Food Travel in Croatia – The Lamb on the Spit

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This weekend, Jutarnji List published an article on lamb eating tradition in Croatia. Apparently, the lamb was a favorite delicacy in this area for 8000 years! And who can blame us? Very few dishes compare to the roasted lamb!

Janje na ražnju - lamb on the spit
Janje na ražnju - lamb on the spit

With spring, and celebration of Easter approaching, lamb becomes increasingly popular! Young lambs are on the market from January but nothing compares to the lamb meat of spring – especially May. The average weight of the lamb is about 10 – 15 Kg. More than that is not lamb any more but a regular sheep and the meat is not as nearly that juicy and tasty and a characteristic, unpleasant odor develops.

Lamb is very popular in Croatia. From lamb on the spit, lamb under peka, lamb stews, simple cooked lamb to very popular lamb and green peas – we enjoy it all! Maybe least popular is grilled – although that is probably the original way it was prepared back in the dawn of the civilization…

Although “De gustibus non est disputandum” most people think that the best lamb in Croatia originates on the islands of Cres, Pag and Kornati. The probable reason is the pasture – aromatic herbs combined with sea salt.

Kornati lamb at Gujak inlet
Kornati lamb at Gujak inlet

While I lived in Boston, it was quite hard to find lamb meat. We traveled to the obscure farms in the middle of the woods close to Worcester… But the taste simply wasn’t right.
That did not stop us, at Croatian gatherings, to feast on those 🙂 I remember one old guy approaching the food the traditional way – he used his pocket knife to carve the brain out of the lamb’s head. All the Americans present, and me too, would just roll our eyes and turn away. But that is the traditional way: all the elderly men always had the pocket knife and used them to cut bacon, bread, meat…but also for work in the vineyard.

So, next time you see the sign “Janjetina” – reads “Yanyetina” – stop and “have a kilo” (probably enough for two or three persons) with “kapulica” (spring onions) and cold beer.
Although on our cooking tours or custom culinary travel in Croatia we don’t put too much emphasis on lamb (unless requested), it is one of the most popular dishes in Croatia and deserves attention. We had clients from Santa Fe, the Delgado Family, who went nuts for lamb on the spit eating it almost every day during their 14 day journey!

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