Any milk can be made into cheese, even supermarket milk if you’ve got the know-how. But Paški Sir refers to Cheese made from the milk of Pag sheep, or Cheese from the Island of Pag as the translation goes.
The cheesemonger Weblog recently published the fascinating ‘8 basic steps to cheese making‘ aimed at giving you the knowledge and confidence to deal with your cheese monger. The information was taken from Max McCalam’s latest book, ‘Mastering Cheese’ where he used the work of Dairy Science professor Frank Kosikowski, the founder of the American Cheese Society. We thought it would be interesting to write how these basic steps are undertaken here at Sirana Gligora on the Island of Pag, where we make the award-winning limited production artisan ewes’ milk cheese Paški Sir. Of course it is not a complete insight as some trade secrets must be protected, but we hope this gives you a good understanding of how Sirana Gligora Paški Sir is made, as well as giving you an added appreciation of our product.
Step 1: All about setting the Milk.
At Sirana Gligora we have more than 100 of our own sheep and buy milk from nearly 200 farmers from across the Island of Pag. During the production season, the milk is delivered to the dairy twice daily where it is stored in its rawest form in special containers ready for production the following morning.
Some cheese makers chose to make cheese from the raw milk and believe that the pasteurisation process can damage the proteins which help to determine to the flavour of the cheese. However, there are strict international laws on the transportation of raw milk products so sadly this practice is decline. There is even talk in the USA of a total ban on raw milk products which would be a disaster for the industry. Although many advocate the benefits of raw milk products the director of Sirana Gligora, Mr Ivan Gligora, found that pasteurisation of Pag milk has a negligible effect upon the final taste of Paški Sir. Therefore, Sirana Gligora partly pasteurise the milk at 72°C for 20 seconds before the production begins.
Once the milk has settled into one of 3 vats at Sirana Gligora, starter bacteria, Lactose Acid Bacteria are added. These starters acidify the milk by turning the milk sugar (lactose) into lactic acid. As the levels of lactic acid in the milk begin to rise, so the pH level of the milk drops and the taste becomes tart. The starters now begin to die and release their enzymes into the milk, these enzymes break down the fats and proteins (which in Pag milk are unusually high) that will influence the ripening and taste of the finished cheese. The Proteins (mainly casein) are no longer able to keep a soluble structure in acidic conditions and they begin to precipitate out, causing what we recognize as clabbering
The milk must now be coagulated by adding rennet. Traditionally Paški Sir was made with rennet extracted from the stomach of young lambs who would use these enzymes to process mothers milk. Today Sirana Gligora use a floral extract so all of our products are in fact vegetarian, though there is talk of going back to the more traditional methods in the future.
The enzymes in the rennet as well as the fermenting of the lactic acid now begin to coagulate the milk into curds and whey.
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