Slobodan Simić is former Serbian parliamentarian who retired to become a conservationist who keeps a herd of Balkan rescue donkeys on the Zasavica Special Nature Reserve near Belgrade, along with wild pigs, cows and beavers, all Balkan species that had dwindled and that he's dedicated to bringing back.
Female donkeys don't give a lot of milk (300ml/day), but by all accounts, it's fucking delicious, and it comes with a complete woo mythology of reputed benefits from longevity to boners to immunity "boosting," and it was allegedly favored by Cleopatra for bathing purposes.
Simić determined to make the world's first recorded donkey cheese from his Balkan rescue herd, made from a 60-40 blend of donkey- and goat-milk. It costs a fortune, and the BBC's Kristin Vuković says it's nearly indescribably delicious.
Vukadinović brought out a plate of cured meats: Mangalica sausage, speck and donkey sausage. I cringed a little. “Try it,” he urged, gesturing to the donkey sausage.
This was one of their products I had not planned to sample. “How do you choose which donkeys are made into sausage?” I said. He explained that male donkeys sometimes become interested in their daughters, and then “it’s sausage time for them.”
I speared a mottled slice with a toothpick. The fatty meat was tough and slightly gamey. Even eating an incestuous donkey felt wrong after communing with these gentle creatures – but Zasavica embraces the cycle of life, replete with its imperfections.
Here you can go back to a way of living that has all but disappeared, when people cured their own meats and made their own cheese. You can experience virgin nature. You can believe, even for a moment, the local legend: on this land there was too much sun from Christ, which forever marked the Balkan donkey with a cross pattern on its coat, running down its spine.
A cheese made from… donkey milk? [Kristin Vuković/BBC]
(Thanks, Fipi Lele!)