Gligora dairy’s Pag cheese: All in the Family
Have you ever been to an island where the sheep/people ratio is nearly four to one?
Pag is a dry and rocky northern Dalmatian island of 8,000 inhabitants and 30,000 autochthonous sheep with a long tradition of cheese making and agriculture. A powerful winter wind called the Bura kicks up the surface of the Adriatic Sea and deposits sea salt on the grass and endemic herbs, which the sheep graze on, creating a unique milk high in butterfat and protein and ideal for making the island’s famous cheese, Paški sir.
Ivan Gligora was born into a traditional agricultural family in Kolan on Pag Island. His father and forefathers were skilled in the art of cheese making, and passed these skills on through generations. Ivan passed these skills on to his son, Šime, who is now Director of Operations at Sirana Gligora; someday, Šime will pass these skills on to his son.
Today, “Sirana Gligora” (Gligora Dairy) directly employs twenty-seven people and supports more than 250 local farmers in a cooperative, which helps sustain all-natural, traditional agricultural practices on Pag. The dairy produces over fifty tons of Paški sir annually, from January to the end of June. (To give you an idea of how much cheese that is, it’s equivalent to the weight of eight adult elephants!)
The cheese making process begins at the reception of milk from local Pag Island farmers. After processing, the milk is pasteurized to remove additional negative bacteria. The milk is then transferred into cheese vats, where the heart of production takes place: Rennet is added to aid the coagulation process, and the mixture is blessed. After the mixture has had time to set into a curd-like consistency, it is molded and pressed into cylindrical containers. The young cheese is immersed in brine for one day, and is set out to dry before being transferred to the basement “cave” for ageing, and later, packaging for sale.
In addition to Sirana Gligora’s famous sheep’s milk Paški sir, which won three Superior Gold Medals in the U.K.’s 2010 World Cheese Awards and was ranked one of the top ten cheeses in the world, the dairy also produces Kozlar, a hard goat’s milk cheese; Žigljen, a hard sheep/cow’s milk blended cheese; and Kolan, a hard cow’s milk cheese.
Sirana Gligora products can be found on Pag Island in its own farmhouse cheese shop attached to the dairy in Kolan, and at an outlet in the City Galleria shopping center in Zadar. Gligora’s products can also be found in most commercial centers around Croatia.