A Bite of the Cherry
Submitted by admin on 4 Jul 2012
On the final day of our Slovenian tour in June we walked through the land between the Italian and Slovenian borders which is known as Brda. The region is an agricultural paradise and many fruit trees prosper in these fertile hills. But the most highly-prized of all is the Brda cherry, famous across all of Slovenia and beyond. In early spring cherry blossoms cover the hills and then in May mature into delicious juicy ruby-red fruits. Later in the season peaches, figs, apples, pears and plums also grow abundantly in this area.
Picking the cherries must be done by a highly skilled team as it is a very delicate process. It is easy to damage them and a tree which has been poorly harvested will bear less fruit the following year.
Cherries have always been a key source of income for the local people and were known all around Europe from Austria to Russia. After the second World War production decreased as a greater amount of land was given over to vineyards, but it has increased significantly again in the last twenty years. Every year, in the middle of June, the people of Brda display their produce on stalls in Dobrova and present the year's crop in a magnificent traditonal procession. The festival attracts around 30,000 visitors and they can choose from a vast array of culinary masterpieces made from the cherries, such as compotes, jams, spirits, liquors and cherry wine. At the end of the festivities, one of the girls of Brda is chosen to be the Queen of Cherries.
One of the treats we most enjoyed during our week in Slovenia were the individual cherry strudels made by Petra at the Bjana Wine Estate. Its a very traditional dish at this time of year and completely delicious! Here's how we think she did it:
In a saucepan mix 1 kilo of pitted cherries with eight crushed savoiardi (sponge fingers) and 200 grams of vanilla sugar until nice and thick. Reduce to a low heat and add 1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon and keep stirring for about 15 minutes. Then let it cool completely.
Lay four sheets of filo pastry on plastic wrap and brush the top sheet with melted butter. Spread half the mixture along the short side of the pastry and roll it up, using the plastic as a guide. Fold the ends under and place on a greased baking tray with the seam downwards. Brush the top with melted butter. Repeat for the second Strudel. Cook in a pre-heated oven at 180° until lovely and golden. Allow to cool on a wire rack before cutting.
Our Slovenian tour will run again in the Spring next year, so if you love cherries ......!