October 6, 2019 - Salt, oil, and vinegar are the main preservatives of Bokelian gastronomy. We should not forget the sun and its heat of summer, used for drying fruits and vegetables in the shade. The north wind, the bora, makes a significant contribution to the conservation of meat and cheese, which has also earned us geographical indications of quality.
In the past centuries, Bokelian cheese refined in olive oil or brine was gladly seen in all the Mediterranean markets that were reached by Bokelian mariners and merchants, and the Luštica prosciutto was served to the English royal family. Dried figs, carobs, dried grapes, wine, dried salted meat, and salted fish have been the original Bokelian gastro products for centuries.
Preparation for the winter season starts with fruit harvesting to prepare jams and liqueurs. Among them, the liquor of the fragrant May rose petals - Rosalin, which was the trademark of Bokelian ladies, holds the place of honor. The onset of onion began, first in the country and then in the air. The bowls weaved the onions into the tassels, separately onion, leek, and garlic. Drying tomatoes and other vegetables would start in mid-July, with figs' drying particularly important. Grapes went to dry by August, and at the latest bunches of Rozaklija, which remained fresh under the roof of the house until Christmas. By the fireplace or stove, Bokelian homemakers stuffed jars, bottles, stone vessels, and barrels, and stored them in taverns- cold and dry stone rooms, where the food matured until use.
The food for the winter was stored for the most part without cooking and without preserving agents. Salt, oil, and vinegar were the keepers of everything the Bokelians could and had prepared for the winter. The bowls were separated from everything and kept for surprise guests, holidays, and for those "unhappy" occasions.
Part of the preparation for the winter was the provision of firewood and flint. The orders were timely, so during the summer months, bales of wood on horses and donkeys arrived in Kotor on the market days – Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, on the Montenegrin market in Tabacina. The catch of anchovies and other fish came at just the right time, and fishers knew exactly when which fish was best for salting or drying.
The production of wine lasted the longest, without which the Bokelians could hardly live. It began in the vineyards as early as February and ended in October when the work would continue in the taverns. At the same time, all weather-sensitive olive groves were to be carried out. And without olive oil, life was almost unthinkable. When the saws were full of oil, the host could fall asleep peacefully.
After the wine, the preparation of meat and pork came. Prosciutto, pancetta, bacon, sausages made from chopped pork meat and bacon- it was all preserved with salt, large amounts of salt. A bit of smoke and a lot of wind and fragrant Bokelian grasses added the unique taste. Each homemaker had their recipe and did not like to reveal secret details. And so remained until our days, when the first recipes were finally written down. Only then did we realize the richness of Bokelian cuisine, as small but significant differences from place to place were observed. Methods rarely carry "Bokelian" in their names. The dishes bear the sign: from Tivat, Herceg Novi, Grahovo, Grbalj, Lastva, Krtole, Krivosije.
The stores today are full of canned food with a shelf life of several years. Who still prepares food for the winter, young homemakers and hosts ask. You should try a slice of homemade cheese from oil, some salted fish and some olive from brine, and drink a glass of homemade Bokelian wine. After that, you won't ask again who is still canning food for the winter.
Text by Maso Cekic from the book "Boka'a Plate"