In Ribnica, fine meats become world-class salamis and sausages
The Ribnica Valley in the far south of Slovenia is best known for its centuries-long woodenware tradition, word has however been spreading fast about it also being home to some of the world's best salamis and sausages.
The credit goes to David Lesar and his business BioSing. Lesar has drawn on traditional family recipes to develop them into delicacies served in the finest restaurants around the globe that feature in the Top50 list, in the Michelin guide, or are members of the prestigious Jeunes Restaurateurs d' Europe.
According to Lesar, sausage making is a long-standing tradition in their family, the knowledge having been passed down through generations.
Twenty-five years ago, the making of cured meat products became more than just a hobby for him. With his products receiving favourable reviews, he made the decision to transform this family tradition into a serious and financially viable project.
He decided to develop unique, boutique products for people with a finer palate, for products that cannot be found in ordinary stores and that offer a special tasting experience.
The salamis and sausages are crafted using the finest quality pork and game meat. When it comes to pork, Lesar primarily sources organic pork from a local variety of pigs known as krškopolje pigs.
"Scientific studies have actually proven that krškopolje pork contains an abundance of unsaturated omega-3 fatty acids, which are ideally balanced, and has less cholesterol than conventional farmed pigs," he explained.
Deer and bear are his choice when it comes to using game meat. Luckily, Ribnica is surrounded by vast forests that harbour the largest population of brown bears in the EU.
"When the Ministry of Natural Resources and Spatial Planning issues a culling permit to regulate the bear population, I purchase the culled bears and subsequently process their meat into salamis and sausages."
Throughout the production process, he adheres to the principle that the products must remain free from any additives. The meat used must be top quality and entirely microbiologically safe.
The only additions are non-iodized sea salt, spices, wine, garlic, and brandy. He applies his knowledge of meat curing, acquired during his studies at the Faculty of Food Science and Nutrition.
The sausages are ready for the market after one year, while the salamis need 18 months. Before stuffing the salamis, the meat undergoes a ten-day curing process.
"During this time, we progressively cut the meat into smaller pieces to intensify its curing. After stuffing the salamis and sausages, we partially dry them and then lightly smoke them. They then undergo a specific curing process in a brick cellar."
"Once the product has reached the desired level of curing, we peel it, cut it in half to ensure everything is fine, and vacuum pack it. The product continues to mature in the cellar, at a temperature of at least 10 degrees Celsius."
Interestingly, the meat is processed exclusively during the appropriate lunar phases, particularly during the waning moon. This is due to the belief that the moon's gravitational pull influences the meat-curing process.
During the waning moon phase, the moon's attraction is thought to help extract an optimal amount of free intercellular water from the meat, which is a crucial step before the actual curing of the filled salamis or sausages takes place.
The company sells its products through an online store, delivering them throughout the EU. It also offers them at selected locations in Slovenia, Austria, Germany, Italy, and Switzerland.
They produce 20,000 units or approximately 3,500 kilograms of dried and cured meat annually.
"The project is developing very well, so we are building a new cellar. In the coming years, we plan to increase production to around 100,000 units, but it will still remain a highly specialized, boutique production," Lesar explained.
The company, which has two employees, presently records an annual turnover of around €200,000.