Making Feta Cheese

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I have been so incredibly busy this week! Don’t even know where to start. This certainly has been a very productive vacation. I got to do some home renovation, food preservation, historical costume sewing and, most importantly, cheesemaking! I actually got to make some honest to goodness real feta cheese with goat milk! Can you  believe that? I can’t either.

A few months ago I splurged on something I’ve been eyeballing for a while, a kit for making feta cheese. This is one of my favorite cheeses. Also, the flavor of feta you get at the US store is just not comparable to the real goat milk stuff straight from Greece that I have tried back in Ukraine.

Feta cheese making kit
My cheese making kit that came from Amazon. No, they are not paying me (sigh), I just love what they are doing.

The kit included everything I need to make the cheese except for the milk (lol). Finding the goat milk actually proved to be the hardest part, since I cannot use the UHT pasteurized stuff most stores carry. After making some phone calls to the county extension office, my hubby finally managed to score a gallon of pasteurized frozen goat milk for absolutely freaking free. Just for the record, he tried to offer the lady some cheese or tomatoes as a barter but she refused.

After the milk thawed, I could finally start making my first ever batch of feta cheese. That was one nervous Sunday afternoon, let me tell you. The kit came with very detailed instructions but I still managed to screw up a few times. The whole process took forever mostly because I had to let the milk rest for varying periods of time after every action. I think it took me at least four hours from pouring the milk into the pot to actually getting the cheese curds out to strain. Here is a brief overview of the whole process.

I started by heating up the milk in  a large pot. The instructions stated to do it over at least 20 minutes and I managed to bring it to temperature way too fast. Fortunately, the milk did not burn or exceed 88 F. I sprinkled 1/8 tsp of culture on top of the milk, covered it up and waited for 5 minutes to stir. Then the milk had to ripen in a sink full of warm water for a full hour. 15 minutes before it was done resting, I had to dissolve the 1/4 tablet of rennet in 1/4 cup distilled water and do the same to 1/4 tsp of Calcium Chloride in a separate 1/4 cup of water. Apparently, Calcium Chloride is used to help the milk homogenize. Do you notice a pattern here? Very small quantities of stuff for a whole gallon of milk. I felt like an alchemist or a medieval medic.

Milk in the sink with warm water
Milk in the sink with warm water

After adding Calcium Chloride and Rennet to the milk, I had to (you guessed it) let it sit. Here my booklet suggested to either take a slacker’s approach or to try a master cheesemaker trick involving a spinning bowl and some math. I opted out for the easier method which meant 45 minutes of browsing Facebook while the milk hopefully turns into jelly-like substance.

And what do you know, it did coagulate! I carefully cut the jelly into manageable curds and started gently stirring. That was probably the most boring part; I had to make tiny little stirring motions for 30 minutes straight. I was so terrified of breaking the curd, that’s why no pics.

Finally the stirring torture was over. I could strain the whey into a separate container and fish out the curds straight into the cheese mold lined with cheese cloth (both provided in the kit). The curds had to harden over the next day or two right there on the counter.

Draining cheese curds
Draining cheese curds. Sorry for the terrible phone pic

On Tuesday I drained more whey and discovered that my cheese mold contained something looking a lot like… cheese! It got cut up, rolled in some coarse salt to help expel more whey and placed back on the counter to ripen for the next two days (in a container of course). I also weighed it. The scales showed just over a pound, which is exactly what I was expecting.

Finally, on Thursday my first ever feta cheese was ready for aging. Why age it you ask? Because the young feta I made tasted a lot like mozzarella with a very slight hint of feta in it. And that is certainly NOT what I intended to make.

I pulled my whey from the fridge, let it acidify on the counter for 6 hours, then boiled some of it in a pot to kill any bacteria. Then I measured out a full quart jar of whey and dissolved 1/2 cup of kosher salt in it. Once the brine cooled down sufficiently, I cut the cheese up in smaller pieces, dropped it into a pretty glass jar I found at Hobby Lobby on sale and covered it to the very top with brine.

Feta cheese aging in a jar
Feta cheese aging in a jar

The book says I need to let feta age for at least a month. But who could wait that long? I just had a little tiny piece, and can confirm that it sure started tasting much more like feta! Apparently, this brine can store the cheese for up to a year. Don’t think it is going to last that long though. I do have Greek in-laws after all.

I also discovered that the kit contains way too much rennet for the amount of feta I can make with it. So I might try whipping up some mozzarella while waiting for that feta goodness. What do you think?

 

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