Feta is one of those cheeses I love having on hand in my fridge. It's great crumbled onto salads and sandwiches and I'm a pretty big fan of Greek salad (aka an excuse to eat a ton of cheese and olives).
So when I discovered that for October's Cheesepalooza challenge we were going to be making feta I was pretty excited. Couldn't wait to get that salty, tangy, brined cheese into my fridge and then onto my salads.
Naturally I went out to the store right away and got some goat's milk...
... but then I got tied up with renos and moving and by the time I checked on our milk it had gone bad. I made a sad face at the two sour bottles for a while but in the end we just had to go buy some more.
However, when my mom went back to the store there wasn't any goat's milk. We were told that the goat's milk supplier they bought from only produced for a certain season. I'm so used to buying cow's milk all year round that it never occurred to me that milks had seasons like vegetables do.
Luckily, the recipe can also be made with sheep milk.So we bought that instead and got busy making some cheese!
We poured the sheep's milk into a pot, added some lipase, heated it gently and slowly. Once at temperature we then added the culture Aroma B, some Calcium Chloride, and some rennet to the pot and let it sit.
Once the allotted time had passed we ran to the kitchen to check if we had a clean break (aka a clean cut through the cheese that allows a bit of clear whey to show though)
Cheese success! Nice clean break with yellow-y whey showing though.
..and then put them back over very very low heat and gently stirred them for about 15 minutes. We tasted some of the curds at this point, they were unsalted and just tasted milky and bland. It reminded me of unsalted cottage cheese.
The curds were scooped into a cheese cloth lined strainer and the whey was poured into a few canning jars. In the past I had just let the whey go down the drain which most cheese makers consider a waste since whey has other interesting uses.
I used this batch of whey to replace the water in my basic white bread recipe. It adds some protein and vitamins to the bread along with a bit of flavor. Some of the other Cheesepalooza participants enjoy drinking the whey but I find it flat tasting and not really to my liking. Bread making it is!
After the curds had drained a bit we moved them to our cheese molds which are really just the plastic containers that cherry tomatoes come in. Perfect shape, size, and free! Then we let the cheese drain until the whey stopped dripping.
It probably would have been a good idea to hide them during this period, I couldn't open the fridge without stealing a cube of feta. It was salty and fresh tasting, different than the brined feta that I'm used to.
One of the perks of getting a late start on our challenge was that we had time to learn from other people's mishaps. Some of the other cheese makers found that their feta went all soggy and gelatinous after sitting in the brine for a while. Others found the suggested brine for this recipe to be much too salty. So our next challenge was to come up with a light brine that would keep the cheese nice and firm.
Now the cheese is sitting pretty in my fridge and I am *trying* to let it age in the brine.. but it's just so good crumbled over everything. No issues with it getting soft or soggy so it looks like the brine is doing it's job!
My mom and I are on a year long cheese making adventure along with the other Cheesepalooza participants. We are working out of Artisan Cheese Making At Home by Mary Karlin and will not be posting the recipes for the cheese online. You can join Cheesepalooza at any time!
Light Brine for Feta
61/2 cups cool non-chlorinated water
1/2 cup kosher salt
2 teaspoons calcium chloride
1/4 tsp vinegar
Stir together all ingredients until the salt dissolved completely. Add the feta to sterilized containers and then pour the brine over the cheese until the cheese is completely covered. Chill in fridge.
Tasting Notes for Sheep Feta:
- Appearance: White solid cubes
- Nose (aroma): hardly any scent
- Overall Taste: very salty with a distinct sheep milk flavor
- Sweet to Salty: salty!!
- Mild (mellow) to Robust to Pungent (stinky): mellow tang
- Mouth Feel: (gritty, sandy, chewy, greasy, gummy, etc.): The feta is crumbling texture, I eat the cubes whole but they are best when crumbled over a dish