The Column with Simone B. Michielen: That aromatic time of the year!

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What I really like about living in a rural area, is the regularity of everything that is happening during the year. Of course, I do have a planner, I get information into my house, and I know what season we’re in, but surrounded by farmland, it just seems a little bit more down to earth, literally.

This week, when I was still hanging around in my hammock, enjoying the sun during less hot days, one of the main events in our Savinjska Dolina started, the harvest of the hops! Growing hops is a long time tradition in our valley and an interesting one. Almost everybody drinks beer, but not everybody knows how one of the main ingredients grows and is processed to be delivered to the breweries.

Time for a visit! As soon as you come closer to the hop-factory (that’s what I call it…) you can almost smell beer. It seems this aroma makes sleepy too, so hanging a bag with dried hops next to your bed should do the trick if you have difficulties with falling asleep. I don’t need that, the scent of the hops that is harvested so close to my house is enough to dream away.

Did you know that Slovenia is in the top 5 of hop producing countries? And that there are many varieties, especially in taste? Very inspiring, I already organized a bag of a fresh variety to cook with, but more about that later.

The family that revived the hop fields around our village is always willing to open their doors for visitors and that inspired me this year to suggest an excursion with tourists who were staying on our local campsite Menina. Around 40 guests, from abroad but also Slovenia, walked through the hop fields with their children to visit and see how it is done. I loved it, as it hardly would become more local than this. Sometimes municipalities ask me how to attract more tourists and especially what they would like, I think I just gave the answer. Kindness, information and just something to see what you normally won’t is exactly what people like during their holidays. Oh, and that beer that was served at the end of the tour, of course.

What will I do with that hop I arranged?

I use it in a rub for a piece of pork. Put 80-gram salt, 10-gram coriander seeds, 2 pieces dried anise, 40 grams hop, ½ red chili pepper, 5-gram peppercorn in a blender till the ground. Rub it on to 500 grams of pork belly. Pull a vacuum and leave it in the fridge for 48 hours. Remove the rub and put the meat in the oven on a low temperature. Nice with a dark beer sauce, apple and union. All ingredients from our valley that work together very well in this slow-food dish. Sometimes treasures are just found around the corner.

The harvest of the hops just started this week and will last for at least a few more, so grab your chance and come to our valley to check it out yourself!