stomach is cooked, it is taken out on a wooden dish, cut into chunks and salted with coarse sea salt. For those who like it, it is a nutritious brunch. I prefer lamb tripes prepared with tasty Brač potatoes. And as they say, the best is saved for last, so we have saved our encounter with sheep and shepherds for the end of our Brač gastro-tour.

We set our course direction west, Sutivan, and then headed along rocky road towards the slopes of the hill, walked between olive groves across pasture grounds of a farm where milking of sheep takes place in the morning and evening. The name of the farm is Gnjivi dolac, and owners hold around 90 sheep of the pramenka breed. Cheese production has been preserved here for centuries. It is hard work; people taking care of sheep do not have time for holidays. I am trying to comprehend life of Brač shepherds. Not only taking care of sheep, but also the art of making cheese. The method is traditional. Sheep were waiting to be milked, pressed tightly together, creating with their bodies one firm surface resembling a wool carpet. Two shepherds, father and son, according to their standard procedure pulled each sheep by their back legs in order to yank them out of the packed flock. With firm grab they forced milk out of sheep udder to run into a bowl between their feet. The milked sheep would go back into the packed flock of wool mass, leaving that spot for the next sheep to be milked. Evening milking resulted in fifty litres of milk. Shepherds let the sheep go out on the pasture grounds, while they wash their hands, making the final steps of the long and hard day. Milk is delivered to the dairy where cheese production starts. It is routine work for them, adopted at early age. Milk is heated to 32 degrees, no pasteurization. When coagulated, it is whipped for 10 minutes and heated to 42 degrees, then left to rest for 5-6 minutes, after that stirred and poured into cloth wrapping, shaped by hands, pressed under heavy weight and then starts process of changing cloth wraps 10 times a day. Cheese is kept for 24 hours in a pot and preserved in brine for 24 hours. To produce hard cheese drying process lasts for 2 months. The whole production gives 6 kilos of cheese sold solely at home. This is what I have found out on cheese production subject from my hosts. Some questions were answered only with a smile; of course every business has its secrets. The cheese indulges my taste buds. We also savoured cottage cheese that rested only 45 days. Our gusto sensed a genuine homemade product. No additional ingredients. It was produced by people who grasp cheese production as pride and honour, not just pure business. The glow in their eyes revealed that attitude to us. Sheep and cheese mean more to them than just means of survival. 

 

These short encounters have provided me with proof this island treasures splendour cuisine holding Brač and its tradition in its heart. People are essential element of this fascinating cuisine, creating food as for themselves so for others as well. Today they are willing to share it with those who appreciate such and wish to be a part of the tradition that has structured and influenced island life. Brač is a destination that provides gastro world with enriching cuisine, based on tradition that has formed people, their lives and for centuries has been meeting their needs. Genuine, rich with pleasures, as Brač itself, with its hard working islanders.

extracted from Yachts Croatia magazine