So we’ve met the cheese makers at Sirana Gligora. Suzi the master cheese maker together with Luka, Jadranka and Željko are responsible for making the cheese. Using their skills and many years of experience between them to work with the raw milk brought in by the local farmers, they make sure each batch is made to perfection.
No doubting then that this team of skilled artisans are essential to producing a Paški Sir worthy of world-wide honor and recognition, but they are by no means the be-all and end-all of the production process.
Now that the newly born Paški Sir 052272 has gone down into the cave to mature, lets meet the affinures who will care for the cheese over the next few months. And remember, this cheese will be given to one lucky reader once its fully mature so make sure you subscribe to the blog to be kept up to date or follow us on our Facebook page where we’ll post details of how to win. Make sure you click that you like the page so that we can keep you updated on the competition and any other news from Sirana Gligora.
Dragica (our resident mouse) and Martina with Paški Sir 052272
The head affinures are Ivanka and Dragica who have between them 15 years of experience at Sirana Gligora. Together with Ante, Marin, Mira and Martina they care for more than 260 tonnes of cheese each year, or to put it another way, 113,043 wheels, 260,000kg, or more than 791,301 liters of milk. Which ever way you look at it, it’s a lot of cheese.
So just what is Affinage – the term used for the care and development of cheese.
pre-fix af – to come before/to bring forward + affine – allowing for, or preserving a parallel relationship + age – to grow old or older = Affinage – to come before the cheese, set the environment and allow the cheese to mature.
A good affinure will know just what it takes to bring the cheese to perfect maturity and some say that affinage is the most crucial step in the process of cheese making. More than 50% of the flavour in cheese is attributed to the this process which can take up to 24 months with some cheeses. So many factors can go wrong during this time which is why many cheese makers sell their cheese younger to avoid the chance of having a batch ruined. Cheese also loses moisture as it becomes older meaning that the more mature cheeses are often more expensive.
One of the most important aspects of maturing cheese is the temperature and humidity. At Sirana Gligora we have the biggest air conditioning unit I ever saw but its more than just that. In an area of more than 250 cubic meters it not only provides an exact constant and equal temperature to two decimal points in every corner of the room, it also provides the perfect relative humidity for the cheese to develop. The air in the room is constantly circulated by blowing air through micro-perforations in the sails at the top of the cave, allowing the cheese to breathe but at the same time keeping the air speed down to avoid drying the cheese to the point of cracking.
It took a while to get this perfectly calibrated, but after just 3 months of maturing cheese in this cave, Sirana Gligora produced the cheese that would eventually go on to win the Best New Cheese Trophy at the World Cheese Awards along with 3 Super Gold Medals. Now in its 2nd year of operation, it will be interesting to see how far Paški Sir will go at the next awards.
This is the cheese cave last year at about half capacity, you can just make out the monster air conditioning machine at the back and the sails at the top
All the cheese must be stacked in such a way as to allow the air to circulate properly or the temperature will vary from place to place in the cave. Each wheel must be spaced by at least 1cm from the next and careful consideration is to be given to the placing of the pallets. On each tray we have 9 wheels of cheese and 10 trays to each pallet stacked in two’s. The cave will hold around 160 tonnes at capacity.
As we can see Paški Sir 052272 is still only a few days old and is very white in colour, the rind on the outside is very delicate and unable to support the weight of the cheese inside so if left on its own it would sink into itself and lose that rounded shape.
Each week the cheese is turned 2 or 3 times by hand until the rind becomes harder and can support its own weight. From about 1 and a half months it will need turning just once a week, by 2 and a half months just once a fortnight and so on. By my calculations, Paški Sir 052272 will be turned no fewer than 34 times in 6 months. If you think about the amount of wheels that the team look after, some 113,000. That means almost 3.9 million revolutions of cheese in 12 months, its a surprise the dairy doesn’t fly away.
After about 2 months a mold naturally grow on the outside of the cheese which is the bacteria reacting to the oxygen. It’s harmless in itself but left to grow it can hinder the development of the taste so the affinures will wash the cheese in salted water. When you hear of ‘brine washed cheese’ this is the process that it goes through.
And particularly after washing, the cheese can begin to dry so the affinures will rub each wheel with local olive oil to prevent moisture loss. This will be repeated as and when needed and below you can see Dragica oiling month old Paški Sir.
The affinures at Sirana Gligora have a very laborious job and it takes many years to perfect this art. Though we hope the end result is appreciated which makes all the hard work worth while.
To be in with a chance to win Paški Sir 052272 which is worth more than €75 at retail, make sure you subscribe to the blog at the top of the page or follow us on our Facebook page where we will post details of how to win.
To read the next installment in the series From Ewe to You click here.
Please visit our website www.gligora.com
For enquiries please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
- From Ewe to You, the journey of Paški Sir continues… (paskisir.wordpress.com)
- From Ewe to You (paskisir.wordpress.com)
- Artisan Cheese, The Making of Sirana Gligora Paški Sir. Step 7 & 8: Salting and Curing (paskisir.wordpress.com)
- Paški Sir, Croatia’s Finest Cheese on the Shoulders of Mancunian (paskisir.wordpress.com)
- The making of Paški Sir: From Ewe to You, milking the sheep continued… (paskisir.wordpress.com)