Croatia is a country known for its gastronomic offer, and one of the most famous specialities is without doubt lamb from the island of Pag. It is protected under national and European legislation, and in 2016 it was entered in the register of protected designations of origin. The secret to its excellent flavour is the fact that lambs on the island of Pag are never kept in enclosed areas and are exclusively fed mother’s milk. The sheep graze on salty (sea spray brought by bora wind) wild flowers and aromatic plants such as sage and rosemary. The lamb is therefore juicy and tender, and full of rich flavours. This is a traditional island speciality that is prepared in a number of ways. For example, there is grilled lamb, lamb under a baking bell, boiled lamb, lamb on the spit, or lamb prepared in a wood-fired oven. The options are endless, but the taste is unique and delicious every time.
No cheese stays unchanged from the moment it was created to the moment it is consumed. Cheese has different “life stages” and specific properties in each of them. From the day milk curdles and young cheese is taken out of the mould, to its maturing and slow drying, in rooms with a constant level of humidity and without draught, diligent hands turn it over each day, cover it with butteroil, and take care of it until it has fully matured, and when it melts on the tongue and is bursting with flavour, showering the palate with the bora wind, the salt, the grass, the rocks, the strength and the tradition. All this is incorporated into Pag cheese, served on its own or with prosciutto, olive oil, figs or grapes, best paired with warm home-baked bread and a glass of good wine.
We are proud to say that Pag cheese was entered in the register of protected designations of origin in 2019. Two of the most well-known cheese dairies on the island of Pag are located in Kolan: Gligora Dairy and MIH Dairy. Also, Pag cheese can be tasted and bought in many smaller cheese dairies and family-owned farms in the area of Kolan and Mandre.
Curd and butteroil
Considering that the milk made from Pag sheep is rich in milk fat, after we make the cheese, the whey (locally known as surotva) is heated and gently stirred and brought to a boil. From the whey another cheese is separated, known as skuta (curd) on Pag, a soft and melting cheese used as a spread or as a filling for cakes and pancakes. The whey that contained curd was used as drink, and whey that didn’t was fed to pigs used to make the special prosciutto of Pag, another of its specialities.
Butteroil was made in a churn, known locally as stap, by churning curd and mixing it with water. After a while, the finest butter would rise up to the surface, and was used as a spread on bread. By boiling it, the locals made butteroil for pastry, seasoning for polenta or rice and other local Kolan dishes. This product is not as popular as curd or cheese, but it can still be found in certain households.
As final evidence of the richness of the milk made from Pag sheep, we will close with this. At the end of the process, the buttermilk remaining after the butteroil had been separated was cooked to extract curd known locally as skutina that was turned in a special process into soap for washing clothes.