The bus driving force shook his head. “Zatvoren,” he stated, searching at my price ticket to Pag. “Closed.”
I turned into scheduled to travel to Pag, a barren, moonscape-like island off Croatia’s northern Dalmatian coast. However the bridge became closed. Paški most – the bridge connecting the island to the mainland – is the handiest factor of entry using the avenue, and the bureau, a mighty north-jap wind, thwarted my plans.
The bura (also called bora) can attain storm-electricity speeds; its 2004 file within the Dalmatian city of Split was 174.6km/h. Its unusual gusts define Pag and its famous cheese, Paški sir, dusting wild herb-filled pastures with Adriatic sea salt, which offers the sheep’s milk a unique flavor. Robust, salt-lined fragrant herbs – which includes sage, sea fennel, St John’s Wort, immortelle, and thyme – are a treat for the sheep.
After spending the night on the mainland expecting the bridge to re-open, I headed to Pag the next morning. Clouds shrouded the steely blue-grey Velebit mountain range like a thick wool cloak. The bus crossed the slender bridge to the island over the short stretch of sea, making its way past sand-coloured hills and snaking suhozid (limestone dry partitions). Neat, rectangular salt apartments had been orderly in an otherwise untamed panorama, and giant white wind turbines revolved lazily. Looking at the calm surface of the slate-blue Adriatic, it changed into nearly impossible to trust the violent bureau had pummelled the island just the day previous.
This thin, finger-fashioned island, approximately 60km long and shy of 8km at its widest point, is domestic to around 35,000 to 40,000 hardy, autochthonous sheep called paške once and eight,500 human population, many of whom are worried within the cheese enterprise. From small own family artisans to its most prominent producers, Paška Tirana, Sirana Gligora and Sirana MiH, Paški sir is the island’s satisfaction.
Pag’s award-prevailing cheese is continually making headlines. Paška sirana won a Gold Award for Sheep Milk Specialty Cheese on the Global Cheese Awards in 2017; that same yr, Sirana MiH gained a gold medal for its Paški sir at Croatian Cheese Days; and Sirana Gligora’s Paški sir earned the Super Gold Award at the World Cheese Awards in 2018. In 2019, Paški sir achieved ZOI reputation, Croatia’s countrywide equivalent of the European Union’s PDO (covered designation of beginning), which specifies that Pag cheese can most effective be made on Pag using milk from Pag sheep and salt from the island. ZOI repute is a section before obtaining PDO popularity from the European Union, and producers are eagerly watching for safety of the Paški sir name for the duration of the EU.
“Paški sir changed into the food of the human beings for centuries – they ate it for survival,” said Milan Orešković, head of a production at Sirana Gligora, a creamery founded through Ivan Gligora in 1995 and managed by his son, Šime. Costing as much as one hundred euros for a 2.6kg wheel, Paški sir is now a delicacy that locals supply as presents and eat on special occasions.
“It is not a cheese for the sandwich,” stated Martina Pernar Škunca, advertising and marketing supervisor at Paška Tirana. Founded in 1946, that is the oldest creamery on the island, and it produces a hundred tons of Paški sir yearly. Pernar Škunca’s father, Ante Pernar, changed into CEO of Paška Tirana for 35 years, and her family is one of the owners of the employer.
Young Paški sir maximum closely resembles younger Manchego in taste and texture, at the same time as the more complicated, caramel-colored elderly version carries crystals and is reminiscent of a nutty, piquant Pecorino Romano. I bit into a slice of younger Pag cheese and relished its herby, salty flavor – echoes of the bureau’s effect. This semi-gentle version may be enjoyed shaved on the pinnacle of pasta and risotto or melted in pasta dishes as a sauce, while elderly Pag cheese is satisfactorily savored by itself and is frequently served crumbled and drizzled with olive oil.
“The bureau gives milk that salty contact,” Pernar Škunca stated. “Bura is our robust ally in production.”
Production starts offevolved after the sheep’s milk is deposited into refrigerated collection tanks scattered around the island; it’s far filtered and measured, then purified. Additional cultures are brought to replace what is lost in the course of pasteurization, and the rennet coagulates the milk into a firm pudding consistency. Sharp mixer knives break up the mass into rice-like curds, that is heated to evaporate a number of the whey liquid. The curds are drained and separated from the last whey, then hand-packed into molds and pressed.
When the urgent is finished, the shaped cheese is submerged in the Sawamura, an Adriatic salt answer-filled tank with salinity degrees nearly seven times that of the sea. Paška Tirana and Sirana MiH age their cheese on wood planks, even as Sirana Gligora uses plastic. Young Paški sir is elderly a minimum of 60 days in step with ZOI guidelines, and the aged version can continue to be inside the caves six months and beyond.
“You have to deal with it like a toddler,” stated Sirana MiH director of manufacturing Šime Pernjak, explaining the arduous procedure of washing, oiling and turning the cheese by hand as it ages. “Cheese desires arms.”