DŽIUGAS® cheese production
According to archives, the beginning of Žemaitijos Pienas dates back to 1924. That year the Samogitian capital of Telšiai (the legend says it was founded on the seven hills by the giant DŽIUGAS) opened Telšiai Dairy. Its capacity was rather high back in the day, producing DŽIUGAS hard cheese, butter, cottage cheese, sweet cream and even whey champagne. The products used to be refrigerated using ice, taken from the lake during winter, kept in the yard and protected from melting with sawdust.
DŽIUGAS® cheese is classified as a hard cheese based on three qualities: fat content, hardness and method of ageing. Džiugas® cheese is produced only in summer – from the milk of cows, grazing in highest-quality fields. This is what makes its scent and flavour special, reminding of a summer meadow.
DŽIUGAS® cheese production consists of 5 important technological stages.
The cheese is shaped in round moulds and then goes on to the cheese presses, where it hardens.
This is the ‘gentle hands’ stage. Following the pressing, the cheese is then put into rings and ‘rests’ in a warm environment, occasionally gently turned over – all done by hands. This unique environment is where DŽIUGAS® cheese loses its lactose. During this process it becomes even harder, acquiring a soft yellowish shade.
Hardened DŽIUGAS® cheese then continues to travel to the brine bath.
The ‘firm hands’ stage. After the brine bath, the cheese is put on special, round and constantly turned sticks, created especially for DŽIUGAS® cheese. Turned every 3 days, the cheese stays there for several weeks. The turning equally distributes the moisture, colour and the correct shape of the cheese. It enables to ensure that the process is the same in the entire cheese wheel. The ‘firm hands’ stage takes place in a special ageing premise, which maintains the temperature and moisture, needed to develop the special flavour of DŽIUGAS® cheese.
The ripening of DŽIUGAS® cheese involves complex fermentation and biochemical processes, changing all of the ingredients in the cheese. Three major processes that take place during the ripening, shape the basis of the structure, aroma and flavour of the cheese, while the white crunchy calcium crystals signify its age: more crystals mean that the cheese is more mature.