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Homemade Feta

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Yields 1-1/4 lb.

  • To learn more, read:
    How to Make Your Own Feta
  • by from Fine Cooking
    Issue 100

Nothing compares to the fresh taste of homemade feta. Traditionally made with sheep's milk, this Greek cheese is equally delicious when made from store-bought cow's milk. What gives it the distinctive sharp taste and crumbly texture is a week or more spent soaking in a brine. To achieve the correct level of saltiness, be sure to weigh the salt.

For the cheese:
  • 1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt with live cultures
  • 1 gallon whole pasteurized milk
  • 1/4 tsp. lipase powder, preferably calf
  • 3/4 tsp. calcium chloride
  • 1/4 tsp. liquid rennet
  • 1-1/2 oz. kosher salt (6 Tbs. if using Diamond Crystal; 3 Tbs. if using Morton)
For the brine:
  • 2 oz. kosher salt (1/2 cup if using Diamond Crystal; 1/4 cup if using Morton)
Day 1: Make the cheese curd:

Sterilize all the equipment you will need for this first day of work. Clean all counters with hot soapy water or an antibacterial wipe.

In a small bowl, mix the yogurt with 1/2 cup of the milk.

In a deep 8- to 10-quart pot, heat the remaining milk over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally with a slotted spoon, until it registers 90°F on an instant-read thermometer, 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in the yogurt mixture. Turn off the heat (leave the pot on the burner), cover, and let sit for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl with a soupspoon, stir the lipase with 1/4 cup water until blended—it doesn’t matter if the lipase stays a little lumpy. Let sit for 20 minutes. Stir in the calcium chloride and rennet until the mixture is smooth and blended.

Turn the burner under the milk mixture to medium low, add the lipase mixture and stir with a slotted spoon for 1 minute. Stop the movement of the milk with the spoon and hold a thermometer in the center of the milk—the temperature should be at least 96°F; if necessary, continue heating until it comes up to temperature.

Remove the thermometer, turn off the heat, cover the pot, and let sit undisturbed until the curd is firm and has a clean “cleave,” 1 to 3 hours. To determine a clean cleave, wash your hands with soap and hot water and insert a finger (or a sterilized spoon) 1 inch diagonally into the curd and pull straight up. If the cleave is clean, the curd will split with sharp edges and whey will start to fill the split.

Cut the curd:

With a table knife, cut the curd all the way to the bottom of the pot in a 1/2 -inch crosshatch pattern. Turn the heat to low and heat for 5 minutes. Stir the curd with the slotted spoon and insert a thermometer; it should read at least 96°F. If not, continue heating, stirring occasionally, until the curds come up to temperature, increasing the heat to medium low, if necessary.

Turn off the heat, cover the pot, and let sit for 1 hour, stirring every 10 minutes to break up large chunks.

Drain the curd:

Set a large colander over a large bowl and line it with 2 layers of cheesecloth. Pour the curd into the strainer and drain off the whey for 30 minutes. Put 1 quart of the whey in a sterile 1-quart liquid measuring cup, cover, and set aside at room temperature.

Gather the ends of the cheesecloth and tie them loosely at the top of the curd; then tie them around a long spoon or several chopsticks. Hang the bag inside the pot at room temperature for 24 hours, loosely covering the top with plastic wrap. After 24 hours, you should feel a firm, solid mass of curds; if not, let the curd hang for another few hours and check again for firmness.

Day 2: Salt the feta:

Sterilize the equipment you’ll need for this day of work. Clean all counters with hot soapy water or an antibacterial wipe. Untie the cheesecloth and transfer the feta to a cutting board.

Cut the feta into 2- to 3-inch pieces. If you see small, uniform, round holes throughout the cheese when you cut it, and it feels spongy, that means undesirable bacteria have contaminated it and you should throw it out. Otherwise, arrange the squares in a single layer in a sterile shallow container with a tight-fitting lid. Sprinkle about 1/2 oz. salt over all sides of the cheese. Cover and let sit at room temperature for 3 days. Turn the feta daily and resalt with 1/2 oz. salt on days 3 and 4. Each day, pour off the whey as it collects in the bottom of the container.

Day 5: Brine the feta:

Sterilize a 3-quart covered container. Transfer the cheese pieces to the container—it’s fine to stack them at this point. Stir the 2 oz. kosher salt into the 1 quart of reserved whey until it is dissolved. Pour this brine over the cheese, covering it completely. Cover and refrigerate for 1 to 4 weeks. The longer the feta is aged, the stronger the flavor and crumblier the texture will be.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 70; Fat (g): fat g 6; Fat Calories (kcal): 50; Saturated Fat (g): sat fat g 4; Protein (g): protein g 4; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 1.5; Carbohydrates (g): carbs g 1; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 0; Sodium (mg): sodium mg 320; Cholesterol (mg): cholesterol mg 25; Fiber (g): fiber g 0;

Photo: Scott Phillips

I have made this since it first appeared in your magazine and love love love it!! The last time was with raw goat's milk and it was the firmest ever.

I have tried this twice with no success. It didn't set, only a few curds formed and I had to throw all the milk away. Maybe it's the yoghurt? I am going to try with Mesophilic culture next time. :(

I have made this recipe several times using Canadian milk and Astro, Dahl and Perth county yoghurts and it has worked beautifully all but once. That time the feta seemed to dissolve in the brine. I added extra calcium but it didn't help. Does anyone have any ideas?

I've made this recipe about seven times in the past nine months and it comes out fabulous. Friends I have given it to have asked when I am going to make more. Never use ultra pasteurized milk or cream in cheese making.

This recipe did not work. I suspect that was the case for two reasons: one, using yogourt instead of mesophilic culture, which is what should be used, and two, the fact that the ultra-pasteurised product sold by the Canadian dairy cartels is not suitable for cheesemaking.

I've been working on perfecting this recipe for a while. I wrote a post about it here: http://thosearentbeets.blogspot.com/2011/11/feta-cheese.html (including photos). Hope it helps anyone trying this recipe. Like @ambers said, the flavour gets better the longer it brines. I found it started to hit its prime at week 12.

This is an outstanding recipe.... it is fairly simple to make and definitely worth the time...lots of waiting....I have just put my second batch in brine. I really liked the first batch and thought that the flavor improved greatly at week 5 in the brine. This recipe has given me the confidence to try to make camembert cheese... here's hoping it is half as good as the feta

I used regular pasteurized cow's milk from the grocery, my feta came out great! It was really good even after a week of brining, but is definitely changing in texture and flavor as it brines longer. Making cheese may seem daunting, but this recipe was not too time consuming or difficult. Definitely worth making your own!

I love that this recipe doesn't use goat's milk as all of the other recipes that I've found do. I used raw milk to make mine and the salty, briny cheese was balanced well with the luxurious texture of the finished product. Have made twice with wonderful results and rave reviews from friends and family.

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