Kostajničke Pletenice (Dried Pumpkin Noodles)
Fruit or Vegetable Preserves - Croatia
Dried pumpkin noodles, or Kostajničke pletenice, produced in the area of town of Hrvatska Kostajnica in central Croatia are made from an old pumpkin variety called stočna buča. In the past, stočna buča was grown in the fields along with corn. Today, it is possible to find the variety in some rare households and farms that grow it for cattle feed. Pumpkins for the production of dried pumpkin noodles are picked early and before the pumpkin is fully ripe. To produce 1 kg of dried pumpkin noodles, it is necessary to use 40 kg of pumpkin. When the pumpkins are picked, the skin is peeled and the seeds are removed. Then the pumpkin is sliced 3 mm thick in a circle, in order to get long thin noodles. The noodles are then hung on rods and dried in the sun. The preparation technique has been handed down through generations for at least a century.
Since the pumpkin contains around 90% water, the drying process is challenging. Thus, it is important that noodles, during the drying process, do not touch on one another because otherwise they will rot. Also, if the noodles get wet at this stage they will spoil. The name Kostajničke pletenice, which translates to “braids from Kostajnica," is used because the long noodles, when hung on the drying rods, look like braids. In the past, the pumpkins would be dried above the oven or furnace. The custom was to keep them drying until Christmas, because traditionally, the dried pumpkins were used in preparation of the holiday salad. This holiday dish is still made by some households during Christmas time in the area of Hrvatska Kostajnica. The salad is prepared by boiling the dried pumpkins, draining them, and mixing them with salt, pepper, vinegar, oil and garlic.
The product has many advantages and can be prepared in various ways and used in many dishes. It can be a substitute for pasta, or combined with pasta, rice, other vegetables, mushrooms, eggs and cheese. It is also used in soups or stews. Also, it can be added when making bread and rolls. Another advantage is the long shelf life of the product, which in its dry form does not spoil. In the year 2014, the approximate production was about 500 kg. At the moment, there is only one small-scale family production of this product in Croatia that produces dried pumpkin noodles for the market. The product can be purchased from the producer or in two stores located in Zagreb and online. Historically in Hrvatska Kostajnica, the local people would prepare and dry small amounts for their own consumption around Christmas holidays, but as is the case with many traditional products and dishes, the local tradition was neglected over time, making this product at risk of being lost. Until even a few years ago, the product was completely unknown to the general public outside of the immediate production area.