“What are you making with yours?” I asked a lady as we both rummaged and handpicked smoked pork bones from a tub.
“Kupus” she replied.
“Ne grah?” I queried.
She proceeded to tell me, in Croatian, that she uses hers in a cabbage dish as her body can’t take beans ever since undergoing some surgery. Gone are the days of her making grah, as now it’s only made for her husband occasionally.
I’m so used to smoked pork bones going into grah, my favourite Croatian bean soup, so hearing that she cooks them up with cabbage piqued my curiosity. Perhaps I should have pestered her for a recipe.
There’s only one negative with Ivan’s Butchery & Delicatessen, my mecca for many things Croatian for several years now. There’s almost an hours travel between my house and its location in Chester HIll. Ok, not much of a negative, I know.
As soon as you make your way through the pvc strip door you’re enveloped in air that’s dripping in smoky deliciousness. It’s no wonder, when hundreds of smoked joints and sausages dangle about the walls like porcine decorations.
To one side is an open refrigerator loaded with fresh cuts of meat from a variety of animals – off the bone, on the bone, minced and made into čevapi – you name it. There’s a designated fridge for dairy and opposite is another open meats fridge; this one populated by a dazzling array of smoked and cryovaced kobasice (sausages), hunks of smoked pork and sliced salami-style meats.
The deli counter itself is another meaty extravaganza. More sausages and cuts of meat prepared in a variety of ways reside in the cabinet, as beautiful pieces of smoked ribs, pork knuckles and loins dangle overhead.
And crackling? Yes, they’ve got that covered, too. We refer to them as čvarke; bits of pork fat and meat that are remnants of the rendering process. Tasty snackage that’ll get you closer to high cholesterol.
Off to the left of the deli counter is the hot foods section; a small selection of roasted joints of meat and some gorgeous baked burek with meat, cheese, apple and cherry fillings. Tucked behind the counter is a tray of baked pigs heads, reasonably priced at $5 a kilo, for those that don’t like to waste any part of an animal.
It’s not all about meats at Ivan’s, either. Several aisles are stocked-up with many European tinned and drygoods, pickles and preserves. Grains, spices, oils, breads, cakes, tea and coffee. A small mountain of wafers tempted me to grab a packet or two to make oblatne, but somehow we left Ivan’s without grabbing one.
Not that we went home empty handed. Our little bounty of smoked pork ribs, sausages, handmade filo, burek, čvarke, lentils and other goodies will keep us going for a little while. Until, of course, it’s time to head back to Chester Hill.