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The Cheese Formerly Known As Feta

Feta cheese

My First Feta Cheese

There I was, proud as punch, admiring my first batch of feta cheese.

I knew that, before long, I would be all “feta this” and “feta that”, a salad here and a spanakopita there, and still enough feta left over to impress friends and family. It was a big, cheesy win.

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)

This recipe for a basic feta-ish cheese was part of what I took away from the excellent cheese making course at the Organic Centre.

  • 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.
You’ll need:
  • 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)
The Steps:
  • 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).
The Variations:
  • 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).
The Results:
  • This yielded around 725g cheese

Brine Solution

You’ll need:
  • 125-150g salt
  • approx 750ml water
The Steps:
  • 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).
The Variations:
  • I have used smoked salt to give a slightly smoky brine with interesting results.
The Results:
  • Enough brine to float a single batch of feta as above.

29 Comments

  1. I have been wanting to make some, and marinate it in some crazy Greek seasoning for a wrap or a salad…now I must, so we can go to the big house together :)

  2. Wow! I am very impressed! Your faux feta looks perfect! I’ve been wanting to get more into cheese-making, myself. I’ve made my own ricotta and mascarpone before and they were great.

  3. This. Is. Brilliant! It is so cool that you made your own Greek-Cheese-That-Must-Not-Be Named. My lips are sealed to the authorities, though I would open them to welcome a bite or two (or more) of this!

  4. Will not mention anything to the Greeks about the name; we’ll just leave it as a feta ccompli so to speak. (sorry, couldn’t resist)

  5. Haha that reminds me of Bookhams, who I met at the Real Food Festival. They make a ‘parmesan’, but because they can’t call it that, they call it ‘Not Just A Pasta Cheese’.

    You could call yours ‘A Cheese Not Solely To Be Eaten With Olives’

    Mmmm catchy.

  6. Now I would like some feta. Alas I am feta-less.. Or even cheese that may be called feta if you were to move and change the way you make it-less…

  7. i am having a hard time believing that all the variety of fetas we get in our supermarket really fits that bill. i have to look closer to the labels. as you’ve been kind to share the recipe i won’t spill the beans on you!

  8. Very impressive Aoife. When I’m back to full activity in the kitchen this is on my to make list. You’re faux feta looks perfect, just the job.

  9. Daily Spud

    Thursday, June 24, 2010 at 10:24 am

    Chef E: I am going to go and get me some crazy Greek seasoning and get marinating :)

    Susan: there’s just something very satisfying about making your own cheese – I’m hoping to try out other varieties too

    Tangled Noodle: I could send you some but would have to deny all knowledge afterwards :D

    Rufus: I had to try very hard to resist using that one myself!

    English Mum: the naming possibilities are endless – “Not Greek So As You’d Notice Cheese”, “Perfect for Greek Salad Cheese” or maybe just “Zorba”!

    Kristin: thanks – I was impressed with myself :)

    Sarah: that name alone is quite a mouthful, not to mention the actual cheese!

    Meeta: thanks :) y’know, I’m going to start looking more closely at the feta and feta-like cheeses for sale here too!

    George: hi there – hope you’re recovering well; I know that I’ll be making my own feta-or-whatever-you-call-it from now on – it is indeed just the job

  10. You’ve inspired me! I remember being very taken with that feta recipe after the course as well – but I did nothing with it. Time to dig out the old notes.

  11. Ohhhhh, I want to try to make this. It sounds so delicious

  12. So many rules! I think I’ll toast your Irish feta with a glass of American champagne! Or am I not allowed to call it champagne either?? GREG

  13. Daily Spud

    Thursday, June 24, 2010 at 11:50 pm

    Caroline: Time to dig out the notes indeed! It’s definitely worth having a go at the feta recipe…

    Evelyn: thanks so much for dropping in and I do hope you try making it; you will probably need to seek out a specialist cheese supplier to get the rennet, but it’s worth it if you are at all interesting in making cheese at home

    sippitysup: Sheesh, it’s a minefield isn’t it! Just pour me a glass of your American champagne and I will soon cease to worry about any of it :D

  14. This is lovely! It looks to be a very detailed process but color me impressed!! Looks yummy.

  15. It would be a curse if either one of us really knew how to make cheese. The fridge would be overflowing with it. Now what are you going to make with it?

  16. Looks amazing. Might be a good excuse to go to Greece for a while though…you know all in the name of cheese. I love adding cubes of feta to warm potato salad…

  17. spud you make this sound too easy!

  18. Your own home made feta cheese look absolutely F-A-B-U-L-O-U-S!!!!

    Divine!! I want to make this really soon,…I can hardly wait to try this myself!

  19. Homemade faux feta is so tasty. I knew it was just a matter of time before they cracked down on the name. What is the imitation feta to be called?

  20. I have yet to make feta yet, I must try it soon. Thanks for the reminder. It looks fantastic!!!

  21. Well, it is much closer to feta than anything I have made! Absolutely beautiful! Attempts at cheese making are coming soon, right after I master canning. It could be a while, but I am certainly inspired by what you have here.

  22. Daily Spud

    Wednesday, June 30, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    Bellesouth: Why thanks for dropping in to say so! I guess it is detailed but it’s really all about practice (and I have a lot more of that to do myself!)

    Duo Dishes: I know what you mean – I have been eating rather a lot of cheese lately; the nicest thing I’ve made so far with the feta was a super simple salad with broccoli, toasted sesame and sunflower seeds, lemon zest and some good olive oil – dee-licious!

    gastroanthropologist: I like the way you’re thinking – a field trip to Greece might just be in order :D

    Jane: well, it’s actually easier than I thought it would be…

    Sophie: thank you and good luck with trying this out yourself!

    OysterCulture: I’m allowed to call it Greek-style or something similar, though I still fancy the idea of calling my own version Zorba :D

    Chiot’s Run: thank you – hope your own feta-making goes well!

    Lori: you’ll get there eventually, I’m sure of it :)

  23. Wow, you made your own cheese?! That is super impressive!!! Very cool!
    xx

  24. Daily Spud

    Saturday, July 3, 2010 at 11:20 am

    Hey there Anne! It is indeed very cool to have homemade cheese – I was super impressed with myself :)

  25. I really need to start making my own cheese. It sounds/looks like so much fun. And I won’t turn you in as long as you keep cooking great food. Great job! :)

  26. Daily Spud

    Monday, July 5, 2010 at 12:11 am

    Shane, you should definitely try making your own cheese sometime – you’d get a real kick out of it I’m sure!

  27. thanks for this interesting recipe on feta cheese…
    are there schools in athens,greece that offer a course on feta cheese making?

    thank you

    • hi and thanks for your comment – to be honest, I don’t know if there are schools in Athens that would offer courses on making feta cheese, but I would imagine it’s likely that there are – sorry I can’t be of more help!

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