An old customs building with a new lease of life; the altes Zollhaus

Blog articles // 09. Nov 2017
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A farm with history

At the edge of Kroatisch Minihof, at the meadow where customs officers once stretched their legs after a hard day’s work, today, Karin and Ivan Krizmanich invite you to wind down with a farm holiday.
 
Home is wherever you feel comfortable, and that can temporarily be somewhere outside of your own four walls. Families in particular appreciate the convivial atmosphere at the old customs building, and as soon as you meet Karin and Ivan, it becomes apparent why. They both spread genuine warmness, which you don’t often see these days, and they can whisk you away instantly to their world of nature.
 
From 1938 onwards, two customs officers lived here, until the Krizmanich family renovated it in 1997 and gave it a new lease of life. This new lease of life has a very special aspect, one that comes straight from Karin’s kitchen, where she makes her famous dandelion coffee. The dandelions she uses come from the meadows around the little village in sunny Central Burgenland, and are not only utilised in Karin’s dandelion coffee, but also in dandelion wine and various dishes.

Far from trite: Emmer and Einkorn

Quite the opposite; if you have tried the Emmer and Einkorn rice made by the Krizmanich family, you will certainly understand why these grains are currently making a comeback. I have to admit, I don’t have much experience with them myself, but since my visit to the old customs building, I can’t live without them. A few years ago, Ivan and Karin decided to reintroduce these old grain types to their fields, much to the delight of many of their guests. Emmer and Einkorn are somewhat more laborious to process than other well-known sorts of grains, as it must first be removed from its protective husk. Emmer flour is somewhat stickier than conventional wheat flour, darker in colour, but has an unmistakeable spicy aroma. Einkorn has a slightly nutty flavour and contains a particularly high proportion of amino acids. So it’s a grain with hidden powers.

Emmerreis auf Mehlschaufel © Melanie Limbeck

Early in the morning, when I arrive at the altes Zollhaus, Karin is already hard at work in the kitchen. The dough for Karin’s amazing Emmer-Weckerl is currently rising, so meanwhile she is cleaning the freshly-picked dandelion roots for her famous dandelion coffee. Karin ground the flour for her Emmer-Weckerl herself in her wooden mill, and processed it straight away. I arrive just in time to slice the ham, which will then be mixed into the dough as well. The ham is also made here on the farm by the Krizmanich family themselves. To do this, Ivan built a smoking room a few years ago, and since then, customers from all over have been making the pilgrimage to the altes Zollhaus to get their hands on the Turopolje and Duroc hams. However, the ham is also perfect in the Emmer-Weckerln and give them a finishing touch. Together, we form little loaves and pop them in the oven. Minutes later, we are already enjoying the fresh, warm Emmer-Weckerl with a glass of quince juice.

selbstgemachte Emmerweckerl © Melanie Limbeck

Happy as a pig in muck

The Turopolje and Duroc pigs belonging to the Krizmanich family are very fortunate, as they are moved to new meadows and fields every few months, or even to vineyards. From November on, the free-range pigs can dig around the vineyard during the winter months, which allows them to get rid of the pests and fertilise the soil with their droppings. The Krizmanich family’s Blue Frankish grapes are particularly grateful for that, as they have enough strength to thrive in the spring and to boast a high yield in the autumn when it comes to the harvest.
 
After the magnificent breakfast, we then get to the key item on the menu: the Karreebraten - a roast Turopolje pork joint. It goes without saying that the meat is sourced from their own free-range pigs, who are lovingly cared for and fed by the Krizmanichs, mainly by Ivan. If you approach them in their enclosure, they will trot right up to you, hoping for a nice little stroke and something to eat. At feeding time, it all kicks off. Even the pigs who are standing at the other end of the field will be in position within seconds, and none of them let Ivan out of their sight for even a moment. Only when they are all sated can their favourite human move along. Unlike conventional pigs, the Krizmanich family’s free-range pigs take longer to become fully grown. However, it’s worth the wait – the meat from Turopolje and Duroc pigs is excellent quality, well-suited for making ham or bacon. We’ll soon be able to experience that for ourselves, as the Karreebraten is already roasting in the oven.

Dandelion coffee for a pick-me-up

As a digestif, Karin serves us her famous dandelion coffee, which we have been eagerly anticipating. It looks just like normal coffee, but in taste, it’s a touch more bitter. Primarily during World War II and during the post-war period, this coffee surrogate was highly popular, although it unfortunately fell into obscurity soon after. To make dandelion coffee, the dandelion roots are dried, and then ground and prepared like normal coffee. The only thing that’s missing is the caffeine, but to make up for that, the dandelion coffee boosts your immune system and is good for the gall bladder and liver.
 
Preparing dandelion coffee:
Dig up the dandelion roots, cut off the leaves, and wash the roots thoroughly. With a wire brush, carefully strip off the fine root hairs and cut the roots into pieces. Place on a baking tray and dry in the oven for around 30-40 minutes at 180 °C, until they start to steam. Grind the dried root pieces with a coffee grinder and boil with water. Allow the mixture to stand for a little while, and then strain it using a tea strainer or coffee filter. Enjoy hot, or store in the fridge for up to several days.
What an experience! Many thanks to Karin and Ivan for your time and giving us the chance to observe you in your day-to-day work, as well as for giving us a look behind the scenes in Karin’s homey kitchen. I was delighted by the quality local produce that you make yourselves here on the farm, and by the level of passion with which you follow your calling.