Velebit’s karstic pastures were once full of sheep, goats and buša – the Lika’s cattle. Today, there are only a handful of cattle breeders and producers of milk and cheese. One such bright example is the dairy Vegium, which was opened by the Municipality of Karlobag in Baške Oštarije. It is located in the heart of an ecologically pure region, so the products are of the highest and exceptional quality.
We were convinced ourselves by trying the milky products in the restaurant in Baške Oštarije. Cows, that make first-class milk and enjoy the natural wealth of Velebit mountain, are source of known and less-known milky flavours. Aside from the milk, this dairy offers cream, yoghurt and fruit yoghurt, but we cherish mostly the beautiful Lika’s Basa. It is a simple product that fascinates the gastronomads, as it brings the basic taste from the past. Once it was made exclusively from the milk of simple and resistant Buša cow, who was very accustomed to the harsh Lika’s nature. Its quality milk was a food for generations. Basa is made in different ways in various parts of Lika, and the best one is – of course – that one made by grandmas! Although the true recipes are transferred from hand to hand, we know it is made of cow’s milk and sour milk, with addition of salt. In modern versions Kajmak or yoghurt is added. The Basa we have tried in the Vegium dairy is one with memories on old flavours and we are already sorry we haven’t bought more of it!
In the dairy, that is proud on its LikaQuality brand, we also tried excellent curd, which with its mild flavour may be useful as a basis for many inventive sour and sweet dishes. There are also semi-hard and hard cheeses, and unavoidable is Škripavac, the prime cheese representative of the mountain regions in Croatia. Even the foreigners know the name is derived from the characteristically chewy texture that cracks (škripi) under the teeth. In Baške Oštarije we found out that this cheese is made from milk immediately after milking, that is from the thermally unstructured milk. Therefore, hygiene measures have always been important so that the cheese would not be infected with bacteria. In Vegium, this process is clearly visible in detail because the entire process of cheese production is seen through the glass wall. Today, Škripavac is used in many recipes because of its mild lactic flavour that is well blended with various foods. Somehow, for us it is best in the traditional version, sliced and offered with homemade bread.
We also visited the cows themselves. They live in stables not far from the dairy itself. They curiously looked at us over the hay bales, with some mooing. They have their guard who warmly welcomes us in front of the stables and praises their obedience. Who would not be obedient when enjoying the pure nature without industry! The Vegium Dairy is located right behind the Baške Oštarije hostel, at the very beginning of the Terezijana educational trail, and we believe that none of visitors will leave with empty hands from here!
Hostel Baške Oštarije, Baške Oštarije 31, Karlobag
00385 53 674 003, 00385 99 392 7127, 00385 99 266 2641