No season will ever be as beautiful as autumn, at least that’s our opinion.
As you already know, Plitvice is located in a mountainous area where summers are hot and dry, and winters are the complete opposite – they are harsh, cold and merciless. All of us who were born in Lika know about the term “First big rain” after summer. Namely, every year around the feast of the Assumption of Mary, the summer heat is interrupted by the much-awaited rain. It is the rain that soaks the parched fields, that gives life to the country’s crops and after which we all breathe easier. Every year one such rain falls and that means only one thing – autumn has arrived.
If you are visiting the Plitvice Lakes in autumn, it is important to know that the evenings are quite cool, so be sure to bring slightly warmer clothes.
The park is really impressive in autumn. Every time I am surprised when I see how from the green and beautiful trees I now look at the playful leaves that wrap around my feet every time I step on the wooden path.
During autumn, there are not as many visitors in the park as there are in summer, which is fantastic because you can explore every hidden corner of this beautiful nature in peace. October is the month when tickets to the National Park are cheaper, which is definitely a plus. As always, you can buy tickets online at least 1 day in advance or at the ticket office at the entrance to Plitvice. You can find more about buying tickets and all current information, events and parking on the park’s official website.
Now that we have solved this official part, I wanted to share with you what we are cooking this fall and winter, because as we all know, we, and you too, are huge fans of delicious food.
We have talked many times about traditional food, but this time we will look at the top autumn and winter dishes that have been prepared for centuries in the area of Lika and Plitvice.
„Sarma“ – Cabbage rolls
We have already talked about sarma, but this dish is so special that we will have to repeat it at least this time. There are 1001 recipes for sarma, although every house has its own recipe that it has been preparing for years. Sarma is minced meat to which spices and rice are added and wrapped in a sauerkraut leaf. It is prepared in a large pot and it is not uncommon for it to be eaten for several days, i.e. until it is all eaten. (This applies not only to Sarma, but also to all other dishes that can be cooked for a large family, so it does not have to be cooked every day). Honestly, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like Sarma. An ancient saying also applies to Sarma: a woman who knows how to prepare it can get married, so you decide now whether it’s good or not 🙂
Polenta with sour cream or milk
Polenta is cornmeal cooked in salted water. Today there are instant versions, but real polenta is cooked for about 40 minutes. When it is cooked, it is poured over with cream or milk, and some add cracklings. This dish was often prepared for one reason only, and that is because it was cheap and (almost) every house could afford it.
Potato pole (shelf)
Potatoes are the most abundant vegetable in this region. In the past, every house had its own garden where potatoes were planted. All of us who grew up in one of those houses know what it means to harvest potatoes. The only thing worse than picking potatoes is maybe picking plums. Well, that’s a story for itself. But let’s go back to the shelves. The recipe is extremely simple. Wash the potatoes, cut them in half, add salt and put them in the oven. And “voila”. The meal is over. It is usually eaten with home-made sausages or bacon and cheese. You can try this dish at the Etno Garden restaurant and you will be surprised how delicious it is.
I forgot to mention before that in many villages in Lika there was no store. In the summer, this was not a problem because our gardens were full of fresh fruits and vegetables. If we wanted to eat the same vegetables in the winter, we had to preserve them in some way. This is why in winter many dishes were eaten from pulses and grains (which could be dried after harvesting and thus used in winter). That’s where beans come into the story. It’s actually a stew with beans, but we just call it “beans”. Beans are soaked overnight, In the morning you put them on the stove, add vegetables and water. Those who were lucky would add a piece of ham hock or prosciutto. Ah, good beans will always be and remain an excellent dish.
Sour cabbage with dried meat
Wash the meat (pork or mutton) well and put it in a pot with cabbage and bacon. It is cooked on low heat for 2 hours or until the meat is soft. Boiled potatoes in their skins are served with the dish. This is also one of the dishes that I would definitely recommend you try. The meat is so soft after cooking that it falls apart on its own, and the cabbage gives it a touch of acidity. Yummy.
This part will be very short. Trout is eaten as a fish in Lika. End.
Cheese and dairy products
Although almost every house in this area had domestic animals and their milk was used to make the finest cheeses, butter, yogurt and „basa“ (milk spread), unfortunately such products are hard to find today. Fortunately, we know a grandmother who still makes cheese today, and if you visit us, you might try one such fine cheese.
And finally, one more saying: “Until I meet a lion, the king of animals for me is a lamb” (vegans, apologies). It’s not my personal saying, don’t take me for granted. The saying only describes our last dish in a row, which is pig or lamb on a spit. Even today, if a house is preparing a celebration, christening or a big gathering, this is a dish that will surely be on everyone’s table.
I hope to see you at the Plitvice Lakes. If you come to visit the National Park, do not leave until you have tried at least one of these dishes.