Unquestionably one of the finest sheep cheeses in the world, Pag cheese is a sheep's milk product made only on the north Dalmatian Island of Pag.
The demand for “Paški sir” is so large that it is oftentimes marketed after a maturing period of just a few months, but it can be left to age anywhere from a couple of weeks to more than a year. As time passes, Pag cheese acquires its distinguishing flavour and gets darker in shade.
Sheep bred on this island are among the smallest in the Mediterranean and their milk yield is low.
So why is their cheese special? There are a few uncommon local circumstances that make cheese great but cannot be replicated anyplace else.
The fierce Bora wind plunges from Velebit mountain across the narrow sea, whipping up the salty waters and blowing them across island meadows.
The Bora scatters dry salt dust all over Pag. Scarce vegetation with many kinds of medicinal herbs at times becomes white with salt as if it was covered in snow. In these conditions upon the rocky hills of Pag, only the remarkably resilient and aromatic plant varieties persist.
Pag sheep, feeding on these salted plants and medicinal herbs, produce naturally salty milk with a truly exceptional taste and fragrance.
The sheep are milked in early hours of the morning and again later in the day; no matter the weather, the farmers head out into the field to collect the precious liquid.
Milk is turned into cheese, pressed into a round shape wooden moulds, then left to rest on the shelves until it’s ripe.
Aged Pag cheese that is over five months old has a typically sharp flavour, an intense aroma and somewhat granular structure which crumbles pleasantly and melts in the mouth.
Pag island has a population of some 35.000 sheep and just over 9.000 human inhabitants. It is known for gastronomic specialities - lamb, olives and wine.
Also famous for its cultural heritage of lace and folk costumes, the lace of Pag was enlisted on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Sheep breeding has long been one of the main economic activities there and you can also try some destressing by living the life of a shepherd for a week there.