Croatia has some of its food products protected at both a national and European level, their status designated by their unique place of origin. Baranja kulen (Baranjski kulen) is one of them.
To people coming from outside the region, Baranja is one of Croatia's least known and seldom-visited areas. Today, it is paired with the Slavonian capital of Osijek within an administrative district, but traditionally the area stretches far into Hungary, where all of the notable cities and towns of Baranja remain. If you've ever visited Osijek (and you really should), the moment you step across the Drava river onto the northern banks, you're in Baranja.
Holding rich and fertile land, much like that of its Pannonian neighbour Slavonia, Baranja is an even greater agricultural paradise for the small grower because of the water. Large tracts of Baranja lie in flood plains, and swampland, such as the mosquito paradise that is Kopački Rit, can be found in many places. The region's cuisine is also quite similar to that of Slavonia but, being that much closer to Hungary (and with a significant Hungarian minority living there), it has been influenced to its benefit by this neighbour from across the national border.
Baranja kulen is a richly-red smoked sausage and, much the same as its Slavonian counterpart is made with only prime cuts of pork meat. Though some may disagree, in explaining the difference between them, you could say that the Baranja kulen is slightly denser, even more lean and, owing to the Hungarian influence, spicier, with a greater amount of hot paprika used. The traditional shape of Baranja kulen is a big indicator – it's an irregular shape, almost like an unformed mass of clay. As part of a buffet, a sandwich filling, or served as an indulgent snack alongside good bread, good cheese and a glass of good wine, it's tough to beat.
Click here to find out what European recognition does for Croatian produce and see all of Croatia's best delicacies which are protected