Tomato-Basil Feta


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One of the easiest cheeses to make is a simple Feta.  Feta (which means slice in Greek) cheese is a classic Greek curd cheese whose tradition dates back thousands of years. It was originally made with goat’s or sheep’s milk; however, today it is often made commercially with pasteurized cow’s milk. The cheese process is similar to most of the different cheese recipes for temp and curding, but after is is molded or drained it is then cut into large slices that are salted and then packed in barrels filled with whey or brine. (This recipe will work with either mesophilic or a feta cheese starter, the dose is the same for either culture.)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 tsp. Calcium Chloride Liquid (30%) Dissolved in 2 Tbsp. distilled water
  • 1/4 tsp. Mesophilic A Cheese Culture OR Feta Mesophilic Starter Culture
  • 1/2 tablet Rennet Tablets (microbial) Dissolved in 1/4 cup distilled water
  • 1 gallon Whole Milk Cow or Goat
  • 1/8 tsp. Lipase Enzyme Powder (Mild) Recommended for cow’s milk, but not needed if you can get goats milk
  • (optional) 1 Tablespoon each of dried basil and dried powdered tomatoes

 Cheese making steps:

  1. Dissolve lipase powder in 2 Tablespoons distilled water.
  2. Add your calcium chloride and lipase powder to your milk. Then gently stir the milk and heat to 93° F.
  3. Remove pot from heat. Sprinkle culture over milk surface and let re-hydrate for 1 or 2 minutes. Gently and thoroughly stir culture into milk. Let sit for 60 minutes
  4. Add rennet and mix it into milk with an up and down motion for about 1 minute. Let sit for 40 minutes for curd to develop.
  5. After you get a clean break cut curd into ½ inch pieces. It is okay if they are not perfect cubes. Let the curds heal for 5 minutes.
  6. Maintaining a temperature of 93°F, stir the curds gently for 30 minutes. Then allow the curds to settle for 10 minutes.
  7. Drain the whey down to the level of the curds before pouring into your cloth lined colander. If you use your hand to stop the curds from going into the cloth first you will have a faster drain time.
  8. Divide and scoop the curds into two small ricotta baskets or berry baskets (like the green pint–sized in which strawberries are packaged). I don’t have baskets so I divide mine into two sterilized handkerchiefs and hang to dry.  If you are adding herbs mix them in before you put into the molds.

Draining / Pressing time:

  1. Little to no weight is needed depending on how firm you like your feta texture.  If you use no weight it is easier to crumble and has a nice open texture.  Pressing with a couple of pounds will firm it up and make it more like the blocks in the store.
  2. Allow the curds to drain overnight at room temperature.
  3. Remove the cheese from the baskets and cut into no smaller than ½ pound pieces and place them on a draining mat at room temperature with cheesecloth loosely covering them for 6-12 hours

Brining/salting/aging time:

  1. Add your blocks of cheese to a standard brine of 2 lbs of salt per gallon.
  2. If you have it in one lb pieces soak for 8 hours. If in ½ lb blocks soak for 4 hours.  Do not go over unless you want really salty feta! Yes I did this the very first time I made it.  Luckily I know someone who loves super salty feta.
  3. Remove from the brine and put on drying racks for 1-3 days at 48° F-56° F
  4. Finally prepare a storage salt brine of 6-8% (6-8 oz. of salt in 3 qts of water will fill a 1 gallon jar to hold this batch), place Feta into a large container with lid and fill with the brine. Make sure the container has minimal head-space to avoid mold development. The feta can be aged in this brine for just a few weeks or up to a year or more at 48° F-56° F. Younger cheese will be milder in flavor.
  5. This tends to be a high salt cheese and if the salt is too high for your taste simply soak for several hours (up to a day) in milk before using.

Feta history:

Feta cheese is first recorded in the Byzantine Empire under the name πρόσφατος (prósphatos, “recent”, i.e. fresh), and was associated specifically with Crete. An Italian visitor to Candia in 1494 describes its storage in brine clearly. The Greek word “feta” comes from the Italian word fetta (“slice”). It was introduced into the Greek language in the 17th century. Opinions vary whether it refers to the method of cutting the cheese in slices to serve on a plate or because of the practice of slicing it to place in barrels

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