In Cheese and Dairy Made at Home (Firefly Books, 2012) by Dick and James Strawbridge, readers will find tips and tricks for handling dairy products at home, as well as a number of recipes for cheese, yogurts, butter and more. This excerpt can be found in chapter 6, “Cheese.”
This is our twist on the well-known crumbly white cheese that made an impression on us years ago when enjoying a vacation in Greece. “Feta” is now a legally protected name that can be used to describe only a specific type of cheese made in Greece. However, there are many variations made elsewhere, all with slightly different textures and ingredients. Our version uses both a dry salt cure and a brining process to add flavor and preserve the cheese for longer. We also store our cheese in olive oil after brining to add more flavor – this is a great shortcut to
the perfect Greek salad.
This crumbly brined cheese can be made with goat’s milk or sheep’s milk, depending on what you can find available. The method is interchangeable with both, or indeed a mixture of the two.
If you want your cheese to have a traditional block shape, you can buy a special cheese mold with straight sides. Alternatively, make your own mold by using an old plastic food container. Drill or puncture a series of small holes in the sides and bottom of the container to let the whey drain away.
Buttermilk is used to provide the culture to sour the milk. After gentle warming, the milk has to be kept at a constant temperature for more than 2 hours total. This is where a thermostatically controlled soup kettle is useful. If you don’t have one, wrap the pan in a thick towel and keep it in a warm place. The resulting curds are cut into cubes, and drained in a colander or packed into a mold to drain. The drained cheese is then cut into cubes and dry cured with salt to draw out more of the moisture.
The cheese is ready to eat after the dry curing stage, but it can be kept in brine to preserve it for longer. Use a light brine if you are going to eat the cheese fairly quickly, or a medium brine if you want the cheese to last 2–3 months.
If the cheese is dry cured with salt, then stored in a medium brine, it should stay edible for 2–3 months. If you omit the salting stage and place the cheese straight into a light brine, consume within 2–3 weeks.
- Makes 300-400 g (10-13 ounces/ 500-625 ml/2-2-2/3 cups)
- 5 liters (20 cups) whole goat’s milk
- 500 ml (2 cups) buttermilk
- 6-8 drops of rennet, mixed with 15 ml (1 tablespoon) sterilized water
- 75 g (2-1/2 ounces) sea salt flakes
(about 60 ml/1/2 cup)
- 1 liter (4 cups) medium brine
- Heat the milk slowly in a water bath over a period of 15–20 minutes until it reaches 30°C (86°F). Add the buttermilk and keep at a constant temperature for 1 hour.
- Add the rennet, stir for 2 minutes, then let stand for another hour. Cut the curds into 1 cm (1/2-inch) cubes and let stand undisturbed for 15 minutes, at 30°C (86°F).
- Transfer the curds to a cheesecloth-lined colander and drain for 1 hour.
- If you have them, pack the curds into molds lined with cheesecloth and let drain for 4 hours. Alternatively, let stand for another 4 hours in the colander.
- Remove the cheese from the molds and turn it over every hour for a uniform shape.
- Cut the cheese into 1–2.5 cm (1/2–1-inch) cubes and sprinkle evenly with sea salt. Cover with an upturned bowl and keep in the refrigerator for 5 days.
- Sprinkle with more salt every day or two, turning the cubes over and pouring off any liquid. Or, instead of curing with dry salt, soak the cheese in a light brine.
- If storing the cheese for any length of time, transfer it to an airtight container, cover the cheese with a medium brine solution and store in the refrigerator.
Now Try: Preserving in Oil
The cheese can be stored in olive oil instead of brine after dry curing. The oil itself adds flavor to the cheese, but you could also add roasted red bell peppers, garlic, jalapeños, dried herbs or spices to the oil. Marinate the cheese in the oil for a few days, then spread on toast or use the cubes of cheese and their oil as an instant dressing for a salad. Cheese that has been marinated in olive oil with other ingredients should be consumed within 2–3 weeks.