A friend asked for my recipe for making feta cheese. It is not a difficult cheese to make but does take time.
As for all cheese making, the first consideration is equipment. Some is essential. One is a large pot either stainless steel or enamel (with no chips) with a lid. Aluminum is not acceptable as the acid whey will eat the aluminum.
Another is a dairy thermometer. A candy thermometer is calibrated for higher temperatures and difficult to use for cheese. Most cheeses are set at around 90° or under and the temperature is important.
A stainless steel colander is very useful. It needs to be fair sized, big enough to hold a gallon of curd. I prefer the type with the little holes to the slots.
Other equipment includes a way to cut the cheese. I use a stainless steel long spatula. A stainless steel spoon comes in handy too, long enough to reach the bottom of the pan. A stainless steel whisk is great for stirring in rennet and starters.
Rennet and salt are needed to. Rennet is ordered. Salt means canning or Kosher salt. Table salt has additives.
Feta cheese has a couple of other needs. It is soaked in brine so you need a bowl to hold the cheese and brine. I mix my brine in a gallon jar, 3/4 c salt to the gallon.
The recipe I use calls for a buttermilk starter. Store bought can work if it has live culture in it. I start my own from ordered powder.
Then there is the milk. I use goat milk up to two days old. Fresh is best but not always convenient.
Pour the milk into the pot. This recipe works easily for one or two gallons.
Warm the milk to 86°.
Measure out the buttermilk starter. For one gallon use 1/4 c. For two gallons use 1/3 to 1/2 c.
You will find buttermilk is difficult to measure out exactly as it tends to plop into the cup. Try to be close.
Pour the starter into the warm milk. Mix using the whisk.
Turn off the heat and cover the milk. You now have an hour to occupy doing something else.
Measure out 1/4 c warm water. Add rennet.
Rennet strength varies slightly from supplier to supplier. Follow the directions given the first time you use the rennet and time how long it takes the curd to set. It should set up in 30 to 40 minutes. Increase or decrease how much you use accordingly in future batches of cheese.
Stir the rennet into the milk. Put the lid back on. You now have about half an hour to occupy.
Cut the curd. This means using the spatula or a knife and slicing the solid curd in roughly 1/4 inch wide slices across the pan. Then cut the opposite way to get columns. Finally cut at an angle coming in from each side of the pan and coming in as far as you can each time.
Put the lid back on and let the curd rest for five minutes. During this time set up your bowl half full of brine in it. Set up the colander to drain the curd.
Gently stir the curd for fifteen minutes. The slow stirring should move the curd around the pot and lift the curd from the bottom periodically. Break up any large pieces of curd.
At first the curd is very thick and clumsy to move. The movement causes the whey to come out of the curd so the curd shrinks and stirring becomes easier.
After the stirring is done, let the curd settle for a few minutes.
Drain the curd. The idea is to get as much whey out of the curd as possible. The settling will leave a lot of whey on the top of the pan.
Whey is useful for cooking pasta. It is good for pastures. Some goats like to drink it. It does not keep long so you may wish to discard it.
Pour the whey through the colander holding the curd in the pan as long as possible. Then pour the curd into the colander. It may take more than one time to get all the curd out. This is not a problem.
Once the curd is in the colander, I roll the colander to get even more whey out. My original directions said to hang the curd in cheesecloth to finish draining.
Hanging the curd is not an option for me. I then lightly press the curd or put it in a bowl and press it by hand to get as much whey out as I can.
Break the curd into pieces. If I press the curd, I slice it into small cubes. It can be broken into crumbles.
The pieces are put in the brine. Add more brine if you need to making sure it covers the curd.
Put a cover over the brine and let the curd sit for a few hours. If it is very hot in the kitchen, put the bowl in the refrigerator in an hour or so.
After a few hours, taste test the feta cheese. Take a piece of curd out of the brine, rinse it and nibble.
If the cheese is salty enough for you, pour the feta cheese into the colander and drain. Use cold water to rinse the curd breaking up the pieces again.
Let the cheese drain for a few hours. It helps to stir the curd from time to time as the pieces will stick together to form a big lump trapping salty water in the lump.
Put the drained feta cheese into a container and refrigerate. Or you can sit down with some and eat it right then.
Feta cheese is good on tomatoes as in Greek salad or grilled on top of sliced tomatoes. It is good crumbled into scrambled eggs. There are lots of ways to use feta but remember it is very salty so cut back on other salt in the recipe.