There I was, proud as punch, admiring my first batch of feta cheese.
Until I remembered that technically I’m not allowed to call it feta.
Not according to the European Union at any rate.
To make real feta cheese, I would need to move my operation to Greece, employ their traditional methods of cheese making and use the local sheep’s milk. Cheese made in a Dublin suburb from the milk of Irish cows doesn’t really cut it.
But who cares?
As long as I keep my faux feta to myself.
And you agree not to shop me to the Greek authorities. Ok?
Greek-style Cheese (Feta)
- The timings here (particularly with respect to the length of time it will take the curds to set once rennet has been added) are guidelines – the behaviour of your milk may vary considerably from mine. I would advise starting this feta cheese early in the day so that you will either be finished or at least have a batch of curds ready to drain by the end of the day.
- As for cutting the curds (a feature of all cheese making) I will freely admit that this is an art that I need to perfect. The individual pieces here should have been around the size of a kidney bean but, by the time I was finished cutting my first batch, my pieces were much smaller than that. On the plus side, it didn’t seem to adversely affect the end result – it may, in fact, have been better, with a slightly drier and more crumbly result.
- The recipe calls for the cheese to be aged for 5 to 30 days in a brine solution. Try it after 5 days and see what you think (it should get crumblier the longer it is aged). The cheese is meant to be salty but if it’s too salty for your taste, reduce the concentration of the brine.
- 4 litres milk
- 40 ml cheese culture (or 60 ml buttermilk)
- 4 drops rennet
- brine solution (see below)
You’ll also need:
- A thermometer
- A whisk
- A long, sharp knife or blade
- Some muslin or cheesecloth
- A colander
- One or more lidded plastic containers into which to press the cheese and to hold it while brining (I used a container that was approx. 20cm x 30cm x 5cm deep)
- Warm the milk to 29.5C, then remove from the heat and add the culture, whisking thoroughly to distribute.
- Leave to ripen for 2 hours.
- Add the rennet and stir for 3-4 minutes.
- Leave to set until you can achieve a clean break in the curd. The original recipe suggests you may need 1-2 hours to get to this stage, whereas I needed about 6 hours.
- Using your blade, cut the curds, first into cuboids by making a series of cuts top to bottom and then left to right across the curd mass at intervals of about 1.5cm. Then cut into the curds along the existing cuts at about a 45 degree angle to slice up the cuboids. The goal is to end up with roughly even-sized pieces, around the size of a kidney bean.
- Leave for 10 minutes to allow the curds to firm up.
- Stir the curds gently and cut any pieces that are larger than bean-sized.
- Allow to sit for 30 mins, stirring occasionally
- Line a colander with your muslin or cheesecloth and pour in the curd, draining off the whey. Tie the corners of the cloth together and allow to drain for about 5 hours (though I have left it for about 10 hours overnight, with a slightly drier, firmer result).
- Remove the cheese from the cloth and stuff it into one or more rectangular containers, such that it is about 2.5cm thick.
- Chill in the fridge for about 90 minutes (though I have also left it overnight at this stage).
- Remove and cut into approx. 2.5cm cubes
- To age the cheese, place the cubes in a cold brine solution for 5-30 days and store in the fridge. It should get crumblier the longer it is aged.
- After aging, remove and pat dry and store in an air tight container (or you can leave it in the brine solution and it should keep for longer).
- In time, I’d like to try this with goat’s milk or even sheep’s milk (though the chances of getting my hands on the latter are admittedly slim).
- This yielded around 725g cheese
- 125-150g salt
- approx 750ml water
- Dissolve the salt in warm water – a fresh egg should float in the solution.
- Cool the brine in your freezer.
- Place cheese in brine solution as needed.
- After you’re done with the brine, you can freeze it for reuse (though you’ll need to top it up with additional salt before using it again).
- I have used smoked salt to give a slightly smoky brine with interesting results.
- Enough brine to float a single batch of feta as above.