I say, “Feta Cheese” – you say ____.
If you had asked me years ago what the first thing that came to mind upon hearing “Feta Cheese”, I would have said, “smelly goat cheese”.
What do you think of when you think of feta cheese?
To some degree, those old thoughts about feta cheese are true. But, there is more to Feta Cheese than just being smelly goat cheese!
Feta cheese is traditionally made from sheep’s milk (or a mixture of sheep and goat’s milk) and is commonly considered a Mediterranean cheese and primarily a cheese of Greece. Feta is a brined cured cheese which means after making the cheese, it is soaked in a salt water brine solution until eaten.
When we got our first family milk cow, Buttercup, I had to learn very quickly how to process all the raw milk she was so generously giving – depending upon the time of her reproductive cycle, she would give from 4 – 8 gallons of milk per day! We had moved from Alabama to west Texas to start our vineyard and it was our first year after planting the grapevines. Knowing that we still had 2 more years before getting a grape harvest and living on savings – frugality became very important! Besides wanting a milk cow, I figured it all out and believe it or not, feed and hay for a cow was less expensive than the dairy products I was buying. And, that is not even taking into account the better quality and quantity! Now, that we have moved to our own land and have a pasture for the cows (we don’t have to buy hay anymore!), a family milk cow is even more economical.
As I began learning to make cheese, all sources seemed to say the same thing – begin with soft cheeses. And, feta cheese is a soft cheese. Soft cheeses usually require very little equipment, they are quick and easy to make, can be eaten fresh and require little or no aging. That is why feta cheese was one of the first cheese I learned to make.
I must admit, though, I have not been making it very much recently until “Toasted Pecan,Feta and Raisin Salad” became so popular in our home. And. the little appetizers in the photo above are so easy to make – put an kalamata olive on a toothpick followed by a cube of feta cheese and voila!
Knowing how easy feta cheese is to make, I could not bear to buy it. So, I want to share with you just how easy making feta cheese in your home actually is but, before you get started, be sure to check out Cheese Making Basics for tips, supplies and ordering information. And, if you are interested in cheese making, I would highly recommend the book available from my affiliate partner, Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll – it is an excellent resource.
Makes 6 cups
1 gallon milk – I use raw
1/4 tsp lipase powder – dilute in 1/4 c water
1 packet direct set mesophilic starter culture
1/2 tsp liquid rennet – dilute in 1/4 c water
2 Tbsp salt or 1/3 cup salt if using the brine method
Mix the milk and diluted lipase powder. Heat the milk to 86 F.
Remove the milk from heat and add the starter and stir to combine. Cover and allow to stand for 1 hour. Wrap a towel around the pot to help maintain the temperature.
Add the diluted rennet stirring gently to mix thoroughly. Cover and allow to stand for 1 hour. Keep the towel around the pot to maintain the temperature at 86 F.
Cut the curd into 1/2 inch cubes and allow to set for 15 minutes.
Gently stir the curd for 15 minutes – this helps expel the whey from the curds. As you stir you will notice the curd getting smaller.
Pour the curds into a cheesecloth lined colander.
Gather the corners of the cheesecloth and tie in a knot to hang the bag to drain. Using a long wooden spoon, I and tie the cheesecloth around the spoon and suspend it over a 5 gallon pot to drain. This way I can cover and move the pot to a convenient location in the kitchen. Drain for 4 hours – I have gone as long as 6 hours because I got busy and forgot!
Untie the cheesecloth and place the curd on a cutting board. At this point it will be a ball of curds.
Cut the curds in 1 inch slabs.
Cut the slabs in 1 inch cubes.
To finish the cheese and age it there are 2 options:
#1 – Place curds in a bowl and sprinkle 2 Tbsp of salt over them, stir gently, cover and refrigerate for 4 -5 days to age.
#2 – Make a salt brine using 1/3 cup salt in 1/2 gallon of water. Place feta cheese cubes in the brine and place in the refrigerator, covered for 4 – 5 days. The feta cheese can be kept in the refrigerator in the brine for several weeks and will be stronger in flavor using this method.
I have done both methods and really can’t say which I prefer – they are both very good! The feta cheese soaked in a salt brine is wetter whereas the salted feta cheese is dryer – I guess it depends upon my final plan for the feta cheese – if I want it spreadable or plan to keep in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks, I prefer the brine method. If I will be using it quickly as in Toasted Pecan, Feta and Raisin Salad, I prefer to just salt the feta.
Another cheese you might be interested in trying your hand in is Mozzarella!