Põlva-, Valga- and Võru County

Vana-Võro (Old Võru) region respects old traditions but welcomes useful innovations. In olden days, people’s life was organised in the rhythm of obtaining food, preparing food and expecting feasts. Even the Estonian synonyms of “food” used back then illustrate how important it was.  Nowadays, food and eating feel so mundane, and foods across the country have become more or less the same. Still there are some dishes characteristic only of Võru County or Southern Estonia in a broader sense, which were not habitual for the rest of Estonia. For instance, curd cheese is a staple of Southern Estonia which spread to other parts of the country from here. The actual cheese made from (known as sõir) it used to be produced in Seto region, Võru County and in Latvia. These days the manufacturers of this specialty in Seto region and Vana-Võro region have united to apply for an EU protected geographical indication for the sõir made specifically in this area. The tradition of smoking meat in the sauna also originated in Southern Estonia, which, alongside the smoke sauna tradition, has been registered in UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage list. Because buckwheat, hemp and lentils were only grown in Southern Estonia, buckwheat groats, lentil stew and foods made of hemp were quite common here. It was only in Southern Estonia that a thick stew of cabbage and groats as well as mashed beans and peas were made. Fermentation was also an important preservation method, which is gaining popularity once more. In addition to meat dishes, blood pudding and offal foods were common and are still popular with beef and sheep farmers, of whom there are plenty in the region.

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