Tasting Heavenly Cheese {Paški Sir} From Pag Island

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Tasting Heavenly Cheese {Paški Sir} From Pag Island

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 which 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 cheese makers 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 which 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 mean 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 a unique tasting milk. Every 7-10 days the sheep are rotated into a new pasture. It’s the unique milk which 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 to not only visit their cheese making factory in Pag, but to also see the milking process in action.

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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 suppling 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 stones 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.

Pag Island paski sir cute looking sheep - Chasing the Donkey Croatia
A special bread of sheep

Majar is kind and friendly, and shares stories of his family history on Pag. Majar also tells me his flock produce around one litre 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.

Pag Island milking the sheep - Chasing the Donkey Croatia
With a little help, I managed to milk a sheep

The Pag Island Cheese Factory

After the labour intensive milking, we head over to the factory to see what happens with the milk. Our guide walks us through the cheese making process in within the factory which is is quite interesting, and so much more high tech than I anticipated. Entering the subterranean cheese maturing room was my favourite part of the tour. Before us stood thousands of wheels of cheese, neatly stacked maturing. There was 200 tonnes of cheese at different stages of maturation in the room. We were surrounded by walls of cheese!

Secret Cheese on Pag Island - Chasing the Donkey
Top Secret

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 trialled. I’m sworn to secrecy, but perhaps you can guess by the colour?

 

cheese factory pag island
Did I die and go to Heaven?

 

cheese factory at pag island.jpg
Stop laughing you’ll have to wear this outfit too..

Cheese Tasting On Pag Island

After milking, and getting educated on the cheese making process its time get down to the real reason I was interested in waking up at the crack of dawn. Cheese tasting. Gligora have built a great cheese tasting room where you can sample all of their goods paired with local wines. Gilgora make 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 tatsed:

Paška Skuta – Fresh cheese similar to ricotta, a highly albumin cheese made from the whey of Paski Sir and Zigljen.

Trapist – A semi hard cows 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 sheeps milk cheese produced exclusively from milk for the sheep on the island of Pag

Paski Sir iz maslinove komine – This cheese recently won best hard sheeps milk cheese at the 2014 world cheese championship. Basically its Paski cheese which 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. Its unique and Gligora have an aged version which is more pungent and sharp.

Pag Island Paski Sir cheese range
How many do you want to try?

Take The Gligora Cheese Making & Tasting Tour Yourself

Available all year round to anyone, the Gligora cheese making & tasting tours are just 60 Kuna (just over €7) 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 bee line to the cheese shop onsite and take home your favourites.  You can make bookings anytime

Pag Island Paski Sir tasting cheese plate -Chasing the Donkey
Nibble, nibble on some Pag Island cheese

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, as well as over 150 tones of other cheese products.
  • Gligora buys milk from over 200 of the islands shepherds

How To Get To Gligora On Pag Island

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 thoughts and opinions are given honestly and without bias. 

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Comments (31)

  1. Hi,
    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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

    1. 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)

  5. 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!!

    1. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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

    1. Paski Sir is sold everywhere in Croatia. Its easy to find. Just go for the brand Gligora and you can’t go wrong.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

    1. Italy have some great cheese. When we visited the Barolo wine region we got to try soe great raw milk cheeses…..delicious!

  10. 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.

  11. 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

  12. 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!

  13. 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!

  14. 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!

    1. Milking sheep in Iran….Sounds like an interesting story. I Look forward to reading about it.

  15. 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.

  16. 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!

  17. 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

  18. Mmmm cheese. This sounds like the best excuse to return to Croatia yet. Great post and thanks for hosting!

  19. 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!

    1. Making frech cheese at home is fun! I tried it a couple of times. The trick is you need good milk.

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