Water buffalo meat
Kerkini Farm is situated in the Ramsar-protected wetlands in the northwest of Lake Kerkini and is Greece’s leading enterprise devoted to the production and processing of water buffalo meat.
After a long stay in Germany during the 1980s, the owner, Vasilis Papadopoulos, and his wife returned to his birthplace and he set himself up as a butcher/animal breeder, calling his business ‘Billy’s Farm’. At first the family raised other animals as well but in 2006, Vasilis decided to devote the farm to the water buffalo. Back in the 1950s the area, which is ideal for this water-loving animal, had supported as many as 75,000 but this number had dropped to 600 by the time he arrived back from Germany.
Now on new and larger premises, Kerkini Farm has helped to raise the figure to 1,600 – the total for Greece is 2,000.
We visited the farm, which borders the lake, where the animals wade and graze off local water plants and swim to their hearts’ content.
‘As you can see’, said Vasilis, ‘all the water buffalo are tagged and are certified by the Ministry of Agricultural Development. The calves feed off their mothers for the first six months and then they are fattened for 12 month in another stable. They are smart, good-natured animals, they love to swim. Once we lost one who swam out too far and we found it on the other side of the lake!’
Naturally, with such a good business, the younger generation of the family would not dream of leaving the area and their farm.
In the workshop we became acquainted with dozens of Kerkini Farm products, most of them made with buffalo meat, which is tender, more nutritious and less fatty than beef and most other meats. We watched them making ‘kavourmas’, a confit in which the meat is simmered and constantly stirred for more than eight hours, after which salt and spices are added, while it gets its special flavour from a ‘secret juice’ from vegetables where we detected the presence of carrots. It was perhaps the most delicious ‘kavourmas’ I have ever tasted.
Kerkini Farm produces many other preserved buffalo delicacies:
- Country sausage, boiled and smoked;
- Salami Serres-style with whole peppercorns;
- Horseshoe-shaped ‘soutzouki’ sausage;
- Kerkini sausage, etc., not to mention a whole range of fresh cuts.