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Tasting Heavenly Cheese From Pag Island (Paški Sir)
I don’t know about you, but I love cheese. Not that hideous rubbery stuff that comes pre-sliced, individually wrapped in plastic, or even worse, from a can. I’m talking about the real-deal cheese made from milk.
We have mentioned Paški sir, the sheep milk cheese made on Pag Island near Zadar on numerous occasions here on Chasing the Donkey. The reason being; it’s EXCEPTIONALLY GOOD! Paški Sir is so good in fact that Sirana Gligora, a family-owned dairy that produces Paški sir, recently won a gold medal at the World Championship Cheese Contest for their Paški Sir in the hard sheep milk cheese category. They also happen to be the most awarded cheesemakers from Pag.
- Paški: From Pag Island
- Sir: Cheese
What Makes Paški Sir So Good?
“What makes Paški Sir so good?” I hear you ask. It’s a few things. One of them is the Bura, a strong northerly wind that has been battering the Pag Island since the beginning of time. There is very little vegetation on the island due to the strong winds and the salt that is sprayed all over the island by the Bura. This means that only limited vegetation survives, which happens to be wild aromatic herbs, shrubs, and grasses. All of which are salted naturally by the Bura wind.
The 35,000 sheep on Pag Island graze on said herbs (like sage), which produces unique tasting milk. Every 7-10 days, the sheep are rotated into a new pasture. It’s the unique milk that goes into the magnificent tangy Paški Sir.
Another reason is the sheep are outside, left in their natural surroundings. Not stuck in small cages, barns, or otherwise. Each sheep is hand milked and is treated with love.
I was elated when I heard the news from Mrs. CtD that we’d been invited by Gilgora Sirana not only to visit their cheese-making factory in Pag but also to see the milking process in action.
Rise And Shine, It’s Time To Milk The Sheep On Pag Island
The day had arrived; we were off to meet the sheep. We get up at the crack of dawn and head to Kolan, a village in Pag, to kick off our tour at one of Gilgora’s milk suppliers.
We are introduced to Majar, a local shepherd who has been supplying milk from his own sheep to Gilgora daily for many years. He is so local, in fact, that his sheep are in a field that is only a stone’s throw from the cheese factory. Once we are in his field, he begins to round up the sheep very quickly and gets down to business. Swaying his arms and cooing (mala), the sheep gather in the corner, bleating.
Majar is kind and friendly and shares stories of his family history on Pag. Majar also tells me his flock produce around one liter of milk per sheep each day. Half in the morning and the other half in the afternoon.
Production of milk lasts for no more than half the year, which means Majar is milking his flock twice daily, all by hand.
Being the type of person that likes to try almost everything, I accepted Majar’s offer to take the opportunity to milk a sheep.
With his assistance, I get to work……..hmmmmm, not nearly as easy as Majar has made it look. After some coaching and a change in technique….SUCCESS! We had milk.
The Pag Island Cheese Factory
After the labor-intensive milking, we head over to the factory to see what happens with the milk. Our guide walks us through the factory’s cheese-making process, which is/quite impressive, and so much more high-tech than I anticipated.
Entering the underground cheese maturing room was my favorite part of the tour—before us stood thousands of wheels of cheese, neatly stacked maturing.
There were 200 tonnes of cheese at different stages of maturation in the room. Walls of cheese surrounded us!
Busy at work, we saw cheese makers turning over the luscious slabs of cheese, one by one.
They are required to do this every day! One part of the cheese maturation room was dedicated to new cheese’s which were being trialed. I’m sworn to secrecy, but perhaps you can guess by the color?
Cheese Tasting On Pag Island
After milking and getting educated on the cheese-making process, it’s time to get down to the real reason I was interested in waking up at the crack of dawn—cheese tasting. Gligora has built an excellent cheese tasting room where you can sample all of their goods paired with local wines. Gilgora makes over 23 varieties of cheeses, but the real star is, of course, the Paški Sir.
A cheese degustation was prepared for us with some lovely wine to cleanse the palate between each tasting. We tasted:
- Paška Skuta – Fresh cheese similar to ricotta, a high albumin cheese made from the whey of Paski Sir and Zigljen.
- Trapist – A semi-hard cow’s milk cheese.
- Figurica – A hard cheese from a delicate fusion of cow and sheep milk
- Dinarski – Produced exclusively from cow milk from the Dinaric Alps in southern Croatia, with added goat milk from the Zadar hinterland for added complexity
- Paski Sir – Hard sheep’s milk cheese produced exclusively from milk for the sheep on the island of Pag
- Paski Sir iz maslinove komine – This cheese recently won the best hard sheep’s milk cheese at the 2014 world cheese championship. Its Paski cheese has been submerged in an olive oil extract.
Our Favourite Gligora Cheese
Paški Sir (and an aged Paški sir) – To me, this is the best. It’s unique, and Gligora has an aged version that is more pungent and sharp.
Take The Gligora Cheese Making & Tasting Tour Yourself
Available all year round to anyone, the Gligora cheese making & tasting tours are just 8 euro and include a walk through the factory, with an English guide explaining the process as well as a cheese tasting.
The cheese tasting tour starts with a welcome and introduction to the Paški sir and a short talk on the heritage and history of cheese making on Pag. Then, after donning your protective hat, jacket, and shoes, you’ll head into the production and maturing room, learning how the award-winning cheese is made.
Owned and run by Ivan Gligora and his family, the cheese tour is a great way to see the local traditional way of making cheese being kept alive – even if it’s using modern technology.
Once you’ve seen the site and sampled the range, you can make a beeline to the cheese shop onsite and take home your favorites. You can make bookings anytime.
Facts About Gligora On Pag Island
- The Gligora family have been making traditional Croatian cheese and in particular Paški Sir in Kolan since 1918
- Gligora Dairy employs 27 people and produces more than 50 tones of Paški Sir in a year and over 150 tons of other cheese products.
- Gligora buys milk from over 200 of the island’s shepherds.
Let us know in the comments if you’ve ever been on a dairy tour or tasted a Paški Sir?
PS: We were provided the tour free of charge. All of the thoughts and opinions are given honestly and without bias.Share
Is it possible to have the contact of Majar ?
We’re are students in agronomy in France, and we tried to discover the farm in Croatia.
Sorry, we do not have his contact details. BEst of luck.
I tasted the cheese/sir in Zadar and I can’t wait to go and take the tour
Is it possible to purchase via internet and have sent to USA??
Contact them directly and ask, I am sure they will 😀
Now you have me craving both cheese and a visit to Pag Island. It’s fascinating how the very natural environment contributes so much to the cheese’s unique taste. I’d love to try milking sheep some day, although I bet I’d be rather bad at it.
Lovely post, I love cheese and would jump at the opportunity of visiting a dairy farm and hopefully taste fresh cheese direct from the farm.
Don’t forget the wine!
I love cheese despite being lactose intolerant. I can eat a little, but I need to remember not to stuff myself. I’ve never milked an animal before so I’d be curious to try it out. It does sound like hard work though.
Damn… well I’ll eat your share. Seriously though, try sheep or goats milk cheeses they make me less sick. I too have a (mild) lactose intolerance)
Paški Sir is my all time favourite cheese. Once youve tasted it nothing else compares!! Reading this makes me wish I could book my ticket now and sit down to some cheese and prsut!!
I concur! They produce so many different cheeses now. The Paski Sir iz Maslinove komine was real treat. We were lucky to get some as they had sold out and they shared a little of their secret stash with us. Never fear they are making more so when you return you will be able to try it.
Secret… not so secret now Mr CtD 🙂
This looks like such a fun experience! We love cheese and all of these sound delicious. Beautiful photos and you had me drooling at all those cheese wheels.
i love food posts 🙂 and cheese is definitely up there with some of my favourite food. i will have to attempt to find this cheese when im visiting croatia next month
Paski Sir is sold everywhere in Croatia. Its easy to find. Just go for the brand Gligora and you can’t go wrong.
I must admit that I’m not big into cheeses but these look interesting and I like the caring treatment of the sheep. It would make me interested to give these a try.
I am in agreement with you that the processed nonsense is a waste of time and does no justice to real cheese.
Hallo fellow cheese lover. I can eat cheese and bread – artisan of course – every day for every meal. Italy is renowned for great cheese as well. Especially their parmegiano. Among others.
Italy have some great cheese. When we visited the Barolo wine region we got to try soe great raw milk cheeses…..delicious!
I am actually not a big fan of cheese but I love trying new things, even cheese, in different places so would be up for going here as the tour sounds fun.
Trying new cheeses is one of my favorite things! I will have to watch for Paski Sir at any specialty shops. The tour sounds fun. My mouth was watering just looking at all the cheese wheels on the shelves! haha Thanks for sharing! #SundayTraveler
Love this! I am a big cheese fan, and I really like sheep’s cheese – I had some in Spain which was gorgeous. Definitely one to add the list!
Love the idea of this tour. I should come and bring my dad along, he loves cheesemaking and now he’s retired he’s got plenty of time!
Mate, Another post where you have me drooling. Stop that! I have been on dairy tours, in fact, just came back from a very interesting one in Switzerland this past weekend, which I’ll be writing up. BUT, I did not get to do any milking myself this go-round, so I’m a bit jealous! The only place I’ve had a chance to milk sheep was on the Iranian/Turkish border….a story for another day. Love, love, love your post!
Milking sheep in Iran….Sounds like an interesting story. I Look forward to reading about it.
What a cool experience! Can’t remember if I tried this while in Croatia, but, admittedly, I was much less of a food fanatic back then. Would really love to take part in this process and stuff my suitcase full of Paski Sir.
I have to say that obviously as someone who is vegan and doesn’t consume cheese, that I wouldn’t be as interested in this post… but I really like the fact that this place isn’t like a typical Canadian/American factory farm and the animals get to live outdoors. It looks like they are very well taken care of as well! I like how he milks the sheep himself. It looks like you had a really nice time there!
MMM I am a huge cheese lover and what an inspiration to go purchase some Paški Sir. I don’t know that I’ve had it, but I am passing by my local cheese shop and asking this week! Thank you for the delicious #SundayTraveler piece! – Heather, Life of a Traveling Navy Wife
Mmmm cheese. This sounds like the best excuse to return to Croatia yet. Great post and thanks for hosting!
helping to make cheese and touring a cheese factory – what fun! I’ve been toying with the idea of making my own cheese recently – mostly so I can have fresh cheese in my house!
Making frech cheese at home is fun! I tried it a couple of times. The trick is you need good milk.