Pork neck drenched in wine, aged in wonderful spices, nutmeg, cinnamon and pepper, dried in bora wind and smoked in 'black kitchens‘, these are one-of-a-kind meat preparation methods that definitely make šokol an exquisite delicacy of ancient dining tables. Historical books on the gastronomy and oenology of the Nin region contain very few records about šokol so it was preserved only thanks to word of mouth, while all accounts on how these quite unusual spices for our region reached Nin still remain a part of family tales and urban legends. One thing’s for sure, they dined like royalty in Nin.
The stone alleys and secluded corners of the beautiful city of Nin will easily lure you in their magic atmosphere and reveal small culinary shrines of Dalmatian cuisine. Family tavern Stara kužina definitely falls under that category. As the name itself tells, this is a tavern where you can enjoy homemade Dalmatian specialties prepared to traditional recipes. Šokols are the family pride and joy. They’re prepared every year in order to familiarise guests with the culinary delights and meat delicacies of their native city.
"Nin šokol is a traditional specialty whose production started back when the Italians still owned a tobacco factory. Only pork neck is used to prepare šokol and then it’s placed in wine, spices, nutmeg and pepper. The meat is first salted and then left to stand for a day, then it’s rinsed in the sea and excess water is removed. Then it’s boiled in red wine. When the wine starts simmering, the meat is placed in it for about ten minutes. Once the meat dries naturally, it’s rolled into spices and strings are used to bind it, shape it and squeeze out the air. Traditionally, šokol was prepared in a tallow membrane or pork bladder. At our tavern šokol is served on a platter as a cold appetizer and in stuffed pork tenderloin stuffed with šokol and Pag cheese."
Even though there are very few restaurants where you can try these delicious delicacies, the people of Nin in family bistro Pjat in the very centre of Zadar are more than happy to share old Dalmatian recipes and stories. Restaurant owner Anita Mijalić hails from the village of Grbe near Nin. Her father’s šokol, which is prepared to her grandfather’s recipe, forms an indispensible part of the menu.
"According to my father’s accounts, šokol came to be in Grbe where the the Italian marquis Jerolim Manfrim resided in the 17th or 18th century and he bought a lot of land in order to build a tobacco factory. Aside from the tobacco industry, he brought his recipes with him and šokol is one of them."
When the bora wind starts blowing and depending on the year, most commonly in December and January, you’ll see šokols being dried in the yards of Nin and smaller surrounding villages such as Grbe.
"Šokol is made from pork neck which is formed into loaves weighing about five kilos when sliced. The meat is then salted using coarse salt and left to stand for three to six days. It needs to be squeezed and shaped every single day so that it would get the desired shape in time. After the meat has aged in salt, we wash it in mulled red wine. Most commonly we use our homemade wine like the other families, usually it’s Plavac or Žutica. The meat drenched in wine is then put outside to air for a short while, about 10 to 15 minutes. Cloves are then pushed in it (the quantity varies depending on the household) and is rolled into a spice mixture: nutmeg, pepper and cinnamon. When it’s rolled, it’s wrapped in a fat membrane, then it’s shaped and tied into loaves using string. It’s drained for a day outside in the air. After that, fire is fed for ten to fifteen days in the 'black kitchen' and it’s smoked there. Whenever there’s bora blowing, the meat is taken out and dried in the wind. 'When the meat shrinks‘, the šokol is ready and is placed in a “šufit” or attic. Such a šokol is then aired until April or May when it’s ready to be opened and eaten."
In order to get a true feel of Nin’s family recipes and aromatic flavours of the best šokols, the Nin Tourist Office traditionally organises the Nin šokolijada in July when you can have a taste of the best šokol specimens made by all šokol producers.