In a continuation of its effort to put forward new, high quality, local products, the International Taste & Quality Institute presents a guest article written by Sirana Gligora on the Paški Sir sheep cheese from the Island of Pag in Croatia. We hope you enjoy reading as much as we did!
Paški Sir has been made on the Island of Pag since ancient times. At Gligora Sirana, we have been able to infuse all of the traditions and artisan techniques passed through generation to generation together with the very latest technology, to produce a consistently high quality limited product cheese. Awarded the 3 star Superior Taste award for the past 3 years as well as numerous other awards, Gligora’s Paški Sir is the most awarded and most famous of Croatia’s artisan cheeses.
Paški Sir is full bodied and exclusively made from raw ewes’ milk cheese, with a well balanced full body and golden yellow in colour. The unique flavours deliver excellent sheep milk savours to the pallet and leave a very long and pleasant after taste without aggressiveness. The distinctive flavours are permeated from the rich traditions of husbandry and vegetation on the Island of Pag.
The tradition of Paški Sir
The Island of Pag has a long tradition of cheese making and agriculture. As the most indented Island in the Adriatic, Pag has perfect climatic conditions for making cheese.
The eastern landscape of the Island is dominated by the beautiful mountain range on the mainland, Velebit. It’s on these snowy peaks where hot and cold air amasses, and particularly in winter, gives birth to the famous Pag Bura. A strong, cool, dry wind that gathers strength as it tumbles down the southern slopes of Velebit onto the calm seas. Here, it creates a beautiful scenery of tiny sea droplets swirling in the air, not unlike dust devils dancing on the surface of the water. The Bura then dries and turns into dry salt dust, which it then scatters all over the Island of Pag, turning it into a beautiful white salty Island. The salt dust becomes wet when it falls onto the vegetation, as if it was thrown upon it as boiling water, and in these conditions upon the rocky hills of the Island of Pag, only the extremely resilient and aromatic plant species will survive. The best known and most precious is the fragrant Pag’s Sage, there are numerous colonies of this purple bloomed plant which adorn the pure white limestone in May and fill the air with its scent.
Paška Ovca (Pag Sheep) have survived for centuries in these conditions. They are small in stature with a thick coat to protect them from the Bura. They are apt to traversing the rocky terrain where they graze freely on the aromatic salted herbs of the island such as breed of Dalmatian Sage, which is considered to be the ‘gourmet sage’ par excellence.
On the Island of Pag only the strongest and most resilient will survive, but sheep and man have survived together throughout the ages. Paška ovca have provided wool, meat and finally cheese which is the essence of the island, and man has risen at dawn in the winter Bura to milk, build shelters and keep watch over the sheep. It’s never been easy on the Island of Pag, but with this perfect fusion of unique conditions, the reward is well worth it with the delicious Paški Sir and the distinction of its taste
As early as 1774 there is recorded documentation of Paški Sir. The travel writer Alberto Fortis, on his way to Dalmatia, wrote about Pag’s products of sea salt, sage honey, wool and Paški Sir. This is a time when the shepherds of Kolan would have live on the rocky hills above the pastures, in stone huts that were adorned with sedge and reeds.
There was no private ownership of the land and the majority of the pastures were located on the hilly parts of the island, they are recognisable today by the stone walls that encompass them. From far off, the intricate stone walls resemble the famous Pag Lace (Paška Čipka) as they snake and twist across the rocky summits.
The Shepherds kept watch of the sheep and in the stone huts, milked the sheep and made Paški Sir. As the pastures slowly became privately owned, so the Shepherds moved back into the town of Kolan and their stone huts became pastoral homes. As Shepherds commuted to and from the pastures to care for the sheep, so it was the women of Kolan assumed the role of cheese makers. Paški Sir slowly but surely gained importance not only as a food for the locals but also as a commodity to market across Croatia, and thus became an important source of income for the villagers of Kolan.
This was a time when agriculture began to establish cooperatives between Kolan and other villages of the Island such as Novalja, Pag and Povljana, which brought Paški Sir from the household into the markets. Yet the production of milk, cheese making and its maturing were all under conditions that with out an expert, could not answer the strict legal criteria of food in traffic.
Gligora Sirana was established by the current director Ivan Gligora in 1995. Ivan is one of the most respected dairy technologists in Croatia and now has over 35 years experience in the industry as well as generations of artisan experience to draw from. Ivan crowned a remarkable career by opening a new and modern Dairy in Kolan in 2010 which uses all the latest technology that will ensure Gligora’s Paški Sir continues to be a champion cheese for years to come.
You can follow Gligora’s Paški Sir as they market the cheese across the world on the Facebook page; Love Paški Sir/Voliti Paški Sir and send all enquiries to email@example.com