Feta Cheese Please

When Sienna’s production is in full swing, I usually have more milk than I know what to do with. I refuse to waste milk or let it go bad, so when I get too many gallons stacking up in my fridge, that means it’s time to make cheese. Making different dairy products is one of the fun and terrific benefits of having your own family milk cow.

Finished feta cheese ready to eat!

I’ve made several different kinds of cheeses, but my favorite two are mozzarella and feta. This said, I have to put in a disclaimer: I’ve never tried to make a hard cheese. Hard cheeses take months to cure, and who wants to wait that long? Plus, they are more work than a typical soft cheese.

You can find lots of cheese recipes online, obviously. For instance, the website where I buy my cultures, New England Cheese Making Supply Co., has some good recipes. However, I usually use recipes from the book, Home Dairy. I highly recommend this book. The author, Ashley English, was even kind enough to let me reprint the feta cheese recipe from her book. Thank you, Ashley! Ashley’s a homesteader with her own website, Small Measure, and has written several books.

Back to feta! Feta is very salty but tasty. We usually eat it on salads. Before I include the recipe I use below, here’s a couple of notes:

I use clips to secure the cheesecloth to the colander while the whey drains from the curds.

The recipe actually calls for goat’s milk, but I think cow’s milk works just fine. You can purchase rennet and direct-set culture from the cheese-making website I mentioned above. If you aren’t using raw milk, there’s an additional step involved. You have to add ¼ teaspoon of calcium chloride mixed with ¼ cup of cold, sterilized water at the start of step 3 and stir. I usually only use 1 ½ or 2 tablespoons of salt, and the cheese is still very salty. And, on step 1, I do the water bath option. It’s easy and doesn’t take very long. On step 5, I always use cheesecloth. You can get it online, but I usually buy it from Walmart. It can be difficult to get the cheesecloth to stay put while you pour the curds into a colander. My solution was to use clips and/or clothespins to keep it on the colander.

You can get inventive on how to tie and hang the cheesecloth while the curds drain for 5 hours.

Feta

  • 1 gallon goat or cow milk
  • ½ teaspoon (1 packet) direct-set mesophilic starter culture
  • 1 teaspoon liquid rennet (or ½ tablet, crushed)
  • ¼ cup cold, sterilized water
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons cheese salt or kosher salt, to taste

Step 1: Warm milk to 88°F indirectly, using either a double boiler or water bath in the sink.
Step 2: Add the starter culture; and stir with a metal spoon to fully incorporate. Remove mixture from heat source, cover, wrap with a towel, and allow to sit for one hour.
Step 3: Mix rennet into cold water and stir well. Then whisk the rennet into the milk, making certain that it is distributed evenly. Cover the pot again, and allow it to sit for an additional hour. The curd is ready when a clean break forms.
Step 4: Cut the curds into 1-inch cubes. Allow curds to rest for 15 minutes. Then gently stir the curds for 20 minutes using a metal spoon. This allows the curds and whey to separate more fully from one another, resulting in a firmer feta.
Step 5: Transfer curds and whey into a colander, drainer, or large sieve lined with butter muslin or a double layer of cheesecloth. Tie the four corners of the cheesecloth into a knot. Either hang the bag over a sink to drain, or place a wooden spoon or chopsticks through the knot and suspend the bag over a catch bowl. Allow curds to drain for 5 hours.
Step 6: Unwrap bag, place ball of curd on a cutting board and cut into 1-inch cubes.
Step 7: Place the cubes into a lidded container, sprinkle with salt, cover, and place in fridge.
Step 8: Allow feta to cure for 4 days, and then use within 3 weeks.

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