As a cheese lover and married to a Frenchman, I've tried many different cheeses over the years. However, when the lovely people at Gligora Dairy on the island of Pag were kind enough to send me a selection of their cheeses to try, I wasn't sure what to expect because they come from Croatia, a country whose cheeses I know absolutely nothing about and have certainly never tried.
I received very generous wedges of four different cheeses : Kolan, Kozlar, Zigljen and Paski Sir. Apart from knowing that Paski Sir had won awards, I knew nothing about any of them so we set about tasting them blind. On the testers panel were : Madhouse Daddy Mike (French, loves pretty much all cheese, the stinkier the better !) ; Madhouse Grandad (English, basically only likes cheddar ); myself (somewhere in the middle, preferring milder hard cheeses but willing to experiment) and the three mini Madhouse testers (aged 9, 6 and 2).
All four of the cheeses have a similar texture, quite hard and slightly waxy so it is not crumbly when you slice it. It felt slightly sweaty on the outside rind but you need to cut that part off before eating anyway. Further research shows that all Sirana Gligora cheeses are washed in brine and rubbed with local olive oil which could explain this. We tried them one after the other and came up with the following comments :
Paski Sir : This artisanal ewes' milk cheese has won four consecutive 3 star Superior Taste Awards from 2008-2001 from the International Taste and Quality Institute in Brussels. We found it quite salty (according to the makers, a powerful winter wind brings sea salt to the rocky pastures the sheep feed on) but not overly so. It's a bit like a strong Cheddar or Cheshire type of cheese. Very nice indeed.
Kolan : Made with cows' milk, this was our unanimous favourite. Similar to a deeply flavoured cheddar, it's got a strong but not pungent flavour and is great to eat as it is, melted as cheese on toast or used in cooking. The kids kept coming back for another slice !
Kozlar : This is the palest of the cheeses and is made with goats' milk. I had one problem with this one - the smell reminded me of curdled baby milk/sick but that must be a mum thing because nobody else agreed with me ! We weren't so keen on this one but I think it would be great in cooking and it made a delicious cheese on toast for tea last night !
Zigljen : This cheese is made from a mixture of cows' and sheep's milk. It has a unique and interesting taste that divided the panel of tasters. You could use this in place of cheddar or gruyere to give a subtly different flavour to gratins and cheesy sauces, but it's also lovely eaten as it is.
I was pleasantly surprised by all of the cheeses, as was Madhouse Daddy Mike, which is high praise indeed, coming from a Frenchman (who rarely admits anyone other than the French can create good cheese or wine !).
It's been an impressive award-winning year for the Croatian cheesemakers. As they proudly explain, "This remarkable run started back in March with Sirana Gligora's 3rd consecutive 3 Star Superior Taste Award from the International Taste and Quality Institute in Brussels. In August Paški Sir marked its UK debut at the International Cheese Show in Nantwich with a Silver Medal in the Organic Cheese category, but its what happened at the World Cheese Awards in Birmingham that really grabbed the spotlight. In November, Sirana Gligora's Paški Sir allured the judges and organisers alike winning Super Gold Medals in each of the 3 categories that it entered. making it through to the final 14 best cheeses of the world where it was awarded with the Barber's Trophy for the Best New Cheese on the market in 2010. In addition Sirana Gligora's goat milk cheese 'Kozlar' made its competitive debut at the World Cheese Awards and picked up a Bronze Medal." Not bad at all for a small family-run dairy. Certainly one to add to your cheeseboard if you want to impress your dinner party guests, even if they are French !
for more information : http://www.facebook.com/paskisir
Now available at:
The Cheese Hamlet, Manchester
Yellowwedge Cheese, Twickenham
The Cheese Society, Lincoln
The International Cheese Centre, London
Sawers Deli, Belfast
Sawers Deli, Belfast
The Lairds Larder, Carlisle
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