The Slovenia Times

Keeping It Local This Christmas



After a busy week in Ljubljana, my family and I love to escape to Goricko regional park and our stress-free weekend house in the small village of Fokovci. The property has more than 350 fruit trees, a thriving vegetable garden and a small vineyard, meaning that we jokingly refer to ourselves as renegade weekend farmers. There is certainly more than enough to keep us busy. And this year I've added to the workload with a special challenge - designing a Christmas menu that is 75 percent locally grown or sourced within a hundred metres of our home in Fokovci.

Meet the meat

For most a good Christmas menu is synonymous with a good cut of meat. But since I do not have any animals at Fokovci, finding our main dish was the first worry. Thankfully our neighbours have come to the rescue. In exchange for the meal scraps we feed to their pigs year round, we have kindly been rewarded with some lovely prime cuts of pork. I know that pork is not the traditional meal for Christmas, as my disappointed husband has frequently reminded me. But I am determined to keep it local and unless Justin is willing to shoot some pheasant on the property, he will have to make do.

Besides, it's not like the pork won't be utterly delicious. My plan is to brine the meat, which guarantees it will be moist and full of flavour. I'll be using apple brine, made by combining fresh pressed apple juice from our orchard with brown sugar, juniper berries, bay leaves and salt.

Nutty for nuts

The apple trees aren't the only ones yielding their treasures for our Christmas meal. Our walnut and chestnut tree have been bountiful this year, so I intend to incorporate those nuts in several of the dishes. And there are local treats on the ground as well as in the trees overhead. One recent morning I rose early and went out to gather mushrooms with my neighbour Kornelia. She was kind enough to show me the best spots and lend her expertise on which mushrooms can be eaten and which must be avoided. By the end of the long morning I had a plentiful harvest of mushrooms and was busy planning a wild mushroom bread and butter savoury pudding. This is a great dish for buttery tasting breads or, for even great indulgence, day old croissants.

Speaking of indulgences, the Christmas dessert this year is going to be a somewhat unconventional one. Across the road from us lies a huge field of plump colourful pumpkins. For a while now they have been calling to me, asking me to use them for something sweet and delicious. The neighbours have been dubious - they tend to believe the only useful part of a pumpkin is the seeds - but I am determined to prove that pumpkin pie with homemade ginger ice cream is a heavenly way to end a Christmas meal.

Of course, I'm extremely lucky to have the bountiful harvest of Fokovci as I plan my all-local Christmas feast. But you don't have to be a renegade farmer like me to take on the challenge. You'll find all the locally grown ingredients you need at your grocery store or market. As my family prepares for a Christmas meal that has been made from the wonderful bounties all around us, I hope your family might choose to do the same.

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