The meat is low-fat, rather brittle and dense, and the flavour is spicy with the hot red paprika bringing it aroma and colour, and garlic for additional spice. The original kulen recipe does not contain black pepper; its hot flavour comes from the paprika.
The traditional time of producing kulen is during the pig slaughter done every autumn by most households. Kulen matures during the winter; it can be eaten at this time, although not fully dried and cured yet, with very hot taste, but it will develop its full taste by the following summer. To produce a dryer, firmer kulen, it is sometimes kept buried under ashes, which act as a desiccant. Kulen is a shelf-stable meat product, with a shelf life of up to two years when stored properly.
The meat is stuffed and pressed into bags made of pork intestine, and formed into links that are usually around ten centimetres in diameter, and up to three times as long, weighing around a kilogram.
The pieces of kulen are smoked for several months, using certain types of wood. After the smoking they are air-dried for another several months. This process can last up to a year. Although similar to other air-dried procedures, the meat is fermented in addition to the air-drying. High-grade kulen is sometimes even covered with a thin layer of mould, giving it a distinct aroma.
When the kulen meat is stuffed into the small intestine, the thinness makes it require less smoking and drying and thus also takes less time to mature. This type of sausage is often referred to as kulenova seka (literally kulen's sister).
Kulen is regarded as a premium domestically-made dried meat product, given that on the Zagreb market even a low-grade kulen can cost much more than other types of sausages and is comparable to smoked ham. Although it has also been produced commercially throughout former Yugoslavia since World War II, industrial process of production is significantly different, resulting in major differences in appearance and aroma, although it is cheap compared to the genuine kulen. However an annual "Kulenijada" festival is held in many Croatian and Serbian cities to honor the history and great regional masters of making kulen.
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (July 2010)|
- "Zaštićeni slavonski kulen mora biti proizveden od svinje iz Slavonije" [Protected kulen of Slavonia must be produced by a pig from Slavonia]. Poslovni dnevnik (in Croatian). HINA. 2013-02-27. Retrieved 2013-06-14.
- "The list of the indications of geographical origin registered in the Intellectual Property Office". Intellectual Property Office of the Republic of Serbia. Retrieved 2014-03-16. "Reg. no. 6 Paprika flavoured sausage from Srem (Sremski kulen)"
- Kovačić et al. 2007, pp. 41–42
- Kovačić, Damir; Markovina, Jerko; Prebježić, Sonja (February 2007). "Ponašanje i stavovi potrošača na zagrebačkom tržištu slavonskog kulena" [Consumer behavior and attitudes towards Slavonian Kulen on the Zagreb market] (PDF). Agronomy journal (in Croatian) (Croatian society of agronomists) 69 (1). ISSN 0002-1954. Retrieved 2011-07-20.