Step 1. Setting the milk
Any milk can be made into cheese, even supermarket milk if you’ve got the know-how. Making Paški sir requires something more of a specialist milk, generations of artisan cheese making skill and a few well developed trade secrets. Despite this, we’d like to share some cheese making knowledge with you so you can see what it takes to create a world class product like our Paški sir.
After reading Max McCalam’s book ‘Mastering Cheese’ where he used the work of dairy science professor Frank Koikowski the founder of the American Cheese Society, we thought it would be interesting to write how these basic steps of cheesemaking are undertaken here at Sirana Gligora. As well as Paški sir, we also make several other award-winning cheeses but this series will focus on the production of Paški sir.
Of course this wont be a complete insight as some trade secrets must be protected, but we hope by reading this you’ll gain a good understanding of how we make our cheese, which will give you some added appreciation the next time you enjoy our Paški sir.
How to make cheese
Step 1. Setting the milk
At Sirana Gligora we have more than 200 of our own sheep and we buy milk from more than 100 family shepherds across the Island of Pag. During the milking season from January to May, the milk is delivered to the dairy twice a day where it’s stored in it’s rawest form, in special containers ready for production the following morning.
Some cheesemakers prefer to make cheese from raw milk and believe that heat treatment can damage the proteins which help to determined the flavour. Sadly there are strict international laws on the transportation of raw milk cheese so the practice is in decline. Annually we produce around 3% of our Paški sir from raw milk ‘Paški sir od sirovog mlijeka’, but our founder and master cheese maker Mr Ivan Gligora established a process known as ‘thermised’, which is less harsh that full pasteurisation and thus the important proteins are protected to help form that distinctive taste. So, after heating the milk is then transferred into one of the holding vats.
Once the milk has settled into one of 3 vats starter bacteria are added. The starter acidifies the milk by turning the sugar (lactose) into lactic acid. As the levels of lactic acid begin to rise so the pH level drops and the taste starts to become tart. The starters now begin to die and release their enzymes into the milk. The enzymes break down the fats and proteins which with their particular character will greatly influence the taste of the finished cheese. The casein proteins are no longer able to keep a soluble structure in the acidic conditions so they begin to precipitate out, causing what is known 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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Next step. 2. Cutting the curds… coming soon!