Since Croatia entered into ascension negotiations with the aim of joining the EU in 2004, Her export to the Euro Zones have substantially and steadily increased year on year. With full EU membership expected 2011, one of its most famous domestic products is already making in-roads into the UK market.
Sirana Gligora, the makers of Croatia’s most famous and most awarded artisan ewes milk cheese Paški Sir, are looking to tantalise the taste buds of Europe’s more discerning cheese lovers with a full-bodied and peculiar ewes’ milk cheese from the beautiful and agricultural Island of Pag.
After becoming the first Croatian cheese to enter the International Cheese Awards in Nantwich earlier this year, and beating stiff competition from some great Swiss and French cheese to win a very respectable silver medal in their debuting year, Sirana Gligora have set their sights on adding something a little more exotic and unusual to the growing continental artisan cheese market in the UK.
Paški Sir, or Isle of Pag Cheese as it roughly translates, is already a multi award-winning cheese. Having picked up the top award at the International Taste and Quality Institute in Brussels for the past 3 years running, a ‘3 Star Superior Taste Award’ is a ‘Michelin guide to food’ wrote Trends Magazine in 2008, and picking up three awards in consecutive years really is something special. Another 7 companies from Croatia won this prestigious award in 2010 which makes the 13 that the UK won seem a little un-proportional. There really is an untapped niche of culinary delights from this former Yugoslav Republic and we’re soon to get the chance to taste for ourselves.
Ivan Gligora, the founder, has been able to infuse his families long tradition of artisan techniques passed from generation to generation together with the latest very technology, and has been producing a consistently high quality Paški Sir since 1995. Now his son, Šime Gligora who has taken over day-to-day operations, has set his sights on breaking into the UK and European market. ‘We know all about the wide array of cheese on offer in the UK’ writes Šime, ‘this must be down to the fact that the cheese loving British Public are making educated decisions about the speciality cheese they buy. What we offer is a cheese that can’t be produced anywhere else in the world, our breed of sheep, their vegetation and the climatic conditions are all essential to making this piquant and spicy ewes’ milk cheese. Of course not forgetting the age-old skills with which we make them. That’s why we are all working so hard to obtain Protected Designation of Origin status so that the wonderful heritage and traditions of Paški Sir are protected for future generations’.
After recruiting a marketing manager from Manchester, who swapped the hustle and bustle of city life for the tranquillity of the Island of Pag, Paški Sir found its first outlet on these shores in The Cheese Hamlet in Manchester, the proprietor of which, incidental, was a judge at this years Nantwich show. With The Cheese Society in Lincoln following suit and other outlets in the pipeline, Paški Sir is not quite making an impact on Croatia’s annual export market yet, but this ‘Cheese of Emperors’ is definitely a bonne bouche to look out for in the future.