Ambition: Good food from Serbia to NZ

06 November 2014 / Published in Business

Pedja Mirkov wants New Zealanders to be more aware of what goes into the food that goes into their bodies.

In 2009, Mirkov, along with his brother Gradimir, founded Salash, producing traditional Serbian dry-cured meats. Initially the business sold their meats at farmers’ markets across Auckland and wholesale, but in January of this year moved into a new shop in the revamped Victoria Park Market in the central city.

“The ambition was to share good food with the people of New Zealand. No additives, no preservatives, no chemicals,” Mirkov says. “I have children of my own and I certainly don’t like them eating all the chemicals and preservatives in food. We don’t need it in the food, it is just there to make it look pretty and make the product cheaper but it is of no benefit to us – in fact it is more harmful than anything else.

“This is pure meat, spices; it’s honest, good food.”

Salash is a family business decades in the making; Pedja says the craft has been passed down through four generations of the family.

Without the chemicals to aid the curing process, the traditional way of preserving meats requires patience. Mirkov says sausages can be made in about 10 days, salamis can take about four months of curing, while prosciuttos usually take from about eight to 12 months – but can take up to 24 months.

Because most products may not be sold for a year, Mirkov says it has been challenging to get financial support. Another challenge was getting FoodSafety to recognise the products were safe.

“After about five years working together with MPI we are the first in New Zealand to receive the license to do it. I hope that it is going to pay off in the next few years ahead of us, because it did cost us a lot of money, there was a lot of testing, a lot of investigation to prove to them that the product can be done this way and it’s not going to kill anybody.”

But the biggest challenge the business has faced, Mirkov says, is the misperceptions Kiwis have regarding cured meats.

“It’s really challenging, but it is really pleasant to talk to people about what it is and how it is done, how come meat that is one year old is still fine to eat. That’s the biggest challenge, trying to explain to people that the way we cure our meats and preserve our meats they are ready to eat, you don’t need to cook it.

“Of course we have our customers from Europe, they’re really easy as they know what they’re after, but our goal is to feed New Zealanders in general. We really want to feed the kids of New Zealand proper food. No chemicals and preservatives.

“It is very much like wine making or cheese making. We always say to people when you eat it, ‘eat it as you would your cheese or drink your wine. Think about it, what’s in it, and how it is done and try to find all of those flavours’.

“I think New Zealand is the right place to have a healthy eating culture. They are sporty people, they are clean and green people, they like nature, they like all-natural, as they should.”

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