Handmade Feta Cheese Recipe
Learn to make this delicious tangy and salty feta cheese that is perfectly aged in a saltwater brine.
By Ricki Carroll and Sarah Carroll
Say Cheese (Storey Publishing, 2018) by Ricki Carroll and Sarah Carroll is a guide to cheese making packed with step-by-step photos, fun facts, and instructions for teaching kids the magic of kitchen chemistry and lifelong cooking skills. Kids learn about cheese history, about animals that make cheese possible, and uncover the science behind cheese making through recipes from around the world including ricotta, feta, and cream cheese.
You can purchase this book from the Grit store: Say Cheese!
Because it is aged in brine (a saltwater solution), feta tastes salty and tangy. The texture can be semisoft to semi hard, depending on the milk used, the amount of drainage, and how long it’s left in the brine. Now popular in many places, feta comes from Greece, where it is traditionally made with sheep’s milk.
Makes approximately 2 pounds
- 2 gallons whole milk (not ultra-pasteurized)
- 1/4 teaspoon calcium chloride mixed into 1/4 cup cool, unchlorinated water
- 1 packet C21 buttermilk culture
- 1/4 teaspoon single-strength liquid rennet (or 1/4 rennet tablet) mixed into 1/4 cup cool, unchlorinated water
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 9- to 10-quart pot with lid
- Measuring cup and spoons
- Dairy thermometer
- Slotted spoon
- Curd knife or butter knife
- 2 basket cheese molds
- Followers or plates to hold weight
- 2 (2-pound) weights (a pint container filled with water will work)
- Draining mat or cooling rack and baking dish
- 1-gallon glass storage container
1. Pour the milk into the pot. Mix in the calcium chloride solution. Slowly heat the milk to 93 degrees Fahrenheit (34 degrees Celsius) over medium heat. When the milk reaches 93 degrees Fahrenheit, turn off the heat.
2. Add the buttermilk culture and stir slowly for 2 minutes. Cover the pot and let the milk sit for 50 minutes. After 50 minutes, if the temperature has dropped, heat the milk back up to 93 degrees Fahrenheit.
3. Take the pot off the heat, and add the rennet by pouring it through the slotted spoon. Gently mix for 1 minute, moving the spoon from top to bottom. Cover the pot, and let the milk sit undisturbed for 40 minutes.
4. After 40 minutes, uncover the pot and check for a solid curd and “clean break” by sliding the knife 1 inch into the curd at a slight angle. Lift slightly to see if the curd splits, as shown here. If the curd does not split, let it sit for up to 20 minutes longer.
5. Once a solid curd has formed, cut it into 1/2- to 1-inch cubes by making a checkerboard pattern with the knife.
6. If the temperature has dropped, heat the curds back up to 93 degrees Fahrenheit and maintain that temperature throughout this step. Using the slotted spoon, very slowly move the curds around for 20 to 30 minutes, to prevent them from matting at the bottom of the pot. The curds are delicate and should be worked with gently so they don’t break apart.
7. After 20 to 30 minutes, the curds will have released more whey and become slightly smaller and firmer.
8. Using the slotted spoon, transfer the curds into two cheese molds placed in a baking dish.
9. Place a follower or plate and a 2-pound weight onto each of the filled cheese molds. (A jar with 2 quarts of water works as a weight.)
10. Allow the curds to press for 8 hours at room temperature. During the first 2 hours, unmold each cheese, flip it, and remold at least two and up to four times. As the whey drains, pour it out so it isn’t pooling around the cheese.
11. After the curds have consolidated, remove the molds, and cut the cheese into large chunks.
12. Arrange the chunks of feta on a draining mat or cooling rack set in a dish, and sprinkle them evenly on all sides with the salt. Let them drain for 6 to 12 hours at room temperature. Rotate and flip the cheese four times while draining.
13. When the cheese surface feels slightly firmer, place the pieces into a bowl of saturated brine and soak for 4 hours. To brine evenly, rotate any exposed cheese after the first 2 hours.
14. Remove the cheese from the brine, place it on a draining mat or cooling rack in a dish, and cover with a single layer of butter muslin. Air-dry at room temperature for 1 to 3 days. To dry evenly, turn each piece two to four times daily. The cheese is done when the surface feels dry to the touch.
Fresh feta can be stored in a covered container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks without brine. To age it further using brine.
To age in a brine, place the chunks of feta in a glass storage container. Pour enough storage brine over the cheese to fill the container to the very top. Seal the container with a lid and place it in the fridge for at least 1 week and up to 6 months. The flavor will become stronger the longer it ages. If the flavor becomes too strong for your taste, soak the chunks of feta in a bowl of milk for up to 1 day before enjoying.
More from Say Cheese!:
From Say Cheese A Kid’s Guide to Cheese Makingby Ricki Carroll and Sarah Carroll (Storey Publishing, 2018) Copyright Ricki Carroll and Sarah Carroll, photography copyright by John Polak. All rights reserved. Used by permission of the Storey Publishing.