Get in on the artisanal food craze and learn to make feta cheese. This Greek cheese is known for its tang, and while it’s traditionally made with sheep’s milk, you can use cow’s milk from the grocery store with delicious results. While making feta cheese is a three day process that’s followed by one to four weeks of brining, it’s not labor intensive, and it’s worth the time. There’s nothing like the taste of homemade feta – or the amount of bragging you can do when you serve it.
To make about 1 pound of feta cheese, you’ll need:
- 1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt with live cultures
- 1 gallon whole milk
- 1/4 tsp. lipase powder
- 3/4 tsp. calcium chloride
- 1/4 tsp. liquid rennet
- 3-1/2 oz. kosher salt, separated
- Bowls of various sizes
- 10-quart pot
- A slotted spoon
- A colander
- Plastic wrap
- A spoon with a long handle
- A pot
- A long knife
- A cutting board
- A large, shallow container with a lid
- A 3-quart container
- To make feta cheese, combine your ingredients. Mix the yogurt with 1/2 cup of milk and set it aside. In a 10-quart pot, heat the rest of the milk over medium-low, stirring occasionally, for ten to twelve minutes until it reaches 90°F. Add the yogurt mixture and turn off the heat, then cover the pot and leave it on the burner for 45 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the lipase powder with 1/4 cup water until it’s dissolved and leave it for twenty minutes. Stir in the calcium chloride and rennet until the mixture is smooth.
- Cook your feta cheese until the curds form a “clean cleave.” Turn the stove to medium=low, and add the lipase mixture, stirring it with a slotted spoon for one minute. Heat the milk until it reaches 96°F, then turn the stove off, cover the pot, and leave it for one to three hours. Check the “cleave” by pressing your finger one inch into the curd on a diagonal, and pull straight up. The curd should break into two sharp-edged pieces. Cut it into slices with a long knife, and cut it crosswise into 1/2 inch cubes. Over low heat, stir the cubes for five minutes until they reach 96°F. Turn the stove off, cover the pot, and let it sit for one hour, breaking up large pieces every ten minutes.
- Drain your homemade feta cheese. Line a colander with two layers of cheesecloth, and set it on top of a bowl. Put the curd into the colander, and let the whey drain for 30 minutes. Transfer 1 quart of the whey into a sterile container, cover it, and leave it at room temperature. Tie the ends of the cheesecloth together over the curd, and tie this bundle to a long spoon. Hang it inside a pot loosely covered with plastic wrap, and leave it at room temperature for 24 hours. The feta cheese should have formed a firm, solid mass. Leave it for a few additional hours if necessary.
- Age and salt your feta cheese. Untie the cheesecloth and move the feta to a cutting board, and slice it into two to three inch squares. If you notice small round holes throughout your homemade feta and it has a spongy feeling, it’s a sign of bacterial contamination and you must throw it away. If your cheese is healthy, place the squares in a shallow container in a single layer, and sprinkle them on all sides with 1/2 ounce of salt. Cover the container and leave it at room temperature for three days. Check your homemade feta daily to turn it and pour off any whey, adding 1/2 ounce of salt on the third and fourth days.
- To finish making feta cheese, brine it. Move the pieces of homemade feta to a 3 quart container. Stir 2 ounces of kosher salt into the 1 quart of whey that you reserved the first day, and mix until dissolved. Pour this brine into the container with the cheese, completely submerging the feta. Cover the container and refrigerate it for at one week and as long as four weeks. The longer you age your homemade feta, the stronger it will taste and the more crumbly the texture will be.
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