Cheese in a Sack

Milk and milk products - Bosnia and Herzegovina

Sir iz mijeha (“cheese in a sack”) from Herzegovina is characterized by the large chestnut-colored sheepskin sack that encases it. The size of the sheepwhose skin provides the casing for the cheese dictates the size of the finished product, which ranges from thirty to seventy kilograms. The sack is what makes this product unique. Traditionally from Herzegovina, sir iz mijeha is produced with raw sheep’s milk or cow’s milk, or a combination of the two. The sheep’s milk comes from pramenka, a heritage sheep breed prized for its milk, meat, and wool. Pramenka sheep are white with a black heads and black legs. The cow’s milk comes from two local breeds, the busa and the Gatacko, which were once common throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina, but have now been largely replaced by imported breeds. The busa is a small, hardy cow, well suited to the area’s harsh environment and severe winters. Its coat can be gray, chestnut red, or black, with a dark stripe along the back. The Gatacko is a cross between the busa and the Tyrolian gray. Slightly larger than the busa, it is characterized by its gray coat. The milk is filtered with a cotton cloth and immediately processed. Coagulation takes about an hour and a half after the rennet is added, and the curd settles at the bottom. Using a large ladle, the curd is broken into walnut-sized lumps to facilitate the draining of whey. The mass is then arranged on a cloth and pressed with a stone for about 12 hours. Later, the curd is broken again by hand, salted, and packed into the sheepskin using a stick. It takes many days to fill a sack since such a large quantity of high quality milk is required. Once filled, the sack is sealed shut and placed in a cool place suitable for aging. The aging period is between two months and a year. Preparation of the sack requires a particular technique: The sheep must be slaughtered without damaging the skin, shorn, and washed with boiling water and whey. When the sack is dry, the feet and the neck are tied and it is filled with air. It is then hung to dry in an area used for smoking meats. The sack is washed a second time and dried in open air until it becomes supple. The cheese becomes white or pale yellow once aged. In Herzegovina, it is traditionally served as a first course, along with boiled potatoes or with ham and ustipici (fried dumplings).

The Presidium was founded in collaboration with the Province of Arezzo and Ucodep, an Italian NGO operating in South East Europe and forms part of the project “Taste of Herzegovina”, sponsored by the Tuscan Regional Government. The Presidium is now part of a project for the “Protection and development of traditional and valued farm products of Herzegovina”, developed by the NGO Oxfam Italia and CEFA, with several institutional and technical partners. Among Italian partners, the Associazione nazionale per la tutela e la valorizzazione dei formaggi sotto il cielo (ANFOSC) makes a fundamental technical contribution to the realization of the activities.
The cheese is currently produced in three ways: with cow’s milk (in winter), with sheep’s milk (in summer) and with a mixture of both.
In an initial phase, the presidium will create an association of producers. Later, a production protocol will be developed to establish regulations in order to obtain a consistent, recognizable product of high quality. Production will need to be reviewed to ensure that producers can operate according to regulations and market the cheese. By promoting this cheese, the presidium hopes to safeguard the local dairy breeds: the pramenka (sheep) and the gatacko and busa (cattle).

Production area
Villages in Herzegovina

Project Partner

12 producers in Herzegovina

Miroslav Glogovac (President)
Association of Hercegovina cheese in the sack producers
tel. +387 65 731228

Prozor Rama Municipality:
Filipović Anto
Proslap Village
tel. +387 63 801190

Pavličević Ante
Proslap Village
Tel. +387 36 787104

Ljubuški Municipality:
Primorac Danijel
Tel. +387 63 422097

Konjic Municipality:
Hejub Fehim
Grušča Village
tel. +387 62 580818

Tinjak Nazif
Krupac Village
tel. +387 61 304357

Fišić Mujo
tel. +387 36 723226

Nevesinje Municipality:
Samardžić Novica
Bratač Village
tel. +387 65 974045

Glogovac Miroslav
Trtine Village
tel. +387 65 731228

Kravić Dragan
Trtine Village
tel. +387 59 482388

Pejičić Milimir
Krekovi Village
tel. +387 65 985925

Okuka Siniša
Humčani Village
tel. +387 65 819416

Savić Momčilo
Krekovi Village
tel. +387 65 732866

Presidium coordinator
Miroslav Glogovac
tel. +387 65731228