Located in the Adriatic Sea off the Coast of Croatia, the Island of Pag is a long, wind-swept isle where only the hardiest of people, animals and flora thrive. The island has long been associated with salt production (at least since Roman times) and its unique breed of small sheep, Paska Ovca, whose milk is used to produce Pag’s famous, ancient and award-winning cheese, Paški Sir. These tough little sheep don’t produce much milk, which means that at least 16 sheep are needed to produce just one 4.5 lb wheel of cheese. Pag has hundreds of small sheep farms that make up larger cooperatives, which provide milk to specific cheese producers. The milk that the sheep produce is intensely salty. This comes from the salt deposited on the wild herbs that the sheep graze on by the Pag Bora, the wind produced by the Velebit mountain range on the mainland. This wind catches droplets of water from the Adriatic and dries the water, leaving salt dust, which settles on the island’s vegetation. **Note: Animal rennet was traditionally used, but Croatia does not produce animal rennet anymore and therefore microbial rennet is now used in this cheese.
Paški Sir is a hard cheese aged at least 4 months, though various producers offer it at ages that vary from the minimum to 1.5 years. Its very thin rind is the color of the paste underneath ranging from light to dark yellow, depending on age. The texture is dry and flaky with a bit of pleasant graininess. The flavor of a younger wheel is lightly savory with a good amount of salt, reminiscent of the Pag Bora that whips Pag and the aromatic herbs that grow on the island. As the wheels become more mature, the savory flavor intensifies and a tangy bite that is subtle in younger wheels develops a bite.
This cheese is made for bold red wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Sangiovese. It is best served with wildflower honey or fresh fruits such as grapes.