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Mih - a dairy of the original Pag Cheese

The Mih dairy is the heritage of the Pernjak family since 1890, and the crown of their activity is recognition of the authenticity of their Pag cheese. This is why Pag's cheese is finally endowed with official recognition for what we all know: an excellent and delicious hard sheep cheese, made exclusively of sheep's milk of indigenous Pramenka sheep, filled with the scents of the island and the sea.

In the Mih dairy, we came to discuss with the energetic and to the cheese making dedicated owner Šime Pernjak, who had led us through the dairy but also told us how he had reached the crown of his work and recognizability fought for by the generations of his family. From the position of Mih dairy, a beautiful view stretches over the Kolan field and the western coast of the island of Pag. At this wonderful place, cheese makers can only sometimes relax. It's a tough job, but persistence and love for sheep and cheese goes beyond all the difficulties and complications.

The process of certifying Pag cheese is not easy. The Pernjak family has milk of their own sheep, but also of some twenty other cooperatives, which is pasteurized to ensure microbiological quality. Milking and drying of cheese grain must be at a certain temperature set by the European Union parameters. Then ph of souse and its salinity, as well as the ripening that lasts for at least 60 days, all this is very carefully defined. After 60 days cheese went to the analysis to certify the category of hard cheese. With all the documentation from milk production to cheese production, a marker of each cheese's originality is added. All this is accompanied by extensive records and documentation. All co-workers and employees had to be educated beforehand.

Apart from the Pag cheese, Mih produces and a number of other cheeses associated with the tradition of cheese making in Kolan. Otočan is a mixed cow (80 per cent) and sheep cheese (20 per cent, Pag milk), with a slightly spicy taste and a favourite among people who are not delighted with pure sheep cheese. In the background of this cheese, sheep's milk is felt. Kolanjac is a hard cow cheese with a mild taste, simple but very original because it is ripening with Pag cheese. It is a form of Trappist but has a firmer bark and a spicy taste. Sveti Vid is a hard cow cheese that ripe for a minimum of 90 days, while the Pernjak family is particularly proud of its spicy flavour and a surprising cremation structure. The young Trappist is a semi-hard cow cheese with a mild taste and gentle texture, so it is easy to blend it in each cheese platter.

Tartufin is a hard cow cheese with Istrian and Dalmatian truffles, ideal for serious cheese connoisseurs. The Škripavac made in the Mih dairy was created with the help of Lika people, but with the addition of Pag salt. Along with all this, there is a curd, made from sheep's whey, which is another of Pag delicacies. Wheat is created in an old-fashioned way, with a light 24-hour squeeze. After that, it solidifies and a wonderful Pag curd is created that is packaged in vacuum bags. Since there is no cow on the island, and Dalmatia is poor with cow milk, Mih has worked fine cooperation with farms around Pleternica, Koprivnica, Zagreb and Ličko Petrovo selo. In addition to these cheeses, Bokun cheese made from pure sheep milk, and Kolo mixed cheese (cow and sheep) can be tasted in Mih.

We are interested in which cheese is favourite to Šime and we find out that they are Tartufin and Pag cheese. And while he eats Pag's cheese 20 dg a year, Tartufin goes up to five kilos, because Šime is obviously a fan of truffles. The cheese uses a combination of Istrian and Dalmatian truffles. When the true black truffle has been proven in the Zadar hinterland, this combination has begun which has resulted in an even better flavour of the cheese. Truffle is used in the comparison of three per cent on the amount of cheese in chopped form. Given that it is handmade, it is difficult to guess that every piece of cheese has exactly the same amount of truffles, but it is not crucial to the taste of cheese itself. Namely, the truffle is added value to the cheese, but it is important to make a balance. The truffle cheese’s main taste must remain cheese. How to know that the cheese is properly balanced with the truffle, we ask Šime, and he readily answers: shut your nose and try the cheese; if you taste the cheese, not a truffle, then you're on the right path.

In the Archbishopric archives of Zadar, there are data that the Pernjak family has been cultivating sheep and making cheese generations ago. Šime’s Grandfather and grand-grandfather sold cheese in the town of Novalja to various merchants and ships. By entering the dairy itself, we notice how important it is to give good attention to the proper ways of cheese making. The milk is filtered, cooled, filtered again and pasteurized. Neutral dairy cultures are added to Pag cheese so that they do not have any other smells and tastes, while for other cheeses aromatic dairy cultures are given. The milk is coagulated for an hour or so, and the grain is cut off by machine. The cheese grain at the end eventually enters the cheese table. Whey separates, and the cheese is moulded manually. Handwork is expensive and hard, but workers every day feel the difference in cheese. They recognize the south wind (jugo) as in warmer days sheep give more mil. When the bura blows, there is less milk, because the sheep hides. Cheese requires that human hand because they recognize how much more or less cheese is needed to press. A machine can not recognize such a subtle difference!

After pressing and marking, cheese goes into souse, salty acid fluid that is pasteurized and maintained. Here the cheese gets salty while taking care of the addition of calcium. Of course, all these little secrets in making cheese say nothing about the other secrets that make cheese as it is! Finally, we enter the rooms where the cheese is left for thirty days and dries, and then ripe. Unmatched amounts of cheese on wooden beams are the most delightful proof of the total painstaking work.

Not to be only impressed by this great tour of Mih dairy, we took home part of the island of Pag. It's an excellent souvenir for cheese lovers, Pag triangle. This lovely gift includes Pag cheese, Kolanjac, Otočan and Sv Vid. We would really recommend it to every visitor to Kolan. All congratulations to Pernjak family!

Sirana Mih

Stanić 29, 23251 Kolan, Island of Pag

+385 (0) 23 698 011




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